Nutrition is certainly an evolving science. As more and more research is done into the health effect of different foods, nutrition scientists, health bodies and dietitians are constantly reviewing the evidence to ensure that the advice they give people is up-to-date. Occasionally, new evidence emerges to show that this advice is not accurate. and needs to change.
In my view, there’s no better symbol of this than the humble egg. Until relatively recently, people were advised to limit the number of eggs they ate. This was because, being high in cholesterol, eggs were thought to increase one’s risk of heart disease. (To put this into context, this was before we tested for “good” (HDL) and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol separately, and instead lumped it all into a single category. If your total cholesterol was high, that was bad. If it was low, that was good. Simple. Of course, we now know that it is the levels of good and bad cholesterol that matter, rather than total cholesterol)
The facts on cholesterol
We now know that dietary cholesterol has only a small impact on the amount of cholesterol in your body. Instead, other lifestyle factors have a much larger impact on raising your cholesterol levels. These include being overweight, smoking, being inactive, eating lots of animal (saturated) fats compared to plant oils, and drinking lots of alcohol often.
What does the Heart Foundation say about eggs?
So we’ve established that dietary cholesterol only has a relatively small impact on the amount of cholesterol in your body. Now let’s get back to eggs. According to the National Heart Foundation of Australia:
All Australians, including people with diabetes or metabolic syndrome, who follow a healthy balanced diet low in saturated fat can eat up to six eggs each week without increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Similarly, the British Heart Foundation says:
Unless you have been advised otherwise by your doctor or dietician, if you like eggs, they can be included as part of a balanced and varied diet.
Eggs: A Nutrition Powerhouse
Eggs are, in fact, a nutrition powerhouse. They contain a huge range of vitamins and minerals. They are particularly high in protein, folate, iodine, vitamin A, selenium, vitamin B12, and some eggs can be good sources of omega-3 (check the label).
They are an especially good source of nutrition for people who have a poor appetite, or who live alone and don’t feel like cooking. Boiling two eggs, and serving with a source of whole grains and vegetables, can give you a nutritious meal in only a few minutes. Hard boiling them makes a quick and easy snack that you can take out with you. Of course, the best way to enjoy eggs is as part of an overall way of eating that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
The healthiest way of cooking eggs? Try boiling, poaching or scrambling your eggs. Frying eggs, or making an omelette is alright too, but use a small amount of oil, rather than butter. Quiche, while delicious, is full of butter and cream, and is best saved for the occasional treat.
The Egg Farmers of Canada have a great site of egg recipes, ranging from the basic omelette to more advanced recipes for the adventurous.
Disclaimer: This is advice is only for the general population. Some people can be more sensitive to dietary cholesterol than others. If you have high cholesterol, talk to your GP or Accredited Practising Dietitian for tailored dietary advice.