For such a simple food, eggs sure are controversial. It seems like general opinion on the health benefits or ill effects of these protein powerhouses changes pretty often. My patients ask about them all the time.
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With that in mind, as part of our ongoing series on the top diet myths, let’s take a look at what the current science says.
Myth 4: If you have high cholesterol, stop eating eggs
Eggs are, in some ways, the perfect food. A 2011 study in the journal Food Chemistry found that regular egg consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer because of their high levels of antioxidants. And several studies, including one in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, have found that eggs may help lower blood pressure as well. In addition to their antioxidants, eggs supply a tremendous amount of protein and nutrients in a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate and cheap package.
But what about cholesterol? If your cholesterol numbers are high, can you still eat your favorite breakfast food?
The answer is maybe. Enjoying eggs in moderation (fewer than 4–6 per week) may still be an option for patients with high cholesterol. A 2012 study in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care covers several studies that found that individuals who consume moderate amounts of eggs are not observed to have increases in cholesterol when compared to individuals who cut eggs out of their diets entirely.
Don’t start piling on the three-egg omelettes, though. Moderation is the key, and so is your doctor’s advice.
Tips for cooking eggs — and alternatives
If you’re still worried about eating eggs, consider egg whites or egg-substitute products. They’re still loaded with protein, but without so much cholesterol.
The way you prepare your eggs is important as well. Cook your eggs fully, without runny yolks or whites. Why? First, fully cooked eggs reduce the possibility of food-borne illness, which can occur with any undercooked animal product. Second, eggs contain a wonderful vitamin called biotin that helps maintain strong hair and nails. The problem is, biotin becomes inactivated by another component in eggs called avidin. The solution: Cook the egg fully to inactivate the avidin and better absorb the biotin!
Beyond eggs, if you’re interested in lowering your cholesterol through lifestyle changes, a few keys steps can help you get started:
- Add fiber-rich foods to your diet, such as 100 percent whole grain breads, pasta and rice as well as beans and cruciferous vegetables. Fiber has been shown to help in lowering total cholesterol levels.
- Start walking 10,000 steps a day to give your body the exercise it needs to be healthy.
- Avoid products high in cholesterol and saturated fats, such as full-fat dairy products, red meat and processed food items with tropical oils in them.
These small steps will help you in your quest to lower your cholesterol as well as your overall risk for heart disease and stroke.