Economical and easy to prepare in many ways, eggs appear to be perfect little protein packages. But the advice on eating them seems to change frequently, especially concerning whether their cholesterol content is safe for people with cardiovascular disease. So what’s a health-
conscious consumer supposed to do?
The yolk of a large egg has 186 milligrams of cholesterol, while the egg white is cholesterol-free. A 2012 study suggested a link between egg-yolk consumption and plaque buildup in the carotid artery, a significant predictor of heart disease. That study contrasts with earlier research that found no evidence linking egg consumption with coronary disease.
“What appears to be more important than an individual food is total cholesterol intake, regardless of whether it comes from eggs or other food sources such as full-fat dairy products or meat, ” says Alice H. Lichtenstein, director and senior scientist at the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University in Boston.
But be careful about confusing dietary cholesterol with blood cholesterol (LDL, HDL, and triglycerides). “The major determinant of blood LDL cholesterol is saturated fat, ” Lichtenstein says. “There is a recommendation to limit dietary sources of saturated fat, primarily found in dairy and meat fat.” Although the saturated fat in eggs is relatively low compared with that in many other animal-based protein sources (one large egg has just under two grams of saturated fat), many of the foods that often accompany eggs (such as bacon, butter, cheese and sausage) are high in saturated fat.