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Eggs on a heart-healthy diet? New guidelines say eggs are OK.
Every five years or so, the U.S. government updates its Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One of the more newsworthy changes in the most recent edition, released at the beginning of 2016, was that an upper daily limit of cholesterol intake was removed. And that’s great news for egg lovers.
The new guidelines on cholesterol consumption were a nod to evidence that dietary cholesterol has very little effect on the level of cholesterol in the bloodstream. If you read the entire report, however, it also advises to eat “as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy diet,” which sounds like a contradiction.
But this recommendation was made because many foods that are high in cholesterol—like fatty meats, cheese and high-fat dairy products—are also high in saturated fat. And the recommendation to limit saturated fat intake still stands in the most recent guidelines.
Eggs are somewhat of an exception, because although they do contain cholesterol, their saturated fat content is relatively low.
Eggs are one of the most nutritious and versatile foods around. Not only do they offer up a lot of nutrition in a small package, but their delicious mild flavor also makes them adaptable to all sorts of dishes that can be eaten at any time of the day. And they’re also somewhat less perishable than fresh meat, fish or poultry. Properly refrigerated, eggs can stay fresh for about three weeks after you bring them home.
A whole egg has about 80 calories, about 5 grams of fat, most of which is the healthy monounsaturated type, and less than 200 mg of cholesterol. A single egg packs about 6 grams of protein, with a bit more found in the white than the yolk. If you opt to eat only the egg whites and have, for example, four egg whites in an omelet, you’ll be taking in about 14 grams of protein, no fat and no cholesterol—all for around 70 calories.
Eggs are considered to be one of the highest quality proteins around. Eggs contain all the essential amino acids, the building blocks your body uses to construct vital proteins like hormones, enzymes and muscle tissue. Egg yolks contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two naturally occurring pigments that help protect the eyes from ultraviolet radiation, and choline, a nutrient that supports the health of cell membranes. In addition, egg yolks are one of the few natural sources of vitamin D. A whole egg contains about 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin D, a nutrient that helps the body to absorb calcium.
If you think of eggs solely as breakfast food, think again. Veggie omelets can make a light but satisfying dinner, scrambled eggs are great in a wrap for lunch, and a sliced hard-boiled egg on a whole grain cracker makes a terrific snack.
With all they’ve got going for them, here’s something else to consider about eggs: you don’t even need a skillet to cook them. Next time you’re in a hurry in the morning, try this: Spray a coffee mug with pan spray, then crack in your eggs or egg whites. Beat quickly with a fork, and microwave on high for about a minute and a half, stirring once halfway through the cooking process. The eggs cook up light and fluffy. While they’re delicious as is, you can also top them with a few slices of avocado or a spoonful of salsa for a quick meal or snack.
Susan is the Sr. Director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, where she is responsible for the development of nutrition education and training materials, and is one of the primary authors of the Herbalife-sponsored blog, www.discovergoodnutrition.com. She is a Registered Dietitian and holds two Board Certifications from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics as a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and a Certified Specialist in Obesity and Weight Management. Susan is also a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Susan graduated with distinction in biology from the University of Colorado, and received her master’s degree in Food Science and Nutrition from Colorado State University. She then completed her dietetic internship at the University of Kansas. Susan has taught extensively and developed educational programs targeted to individuals, groups and industry in her areas of expertise, including health promotion, weight management and sports nutrition.
Prior to her role at Herbalife, she was the assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition, and has held appointments as adjunct professor in nutrition at Pepperdine University and as lecturer in nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
Susan was a consultant to the (then) Los Angeles Raiders for six seasons, and was a contributing columnist for the Los Angeles Times Health Section for two years. She is a co-author of 23 research papers, 14 book chapters, and was a co-author of two books for the public: “What Color is Your Diet?” and “The L.A. Shape Diet” by Dr. David Heber, published by Harper Collins in 2001 and 2004, respectively.