Everything in moderation is a motto I hold close to my heart, especially in regards to health and nutrition. Since February is American Heart Month, I am reminded to be thoughtful about consuming heart healthy foods and you may be surprised to know that includes the mighty egg.
Yes, you read correctly. Even cholesterol-containing eggs can be part of a heart healthy diet. You might even consider them a nutrition powerhouse!
Let’s begin by breaking down the nutrient content of 1 large egg:
- Calories: ~75
- Protein: 7 grams (4 from the white and 3 from the yolk)
- Fat: 5 grams (found only in the yolk)
- 47% monounsaturated (2 grams)
- 37% saturated (slightly under 2 grams)
- 16 % polyunsaturated (slightly under 1gram)
- Cholesterol: 185 mg
- Vitamins: A, D, E, K and various B
- Minerals: selenium, iodine, zinc and iron
- Phytonutrients: Lutein and Zeaxanthin (found in the yolk, beneficial for eye health)
For being so little, eggs pack a powerful nutrient punch. Here are some additional fun facts:
- Eggs are one of the very few foods that contain all of the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E and K) and large amounts of certain water-soluble vitamins.
- They contain all the essential amino acids, making them a complete source of protein.
- The protein quality of eggs is so highthat it has become the standard by which researchers compare and rate all other protein in foods.
- The color of the yolk depends on the hen’s diet. Pigments or natural substances in the chicken feed, such as beta-carotene and marigold petals, cause yolk colors ranging from pale yellow to deep red.
- Egg yolks are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, which aids in the absorption of calcium.
- Eggs contain a relatively high percentage of B vitamins, found primarily in the white:25% of vitamin B12, 15% each of riboflavin and biotin, 12% of folate and 11% pantothenic acid.
Cholesterol and Heart Health
For years, eggs – because they contain cholesterol–have gotten a bad wrap. However, we now know they can be part of a balanced, heart healthy diet. Several studies have found solid results that dietary cholesterol has a much smaller effect on blood cholesterol and harmful LDL levels than the mix of fats in the diet, i.e. saturated fat. As a result, consuming eggs in moderation – up to 1 egg per day – does not increase your risk of developing heart disease.
Eggs in Moderation
The recommended cholesterol limit is less than 300 mg daily for people with normal LDL levels. To keep daily cholesterol intake in check, be mindful of other cholesterol-containing foods you may have during your day, such as meat, poultry and dairy products. Limiting over-consumption of these other foods ensures a balanced diet.
For those with high LDL levels or who are taking a blood cholesterol-lowering medication, it is recommended to eat less than 200 mg of cholesterol per day. Be cautious about eating eggs yolks and limit yourself to no more than 3 yolks per week. If you opt for packaged egg whites, recognize that they tend to be high in sodium, so portion control is important.
Overall, a heart healthy diet means consuming everything in moderation. So let’s vow to no longer stigmatize eggs, but embrace them for all the healthy, nutrient-rich benefits they provide as part of a balanced diet.
Tell us why you love eggs?
Erin DeMito RD