The Egg: Egg-cellent or Egg-void?

One of the most controversial foods in our diets are eggs.  The audience is split; some think eggs should be avoided and some believe eggs are super healthy, but what do the facts say? In celebration of Egg Day on June 3, it is time to understand the truth about eggs once and for all.

Eggs contain six grams of protein. It is considered a complete protein because it contains all nine of the essential amino acids in the appropriate ratio for humans to survive. Proteins are used to maintain muscle mass and are involved in many bodily processes to keep our body functioning.  One large egg contains 13 essential vitamins and minerals. Some notable ones include:

  • Choline: According to the National Institutes of Health, Choline is needed to make acetylcholine, which is important for memory, mood, muscle control, and other brain and nervous system functions.
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin: According to the American Optometric Association, these antioxidants help neutralize free radicals (unstable molecules) associated with retinal damage. They also help protect and maintain healthy cells in the eyes.
  • Vitamin D: along with calcium is important for bone health.

Eggs, specifically the egg yolk, are high in cholesterol containing about 186 milligrams of cholesterol per yolk.  It is recommended to limit cholesterol intake to 200 milligrams per day. Dietary cholesterol can increase LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels, but to a lesser extent than saturated fat (unhealthy fats).  Saturated fats play a larger role in increasing blood cholesterol and is a bigger threat to heart health. The Institute of Medicine recommends individuals to consume as little dietary cholesterol as possible because high cholesterol foods tend to be foods with high saturated fats as well. In this case, one egg contains about one gram of saturated fat, which is not much compared to other animal proteins.

Saturated fats are unhealthy fats that can raise LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) which may put you at risk for heart disease. One egg contains only about one gram of saturated fat.  To put it into perspective, steak has approximately six grams, chicken thigh, three grams and salmon, two grams. Compared to other animal proteins, eggs are lower in saturated fat.

Eggs contain two grams of monounsaturated fats and one gram of polyunsaturated fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are heart healthy fats which act like a vacuum and clean up lipids (fat) and cholesterol in the blood.

Overall, eggs contain some great nutrients that are essential to our health, but they also contain some unhealthy components. In this case, the healthy components in eggs outweigh the unhealthy, but just like any other food, eggs need to be consumed in moderation.  If you have high cholesterol, hyperlipidemia, or are at risk for heart disease, it is important to limit eggs to only three per week. On other days, focus on consuming egg whites or a lower cholesterol egg substitute.

When it comes to any foods, be sure to learn the nutritional facts and adjust your diet as appropriate. Jennifer Seleem is a registered dietitian/nutritionist with the Institute for Weight Loss at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center-Old Bridge. The Institute provides weight loss surgery and support for individuals seeking weight loss and have been unable to lose weight through conventional dieting, exercise or weight loss medication. To attend a free seminar, which occurs three times a month, or to make an appointment with Jennifer for nutrition counseling, call 855-TIME-4-ME.

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