Research done in the 1960s reported that foods high in cholesterol raised blood cholesterol levels. These studies looked at foods that were high in both cholesterol and saturated fat, and their effect on blood cholesterol levels. At the time research indicated that saturated fat increased LDL cholesterol levels and researchers incorrectly assumed that dietary cholesterol had the same effect on blood cholesterol, since cholesterol and saturated fat are found mainly in the same foods. Dietary cholesterol was assumed to be the main culprit.
Eggs were put on the list of ‘bad’ foods, even though no direct association was made between dietary cholesterol, specifically eggs, and blood cholesterol. The good news is, more recent research concludes that eating a diet high in saturated or trans fat − not dietary cholesterol − are mostly responsible for increases in blood cholesterol levels. An egg a day is OK!
Continue reading to find out what more recent research studies tell us about egg intake and heart disease risk.
What experts say about eggs
Health professionals agree that eggs play an important role in a well-balanced, heart-healthy diet.
Dr. Christian Constance, MD is a Montreal-based professor and researcher in cardiology and internal medicine. He believes eggs are an important part of a healthy diet for his patients with high cholesterol:
Dietary cholesterol has very little effect on blood cholesterol levels. It’s more important to reduce overall fat intake, especially saturated fat and to choose healthy fats rather than simply eliminating foods that contain cholesterol. I absolutely encourage my patients to include eggs as part of a healthy diet.
Dr. Peter Jones, PhD is a Winnipeg-based nutrition expert and the director of the Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals. He is passionate about healthy eating, and is a Canada Research Chair in Functional Foods and Nutrition. Dr. Jones talks about the science behind an egg a day is ok.
It’s no wonder that Canadians are confused about dietary cholesterol, given that early reports largely exaggerated the adverse relationship between cholesterol intake and heart disease risk. More recent and accurate trials have shown that dietary cholesterol intake has little effect on blood cholesterol levels and heart disease risk; it’s safe to say that restrictions on egg intake are unnecessary.
Eggs are good for you
Eggs have always been an excellent choice for a healthy diet. They’re low in saturated fat, contain only 70 calories per egg and have no trans fat. Eggs are considered “nutrient-dense” because they are high in many vitamins, minerals and other key nutrients, but low in saturated fat and calories. Eggs are also a rich source of protein that provides long-lasting energy for your body.
Eggs are sometimes called “functional foods” because they deliver health benefits that go beyond basic nutrition.
Here’s what the nutrients in eggs can do for you:
Essential for building and repairing muscles, organs, skin, hair and other body tissues; needed to produce hormones, enzymes and antibodies; the protein in eggs is easily absorbed by the body
Helps protect against heart disease
Works with vitamin E to act as an antioxidant to help prevent the breakdown of body tissues
Strengthens bones and teeth; may help protect against certain cancers and auto-immune diseases
An antioxidant that plays a role in maintaining good health and preventing disease
Helps produce and maintain new cells; helps prevent a type of anemia, helps protect against serious birth defects if taken prior to pregnancy and during the first 3 months of pregnancy
Helps maintain healthy skin and eye tissue; assists in night vision
Carries oxygen to the cells, helps prevent anemia – the iron in eggs is easily absorbed by the body
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Maintains good vision; may help reduce the risk of age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts and macular degeneration
Plays a strong role in brain development and function
Don’t skip the yolk – eat the whole egg
Eggs contain many important nutrients that your body needs for good health. Most of these nutrients, including half of the egg’s protein, vitamin D, and omega-3s are found in the egg yolk. If you don’t eat the yolk, you’ll miss out on many of the egg’s nutritional benefits. So make the healthy choice and eat the whole egg.
Did You Know?
Canadian eggs meet all the criteria of the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Health CheckTM program.
Add omega-3 eggs to your menu
For even more heart health protection, consider adding omega-3 eggs to your menu. Omega-3 eggs contain two types of healthy fats that have been shown to help protect against heart disease by reducing the risk of blood clots and abnormal heart rhythms.6 Browse our ‘Omega-3 for your heart‘ section to learn more on how omega-3 fats can benefit your heart health.