Cholesterol is a type of lipid - a waxy substance that forms part of the cell membranes. While cholesterol is essential to your body, having too much of it in the bloodstream can increase your risk of heart disease.
Eggs contain dietary cholesterol and this has led many people to question their long-term impact on heart health, but should you be worried about cholesterol when eating eggs?
ARE EGGS BAD FOR CHOLESTEROL?
The short answer is no, absolutely not.
The latest Heart Foundation guidelines put no limit on how many eggs average, healthy people can eat. The Heart Foundation guidelines state that eggs have almost no effect on blood cholesterol levels and recommend regular egg consumption as part of a diet that is rich in whole foods and low in saturated fats.
CSIRO research has also shown that eggs are safe to eat on a daily basis. The CSIRO conducted a range of research, both in clinical trials and in a survey of more than 84,000 Australians, and found that egg consumption is actually linked to a number of positive health outcomes.
WHAT IS CHOLESTEROL AND WHY IS IT BAD?
Cholesterol is a type of lipid, which is a waxy substance that forms part of cell membranes. While cholesterol is essential to our bodies, having too much of it in the bloodstream can increase the risk of heart disease.
High cholesterol can lead to fatty deposits building up in blood vessels which eventually makes it difficult for blood to flow through arteries. These deposits can break off and form clots that may cause a heart attack or stroke.
While high cholesterol can be inherited, it’s more often caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices. So for many people, cholesterol levels can be lowered by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
In the past, some dietary experts did recommend limiting egg intake. But as health and nutrition research has continued and our understanding of diet has improved, most healthy eating guidelines now state that eggs have little to no impact on the cholesterol levels of average, healthy people.
HOW MUCH CHOLESTEROL IS IN AN EGG?
There are two types of cholesterol: blood cholesterol, which our bodies make and our livers recycle; and dietary cholesterol, found in the foods we eat.
Although blood cholesterol levels are often associated with heart disease risk, cholesterol in itself is not necessarily bad. In fact, it’s essential to help form cell membranes, Vitamin D, hormones, and bile acids.
Eggs contain approximately 398mg of cholesterol per serve, mostly in the egg yolk, and are a major source of dietary cholesterol.
DO EGGS RAISE CHOLESTEROL?
While eggs do contain high levels of dietary cholesterol, multiple studies have shown they have little to no impact on the body’s blood cholesterol levels when consumed as part of a healthy diet.
Current evidence indicates there is no association between the number of eggs consumed and increased risk of coronary heart disease in most people. Eggs have a neutral relationship with heart health, meaning they neither increase nor decrease the risk of heart disease in the general population.
Importantly, eggs contain nutrients such as folate and long chain omega-3 fatty acids that may be associated with protection from heart disease or its risk factors.
HOW MANY EGGS IS TOO MUCH?
Now that the Heart Foundation has lifted all restrictions on egg consumption for average, healthy people, you’re free to eat eggs without limitation - as part of a healthy diet, of course.
However, people with an increased risk of heart disease should consume no more than seven eggs per week as part of a heart-healthy diet.
WHO SHOULD LIMIT THEIR EGG INTAKE?
Everybody absorbs cholesterol differently. Hyper-responders, for example, are people who are more sensitive to dietary cholesterol than others. For these people, it’s best to discuss egg limits with a GP or an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
LDL stands for low-density lipoprotein and is often called the bad cholesterol as high levels of LDL leads to a buildup of cholesterol in your arteries.
People living with an increased risk of heart disease, such as those living with raised LDL cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, or type 2 diabetes, are advised to limit their egg intake to seven eggs a week.
THE HEALTHIEST WAY TO EAT EGGS
Saturated fatty acids have a greater impact on blood cholesterol levels and that means what you eat with your eggs is important.
It is recommended that eggs be eaten as part of a varied diet alongside foods that are good for the heart such as fish, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.
Rather than restricting egg intake, more important changes to the diet include increasing vegetable intake, eating whole foods, and reducing the number of processed foods and saturated fats.
The healthiest way to cook eggs is to boil, poach, or scramble them, without using butter. Instead of laying bacon on top, eat them with vegetables such as spinach, capsicum, mushrooms, tomatoes, or with avocados. And swap white bread for whole grain.
Eggs have a range of health benefits that make them an important part of a varied diet that is low in saturated fats.
LEARN MORE ABOUT EGG NUTRITION
There are many misconceptions around eggs and whether they should be eaten in certain situations. Australian Eggs provides information on all aspects of egg nutrition. Find out about the vitamins and nutrients in eggs and why they’re considered one of nature’s powerhouse foods.