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Cracking the Code on Eggs and Cholesterol

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There is perhaps no more perfect food than eggs. These little orbs are naturally packaged and they contain important nutrients to health. Why are there still questions about whether eggs are good for you? Let’s put the argument about eggs and cholesterol to rest so we can get on with finding tasty ways to enjoy eggs.

The banter about eggs and heart health harkens back to 1968, when the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended that we all consume less than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day and no more than three whole eggs per week. The smearing of eggs’ reputation as a healthy, affordable protein took a another beating when the US government started recommending a low-fat, low cholesterol diet in 1977 to reduce heart disease. The humble egg fell from grace as a healthy food.

It came down to one factor, cholesterol. Yes, eggs contain cholesterol, which is actually not a fat at all. It’s a sterol, as Susan DeLaney, ND explains in her video series, Your Health is Not One Thing, It’s a Million Little Things. Our bodies need cholesterol for the brain, nervous system, muscles and sexual health. “Cholesterol is not really the villain we have all been told it is by medical experts,” says Dr. DeLaney. She explains it is a vital nutrient for your physical and mental health.

All the Reasons Cholesterol is Our Friend, from Susan DeLaney, ND

New research on eggs and cholesterol

Fifty years after the AHA study, a very large study published in the journal Heart cracked the notion that eggs are unhealthy for the heart. Using a half million people, researchers studied egg eaters in China. They found those who ate about one egg per day had a substantially lower risk of heart disease and stroke than those who ate eggs less frequently. In May 2022, another study looked at how egg consumption affects markers of cardiovascular health in the blood.

“Few studies have looked at the role that plasma cholesterol metabolism plays in the association between egg consumption and the risk of cardiovascular diseases, so we wanted to help address this gap,” explained first author Lang Pan, MSc at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Peking University, Beijing, China.

This study was smaller but no less significant. Pan and the team selected 4,778 participants from the China Kadoorie Biobank, of whom 3,401 had a cardiovascular disease and 1,377 did not. They used a technique called targeted nuclear magnetic resonance to measure 225 metabolites in plasma samples taken from the participants’ blood. They identified 24 that were associated with self-reported levels of egg consumption. Here is what they found:

  1. Those who ate a moderate amount of eggs had higher levels of a protein in their blood called apolipoprotein A1, a building-block of high-density lipoprotein (HDL). This is know as the good lipoprotein’ or good cholesterol.
  2. These individuals had more large HDL molecules in their blood, which helps clear cholesterol from the blood vessels to protect against blockages that can lead to heart attacks and stroke.
  3. They also found 14 metabolites that are linked to heart disease. Participants who ate fewer eggs had lower levels of beneficial metabolites and higher levels of harmful ones in their blood, compared to those who ate eggs more regularly.

“Together, our results provide a potential explanation for how eating a moderate amount of eggs can help protect against heart disease,” said author Canqing Yu, Associate Professor at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Peking University.

Letting go of the eggs and cholesterol myth

So despite breakfast menus across America selling egg white omelettes in the heart healthy section of the menu, egg whites are not healthier for your heart as compared to whole eggs. Egg yolks contain a majority of the B6, B12, calcium, iron, phosphorus, pantothenic acid, thiamin and zinc in the egg. Yolks contain all of the fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients like A, D and E, omega-3 fatty acids, choline, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Now for the fun part, preparing eggs in the kitchen. There is a legendary tale in the culinary world that the pleats in a chef’s toque represents the number of techniques they must learn, including a 100 ways to prepare an egg. The possibilities are endless. Below are some ideas and recipes to wake up your taste buds and break out of a scrambled egg rut.

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Half dozen surprising ways to use eggs

  1. Breakfast Fried Rice for Two: Heat one cup cold cooked rice or cauliflower rice in a skillet with a bit of cooking oil or ghee. Add one sliced scallion, a few sliced sugar snap peas and mushrooms, cook until soft. Whisk three eggs in a small bowl. Add to the pan and stir until cooked. Sprinkle with 2 Tbls. soy sauce and 1 tsp. sesame oil. Sprinkle with Furikake (Japanese sesame, seaweed seasoning).
  2. Poached Egg Soups: Poached eggs add protein and staying power to broth and grain-based soups.
  3. Salad Dressings: Thicken salad dressings with hard-boiled egg yolks. Use one or two yolks per cup of dressing, whiz up in a blender or bullet.
  4. Egg-Topped Greens: Start the morning off right with a handful of fresh greens, a basted egg, topped with a tangy vinaigrette, harissa or pesto and a grating of sharp cheese (pictured).
  5. Morning Migas Tacos: This Tex-Med scramble eggs will become a favorite. Scramble eggs with onion, jalapeño, crispy tortillas and black beans. Serve in corn tortillas with salsa and avocado.
  6. Eat eggs for dinner with Egg Shakshouka: This Israeli and Tunisian single skillet dish (below) is hearty enough for dinner and impressive enough for brunch guests. Serve it straight from the pan with flatbreads for sopping up the spicy sauce. Serves 2, can be doubled or tripled.

Shakshouka

INGREDIENTS

Shakshouka
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ sweet yellow pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • hefty pinch cayenne pepper
  • ½ 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained
  • 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 eggs

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat a 12-inch skillet to medium heat, add oil and heat until it shimmers. Add onions and peppers and saute until soft. Add garlic, cumin, paprika and cayenne. Stir for another 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  2. Add garbanzo beans and tomatoes with juice. Bring to a strong simmer. Add a little water (1/4 cup at a time) to the pan if there isn’t enough poaching liquid for the eggs. Gently break eggs into the sauce. Cover the pan and cook for about 3 minutes until the whites are set. Spoon into shallow bowls.

Source: Lang Pan, Lu Chen, Jun Lv, Yuanjie Pang, Yu Guo, Pei Pei, Huaidong Du, Ling Yang, Iona Y Millwood, Robin G Walters, Yiping Chen, Weiwei Gong, Junshi Chen, Canqing Yu, Zhengming Chen, Liming Li. Association of egg consumption, metabolic markers, and risk of cardiovascular diseases: A nested case-control studyeLife, 2022; 11 DOI: 10.7554/eLife.72909

This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of evidence-based natural medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

About The Author(s)

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Institute for Natural Medicine Staff

Our dedicated content team of professional staff writers represents decades of experience covering essential natural health topics in an accessible, evidence-based, and engaging way. Guided by a shared passion for holistic well-being, each and every one of our writers strives to empower our readers to take charge of their health.

Supported by a rigorous fact-checking and medical editing process from licensed naturopathic doctors that examines the latest in peer-reviewed research, our team brings their in-depth knowledge of natural health practices into every piece of content we produce. We strive to be the gold standard for evidence-based natural medicine, providing trustworthy information and inspiring narratives to help you live your best health, naturally.

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