This is not the first nor the last time the media has mixed up the dangers of cholesterol in blood with the cholesterol in foods. Although the most recent article about a major study that showed reducing high blood cholesterol lowers the risk of heart disease, it was not about eggs. Eggs get quite a bit of blame because they contain more cholesterol than most other foods, even though foods rich in saturated fat, like red meat, cheese and butter are the real problem. Its saturated fat in foods that have a greater effect on the average person’s bad cholesterol levels than the cholesterol in foods. Eating one egg a day raises LDL cholesterol by 4 points. To put that in perspective, you’d get a similar rise in LDL cholesterol if you ate 1 Tbs. of butter, which has 7 grams of saturated fat.
So how many eggs or egg yolks can you safely eat? I’d limit eggs to 4 to 5 eggs per week or choose cholesterol free egg whites instead. Watch out for saturated fat and resist the urge to cook eggs with butter topped with cheese and served with bacon. Try scrambling eggs with grape seed oil and toss in some spinach then top with salsa or avocado. The soluble fiber in spinach, salsa and avocado can help absorb excess cholesterol that your body does not need which can lower serum blood cholesterol. Pairing your eggs with high saturated fat foods can increase your LDL cholesterols even more.
Try purchasing USDA Organic omega-3 fortified eggs, which have six times the omega-3 of normal eggs. This is due to the fact that chickens are fed flax seeds, which imparts heart healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3 into the eggs that they lay. It’s an easy and delicious way to get them in if you don’t get enough fish, walnuts or flax seeds into your diet on a regular basis.
What about the protein in eggs? It’s not so incredible and quite average. There are 6 grams of protein in each egg, which is similar to one serving of beans or ¼ cup of yogurt and only 3 grams of protein in egg whites. What is important to take from this is to get protein from a variety of foods whether its soy, fish, poultry, dairy, nuts, whole grains or beans. The nutrients and anti-oxidants these various protein sources contain absorb at different rates due to the amounts of fats and fiber that they contain. For example, our bodies prefer absorbing protein from a variety of foods because digestion and absorption of the protein in an egg may occur first because it is low in fat and fiber, but the protein absorption from avocado, nuts and beans will occur slower which can further replenish any deficiency the body needs because the protein is digested slower due to its higher fat and fiber content.
It’s not the egg that’s the problem with your cholesterol; it’s the saturated fat in foods that you pair with the eggs that can increase your LDL cholesterol. As far as protein goes, break out of your shell and choose a variety of protein sources besides eggs for better protein absorption and overall cardiovascular health.