Blood cholesterol levels are one of the main indicators of the possibility of heart disease, and eggs have been labeled as one of the biggest culprits in increasing those levels. The yolk of the egg contains up to 5 grams of fat, as well as dietary cholesterol which led to eggs being vilified as increasing the risk of heart disease. However, this is a myth that comes from a misunderstanding of what actually raises cholesterol levels and the role fat plays in that process.
Initially all dietary cholesterol was thought to lead to heart disease as certain types of blood cholesterol can line the arteries and are an indicator of heart disease potential. However, cholesterol is necessary for the healthy functioning of the body and is made by the body in the liver and other organs. The amount of dietary cholesterol in a diet has been found to be less important to blood cholesterol levels than the amount of saturated and trans fats.
While it is true that egg yolk contains a high percentage of fat, it is unsaturated fat which is associated with "good" or HDL cholesterol. LDL is the type of cholesterol that lines blood vessels, whereas HDL cholesterol tends to remove LDL from artery walls and is known as "good" cholesterol. Consuming eggs rather than sources of animal protein which contain saturated fats might actually lower the chances of heart disease.
Multiple studies have shown that there is no risk in eating one to two eggs per day as part of a healthy diet. Even in studies which included individuals who already had elevated LDL cholesterol levels, the risk of heart disease did not increase when they began eating eggs regularly. However, the fat in egg yolk will still add calories to a diet, so whole eggs should not be eaten to excess.
The Benefits of Eggs
Eggs are nutritionally dense and a very good addition to any diet. They contain selenium, choline, vitamin B12, riboflavin and iron, as well as many other nutrients. Eggs also contain antioxidants that can help to fight cancer as well as the signs of aging. Chickens that are raised in a natural environment and fed a diet that is less concerned with the shelf life of eggs and more concerned with the health of the chicken, tend to provide eggs with a higher nutritional value. Try to buy eggs that are verified cage free, or free range.
The protein in egg whites is very easily utilized by the body, and is considered one of the best forms of natural protein available. It is often used by body builders or athletes as a source of protein, as it provides a high ratio of protein to calories with very little to no fat.
While eggs are not free of cholesterol, eating them does not raise cholesterol levels or increase the chances of heart disease. Eggs are a good addition to a healthy diet and can provide many benefits to those who eat them.