Ask the Dietitian: Are Eggs Bad For Cholesterol?

Sidney Fry, MS, RD
by Sidney Fry, MS, RD
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Ask the Dietitian: Are Eggs Bad For Cholesterol?

WHY YOU NEED CHOLESTEROL 

Your body needs cholesterol to operate, and it even makes it on its own — more than the amount it can absorb from the food you eat. While there is still a relationship between the amount of cholesterol consumed and the amount found in your bloodstream, it’s mostly a weak one. Extensive research, including several Harvard studies, has shown the total mix of fats in the diet has the most important influence on the amount of both total and LDL (bad) cholesterol in the bloodstream. In particular, saturated fats and trans fats are the biggest culprits.

HOW EGGS AFFECT CHOLESTEROL LEVELS

A large egg contains 185 milligrams of cholesterol, which is 62% of the 300mg daily cap that once existed in the USDA Dietary Guidelines. In 2015, that limit was removed due to a body of research that lessened the long-lasting negative association between dietary and blood cholesterol. However, the current guidelines still recommend limiting cholesterol as much as possible.

Recent studies support the idea eggs may actually be good for cholesterol. A study from the Journal of Nutrition found that when healthy young adults went from eating zero eggs to eating three per day, they had improvements in their good HDL cholesterol, which aids in removing plaque and bad cholesterol from the body.

What’s important is to look at the food in its entirety, rather than a single number on the label. Whole eggs are nutritional powerhouses. High in protein (6g), low in calories (70 per large egg), and rich in vitamins and minerals — eggs are not only one of the most nutrient-dense options available, but they’re also affordable and easy to cook.

THE CASE FOR THE YOLK

Tossing the yolk and opting for egg whites can be a good way to get protein while saving fat macros, but you might miss out on important nutrients. One egg yolk contains about 35% of your daily choline — a nutrient that stimulates neurotransmitters in the brain and may protect against Alzheimer’s disease. It also rich in vitamin B12, riboflavin, folate and has 10% of your daily value for vitamin D — a nutrient that can be difficult to find in foods — and which nearly 75% of us don’t get enough of each day. Moreover, an egg has just enough fat to make all of those necessary fat-soluble vitamins more readily available for the body and only contains 1.5 grams of saturated fat.

The Bottom Line

If eggs are the main culprit for your cholesterol levels, then there isn’t much to worry about. It’s the sausage, cheese, fatty cuts of red meat, bacon, cold cuts and other foods high in saturated fat that may require more of your immediate attention. For cooking inspiration, check out 8 easy egg recipes with more than 22 grams of protein, 6 easy egg recipes under 250 calories and 5 egg dishes ready in less than 10 minutes.      

About the Author

Sidney Fry, MS, RD
Sidney Fry, MS, RD

Sidney is a two-time James Beard Award-winning food and nutrition writer, editor and mom based out of Birmingham, Alabama. A registered dietitian with a passion for research and being proactive about health, she loves to eat, write, run and create simple, tasty meals with whole-food-based approach. Find out more from her website, Instagram or Twitter.

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