I love eggs and I rely on them as a regular part of my diet. I'm a vegetarian, and they provide me with important protein as well as several vitamins and minerals. But this breakfast staple has gotten a bad rap for its cholesterol content, with some saying it could potentially raise your blood cholesterol levels and, therefore, your risk for heart disease. Well, wait a minute—if you don't have high cholesterol or a high risk of heart disease, you can safely have one egg a day—and maybe more if you're not eating a lot of saturated fat elsewhere throughout the day. I think it's time for eggs to get a much-deserved boost in popularity.
A recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition turns the tables on eggs' reputation. It shows that egg consumption and dietary cholesterol are not connected with a heightened risk of heart disease, even when a person is genetically predisposed to the condition.
In the study, scientists researched the dietary habits of 1,032 men. Subjects ate an average of four medium eggs weekly, with eggs making up about 28 percent of total cholesterol intake. The participants who ate one medium egg daily were more likely to exercise and less likely to smoke or have diabetes. Those consuming the most cholesterol, on average 520 milligrams daily, including one egg, were not at a greater risk for cardiovascular disease.
Additionally, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans also put a new spin on eggs by lifting a decades-old dietary cholesterol restriction of 300 milligrams daily. The guidelines note that the link between dietary cholesterol and the level of cholesterol in the blood needs to be further explored.
Here are three big reasons you should feel good about eggs being a part of your healthy diet:
1. Your body likes eggs. Let me introduce you to the term "bioavailability." This word signifies how well the body can utilize the nutrients in a particular food. (What good does it do, if you can't really use it, right?) When it comes to protein, eggs have a higher bioavailability than beef, fish, tofu, beans, and milk. Research shows that the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs are also very well absorbed.
2. Eggs provide a lot of nutrients. Lutein and zeaxanthin may help prevent macular degeneration, and thus age-related blindness. Eggs also contain choline, which is good for the brain, along with vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin D, iron, and zinc—all packed into just 63 calories for a medium egg.
3. Eggs can help you absorb other nutrients. Pairing an egg with a salad may help you absorb the carotoneids in your veggies, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Carotenoids are antioxidants that help eyesight and may play a part in preventing certain cancers.
Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition. She counsels private clients in Jersey City, NJ, New York City, and long distance—and is a nutrition consultant, motivational speaker, and journalist. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.