Cracking the Code on Eggs and Cholesterol

eggs and cholesterol

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.

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, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic 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 health care 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 naturopathic medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

Get Involved!

Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.