Have you ever thrown away an egg yolk because you were concerned about the cholesterol or fat it contains? Or have you ever considered eating less eggs because of their fat content? Maybe you've questioned how many eggs are too many to eat in one day?
As concerns for heart disease and high cholesterol have become leaders in health concerns for many, eggs have been put on the chopping block as an unhealthy food item. So, how healthy are eggs really?
First, we need to look back in time at how heart disease and the fear for heart disease developed since it's a relatively new occurrence in our history. The first recorded heart attack was in 1912, and by 1930 there had been over 3,000 heart attacks reported. Thirty years later, over 500,000 heart attacks were reported. Needless to say, heart attacks were on the rise and people started to worry.
Two theories developed to explain what was becoming more common. First there was the lipid hypothesis, which stated that high cholesterol in the blood stream causes heart disease. The second hypothesis was the diet-heart hypothesis, which stated that saturated fats and cholesterol that we eat from sources such as animals products raises blood cholesterol levels. These both led to the increase of the pharmaceutical company's role in heart disease through prescriptions for statins and other cholesterol lowering medications.
There was a lot of research done, but unfortunately it wasn't exactly accurate and became widely distributed as truth in an attempt to decrease heart attacks as quickly as possible. Imagine you're the mayor of town and there's a problem causing your townspeople to die. When any research is provided with a resolution, chances are you'll provide it to your town as soon as possible to help the people and town you love. Right? That's what happened in this case. There was a study done in 1954 where a researcher fed cholesterol to rabbits, and it caused arterial damage in the rabbits. How similar are humans to rabbits, though? Not very similar as it turns out. With different natural diets, digestive systems, and differences in nearly every internal system, the study should not have been concluded to be applicable to the diets of humans.
A few years later in 1956, a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in crop oils (corn, soybean, canola) was advocated by Irving Page and Jeremiah Stamler in a televised fundraiser for the American Heart Association. These two men also went on to create the nutritional guidelines in 1961 for the American Heart Association. And so, the anti-saturated fat, anti-cholesterol message became ingrained in the mind of Americans despite living healthily for centuries eating these types of foods. As a result, obesity more than doubled worldwide between 1980 and 2008.
So if they got it wrong, then what really causes heart disease? If you keep in mind that humans have eaten these foods for centuries without facing heart attacks, saturated fats and cholesterol are likely not the culprits. Research points to sugar, stress, nutrient deficiency, nutrient imbalances, damages fats (like those from processed crop oils), and chronic inflammation as contributing factors to increasing heart disease. Not animal meats and not eggs.
Okay, so you can eat your eggs but you still don't want to have high cholesterol, right? Not quite. Lots of research shows that people with high cholesterol actually tend to be healthier and love longer than those with low cholesterol. Cholesterol is a lifesaving, health-promoting substance, and it performs incredibly important functions in the body. Every cell in your body needs cholesterol at some point during its life. Cholesterol is important for fighting infections and can disable toxins produced by bacteria to further support the immune system.
Cholesterol in your food does not determine your blood cholesterol levels either. The body naturally creates cholesterol and creates less when more is introduced through the diet - the body is smart and self-regulates. Furthermore, foods high in cholesterol are jam-packed with other important nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
Eggs are one of the best foods for you to get plenty of saturated fats efficiently through your food. They're a natural source of both protein and fat, and filled with Vitamins A, B-6, B-12, C, D, Calcium and Magnesium. Most of these nutrients reside in the yolk.
Is there a limit on how many eggs you should be eating? Nope. You would have to eat a ridiculous amount of eggs before I would recommend you eat less eggs. That being said, it's important to get a variety your nutrients from a variety of sources. This is also dependent on your personal goals and if you have specific protein and fat content goals for your diet, but in general eggs get the green light.