When research reported that high blood cholesterol was associated with increased risk of heart disease, cholesterol was vilified. As a result, eggs -- with their cholesterol content of 215 mg each --were blacklisted.
But recent research actually points to saturated fat as a more significant determinant of high blood cholesterol and heart disease than dietary cholesterol, so eggs are regaining their well-deserved reputation as a good food.
However, don't start eating six-egg omelets for breakfast every day. To maintain the recommended daily cholesterol intake of 300mg or less, health professionals suggest eating no more than four eggs a week. One egg contains two-thirds of the recommended 300mg, so when the cholesterol in eggs is added to that in other foods, more than four a week can easily put you over the limit. If you're being careful about your egg intake, don't forget to count the eggs in prepared foods.
What's so eggsceptional?
- Eggs are a cheap source of high-quality protein (6g in each egg).
- They are low in saturated fat -- of an egg's 5 grams of fat, only 1.5 grams are saturated.
- For only 75 calories, an egg contains significant amounts of vitamins A, D, B-12, folic acid, phosphorous, iron and riboflavin.
- Eggs are easily digested, so they are a good food choice for people of all ages.
Yolk vs. White
The egg yolk contains all the fat and cholesterol and most of the calories in an egg. The whites have most of the protein and so can be used more freely. Stretch your use of eggs by substituting egg whites for whole eggs: For example, in many baked goods, you can substitute two egg whites for one whole egg, and for scrambled eggs, use two egg whites for each whole egg for up to half the total eggs used.
There are many egg substitutes to choose from, and almost all use egg whites as the base ingredient and then add various other ingredients, such as vegetable oil, flavors, and food coloring. Egg substitutes work well in recipes and as a replacement for scrambled eggs. They are lower in calories than real eggs and contain no cholesterol-but neither do they contain other important nutrients like vitamin A, D, and iron.
Salmonella bacteria have been found even in clean, uncracked eggs. To prevent the possibility of salmonella food poisoning, you must cook all eggs at a high enough temperature to destroy the bacteria -- 160 degrees F. This translates into a seven-minute boiled egg, a five-minute poached egg, or a fried egg without a runny yolk. Salmonella grows over time, so use only fresh, clean eggs. Wash your hands after handling eggs, and never use recipes calling for raw eggs.
New chicks on the block: Eggs in the News
- Some hens are being fed a diet that contains flaxseed, a grain high in omega-3 fatty acids, to produce eggs enriched with these acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are the same fats credited with making fish a heart-healthy food. The downside? These eggs still contain the same amount of cholesterol.
- One company has discovered a way to remove most of the cholesterol from eggs, so they contain only 45 mg rather than the usual 215 mg. But the process is expensive, and these low-cholesterol eggs aren't on the market yet.
- Scientists have discovered how to pasteurize eggs that are still raw and in the shell. This will help reduce the risk of salmonella.