Cholesterol: is it ok to eat eggs?
To prevent heart disease, you should have a healthy lifestyle, including sport, eat properly, avoid smoking and maintain an ideal body weight, also by engaging in physical activity.
Especially when there are other risk factors to take into consideration, like a diagnosis of diabetes, or high cholesterol) it’s important to keep cholesterol levels under control (including total cholesterol) and triglycerides as well, with adequate nutrition, including:
– vegetables in quantity (fruit and vegetables)
– grains (pasta, rice, whole grains)
– fish high in Omega 3
– limited consumption of foods rich in saturated fats (like red meat, cheese and butter) and trans fats (hydrogenated fats)
– reduced use of salt
How often should you eat eggs? Starting with the recommendations of the American Heart Association (AHA) in the’70s, it has become generally accepted that, since they contain high amounts of cholesterol, it is important to eat eggs with moderation.
Today, this concept has been perfected and partially made obsolete. Recommendations regarding the consumption of eggs in daily diet are changing, in line with the increasing research findings. In general, eggs are not a product to be avoided, even if you have been diagnosed with diabetes or other cardiovascular risk factors, since they are an excellent source of nutrients. Let’s see what they contain and how best to include them in your diet.
What’s in an egg?
A fresh, whole egg contains the following substances:
- water 76,1%
- proteins 12,6%,
- fats 9,5%
- minerals 1,1%
- carbohydrates 0,7%
An egg weighing 50 g contains approximately 186 mg of cholesterol. There are proteins in both the yolk and the whites, but the fats, vitamins and minerals are concentrated in the yolk; they are practically fiber-free.
Eggs are considered an important component of a healthy diet; they contribute to your organism’s wellbeing, as well as being a low-cost source of essential nutrients, like:
- high quality protein
- vitamins (vitamins D, A, B2, B12)
- lutein and zeaxanthin, which have beneficial effects on the eyes
The proteins found in eggs are biologically useful: some, for example, are antimicrobial and antioxidant, providing support for immune responses and the organism’s normal functioning.
Do eggs raise your cholesterol?
The findings available today concerning increases in LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) and HDL cholesterol attributable to the consumption of eggs are contrasting. The findings seem to be in agreement on the fact that regular consumption of eggs is not responsible for increases in blood cholesterol levels and does not increase cardiovascular risk. Despite this, there is no green light on eating eggs at will.
In a recent study, in fact, cardiovascular risk was found to increase for each egg per day added to subjects’ diets.
For people at risk because of cardiovascular issues, for diabetics and for people with high blood pressure, moderate consumption of eggs is therefore recommended. Research has also revealed that some people are particularly predisposed to absorb cholesterol from their diet, and to have their blood cholesterol levels rise correspondingly, so caution is advisable.
How many eggs should you eat per week?
Indications vary from one country to another. In Italy, INRAN recommends a maximum of 4 eggs per week, but not more than 2 for those on a low cholesterol diet.
In several other European countries, recommendations indicate a limit of 3 eggs per week, while in others no particular restrictions are envisioned. In New Zealand, the Heart Foundation approves consumption of up to 6 eggs per week, even for people suffering from diabetes or who have other cardiovascular risk factors, specifying that eggs are an important component of our daily nutrition and that it is preferable to pay attention to limiting other foods, such as those produced industrially.
What is the best way to eat eggs?
The way you cook eggs and the ingredients you add to them can influence the amount of saturated fats you consume. The best way is hard-boiled or soft-boiled, without adding salt. If you scramble them, don’t add butter. Frying eggs in oil is not recommended, because this can double their fat content.
It is instead recommended to add eggs to the vegetables in our recipes, for example by making spinach and mushroom omelettes, or adding hard-boiled eggs to your salads.
Differences between varieties of eggs
Eggs can be classified based on their size and freshness.
Below are categories of eggs based on the date they were laid:
- Grade A extra: “super fresh”, not refrigerated, with an internal air pocket of less than 4 mm, can be consumed up to one week after they are packaged.
- Grade A: fresh eggs, not refrigerated, but they have lost their “extra” rating because their internal air pocket is greater than 4 mm but smaller than 6 mm.
- Grade B: these eggs are destined for industrial use and not sold directly to consumers.
Eggs are also distinguished by their size, indicated as XL (extra large), L (large), M (medium), S (small).
Remember that, in the presence of excessive levels of cholesterol, you should ask your physician whether it would be advisable to take pharmaceuticals. Your doctor will give you valuable advice on lifestyle choices and the remedies for keeping your cholesterol level low, for example by reducing the quantity and frequency with which you eat eggs, as well as other foods, like cheese, milk and dairy products.
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