A patient recently asked me, “Are eggs good for you or bad for you?” This patient was referring to the seemingly ongoing debate over whether eggs will kill you or give you superpowers. It seems people want foods to fall into one of these two categories. Maybe the simplicity of that simple grouping would make decision-making easier. But this kind of question gives health-care providers pause because, like with most foods, the human relationship with eggs is complicated.
BY THE NUMBERS
According to the Chicago-based American Egg Board, a single large egg contains 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of total fat, 185 milligrams of cholesterol, and a variety of other minerals and vitamins in moderate doses. Although the protein and fat can be argued as healthy for consumers, cholesterol is called out most frequently for being the antagonist.
The theory goes that consuming cholesterol contributes to a buildup of fats in the walls of blood vessels. This theory is largely unchallenged and accepted as gospel truth by many. By connecting the dots, one could see how the amount of cholesterol in eggs could cause heads to turn.
The most recent study that caused a stir in news reports was one titled “Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality.” The article compiled data from six different studies and included almost 30,000 participants. The authors found the risk for cardiovascular disease increased 17 percent per 300 milligrams of cholesterol consumed per day. Three-hundred milligrams of cholesterol is the amount found in about two eggs, so this study seemed to connect cholesterol to heart disease and, ultimately, eating eggs was connected to heart disease.
Data were collected by having participants fill out nutrition surveys about their diet. And here lies the problem: Most people can’t remember what they had for breakfast yesterday. This isn’t a figure of speech. People literally can’t remember how many eggs they normally eat. An article was even published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology titled, “The Fatal Flaws of Food Frequency Questionnaires and Other Memory-Based Dietary Assessment Methods.”
KEEP IT WHOLE
So what does all this mean? It means data regarding whether a food is good or bad for you should be taken with a grain of salt. If you are considering a whole-food that is not laboratory manipulated or highly processed and is generally considered healthy, it is probably harmless to eat it in moderation. In general, eating whole foods is safe and is the best choice for your dietary intake. If you have found a diet and lifestyle routine that seems to work for you, whether your goal is to maintain a certain level of athletic performance or keep weight under control, your best bet is not to jump ship with every nutrition study that comes out.
It would be wrong to treat a single food as if it were the exclusive cause of bad health. For example, eggs do not solely cause high cholesterol and heart disease. There are multiple contributing factors to an individual with a health condition. Of course, an individual may have eaten eggs every day of his or her life and have heart problems but maybe genetics, lack of exercise, sitting in chair at work for three decades, and countless other unmentioned factors and lifestyle choices also contributed to the condition.
If you are an athlete, you are probably more active than the average American and if you are a smart athlete, you probably already eat healthier than the average American. Don’t feel that you need to take eggs out of your diet, and do not forget that you know more about your body than a nutrition survey that has never met you.
The studies and articles referenced here can be found online via the following links.
- 1. “Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality”
- 2. “The Fatal Flaws of Food Frequency Questionnaires and Other Memory- Based Dietary Assessment Methods”
- 3. “Lack of an Association or an Inverse Association Between Low- Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol and Mortality in the Elderly: A Systematic Review”
How to Make the Perfect Hard-boiled Egg
Place large eggs in a saucepan. Cover them with cool water by 1 inch.
Cover with a lid and bring water to a boil over high heat; when the water has reached a boil, set the timer for for 6 -7 minutes over medium-high heat for perfect hard-boiled eggs.
Note: Leave the eggs in an ice bath for 15 minutes for easier peeling.