One egg has about 213 mg of cholesterol, which is why they have gotten such a bad rap over the years. An estimated one-fourth of Americans avoid eggs because they worry about their cholesterol. However, most experts (scientists, physicians and dietitians) agree that it's not cholesterol from foods that significantly raises your blood cholesterol, but rather saturated fat and trans fat in your diet that raises your blood cholesterol.
For healthy individuals, it is recommended to keep daily cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg (If you have diabetes, heart disease, or high LDL cholesterol, limit dietary cholesterol to 200 mg/day). It is now known that there is little, if any, correlation between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels. Scientists now believe that a small percentage of people may be more sensitive to dietary cholesterol than most. For the majority of people, only a small amount of cholesterol from what you eat ends up in your bloodstream. Three decades of research has shown no link between eggs and heart disease.
In fact, the American Heart Association maintains that you can include one egg a day in your healthy diet if you are careful to limit other dietary sources of cholesterol, mainly from meats, poultry and dairy. Even those with high cholesterol can safely enjoy an egg a day. Since all of the cholesterol is housed in the yolk, try an omelet with one whole egg and two egg whites. That way you are getting all of the important nutrients that the yolk provides but are keeping your cholesterol intake below recommended daily levels. Also, try bulking up your omelet by adding nutrient-rich vegetables, such as onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, or spinach. This tasty addition will help you get one step closer to your daily recommended vegetable intake as well as provide some hunger-squelching fiber.
Eggs are naturally nutrient-dense, which means they have many nutrients but are relatively low in calories. One large egg has a mere 70 calories but is loaded with 13 important nutrients. Eggs have been shown to be essential for weight management, healthy brain and eye function, and optimal health during pregnancy.
So what nutrients do eggs provide? Eggs are rich in choline, which is critical to brain function. Eggs are also loaded with high-quality protein. They are actually such a perfect little protein-packed food that, during research, scientists often compare the nutrient content of other foods to that of eggs. Eggs also provide lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants contained in the yolk that help prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness. The incredible, edible egg is also a good source of riboflavin and vitamin B12. Eggs also contain iron, folate, vitamins B6, A, D, and E, selenium, and heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Whole eggs really are the total package when it comes to healthy eating. Not only are eggs chock-full of essential nutrients, they are also cheap, versatile and delicious. As with all foods, moderation is key when it comes to egg consumption. It's most important to focus on your total diet, rather than on a single food or nutrient.
Kari Hartel, RD, LD is a Registered Dietitian and freelance writer based out of St. Louis, MO. Kari is passionate about nutrition education and the prevention of chronic disease through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. Kari holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and is committed to helping people lead healthy lives. She completed a yearlong dietetic internship at OSF St. Francis Medical Center in Peoria, IL, where she worked with a multitude of clients and patients with complicated diagnoses. She planned, marketed, and implemented nutrition education programs and cooking demonstrations for the general public as well as for special populations, including patients with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, obesity, and school-aged children. Contact Kari at KariHartelRD@gmail.com.