1 May 2008

Busting Food Myths with Nicole Senior

Myth: Eggs are bad for the heart.

Nicole Senior

Fact: Ever wondered why egg-white omelettes became so popular? Lord knows it wasn’t for the flavour! It’s a classic case of food egg-stremism resulting in the poor old egg copping a bad wrap. Eggs were shunned because of their cholesterol content, but looking a little deeper we find eating eggs is not linked with higher rates of heart disease. Although eggs contain cholesterol, eating eggs in moderation as part of a heart-friendly diet low in saturated fat will not adversely affect the blood cholesterol level of most people. Blood cholesterol levels are far more influenced by how much saturated and trans fat you eat than dietary cholesterol. A typical 50 g egg contains 5 g fat of which only 1.5 g is saturated. Eggs are full of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, E, folate and B12, antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin that help maintain healthy eyes, and also contain long chain omega-3 fats (like the ones in fish).

However like most foods it appears you can have too much of a good thing. A recently published study of men suggested an increased of risk of death (interestingly not from cardiovascular disease) was associated with eating more than 1 egg a day, especially in men with diabetes. But more than one egg a day is egg-cessive any way you look at it. Yet again, the old nutrition wisdom prevails – enjoy everything in moderation. Everyone can enjoy eggs in moderation (around 3–4 eggs a week) in the context of a heart-friendly diet. Our tip is to enjoy them together with protective plant foods such as wholegrains, vegetables, legumes, fish, nuts and healthy oils. Think … Egg, Beans and Mushrooms on Mixed Grain Muffins, or, Avocado Scrambled Egg (rather than a greasy fry-up with bacon, white toast, butter and salt!). For these and other egg-cellent recipes, check out any of the New Glucose Revolution low GI cookbooks, Eat to Beat Cholesterol or Heart Food.


Dietitian Nicole Senior is author of Heart Food and Eat to Beat Cholesterol available online from Dymocks.


Unknown said...

In any case, madam, how can we wish away 1.5 gms of saturated fat in one egg.
This is how Egg white assumes importance.

Elspeth said...

Nicole - I was told once that Adele Davis's books state that eggs also contain lecithin [I believe in the yolk] which is said to be the natural balance to cholesterol. Is this still consideed to be the case? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious if you are speaking about modern battery raised chicken eggs. I believe that the nutritional profile of a pasture raised chicken's egg may be something quite different, much healthier in fact. Just as the nutritional profile of conventional beef is not nearly as healthy as grass fed beef. Instead of being a nutritional no no, grass fed beef turns out to be one of the most nutritious meat choices you can make. I think it is important for the public to understand that modern farming techniques have resulted in increased health risks

Anonymous said...

Hi there, everything here sounds good, but most times when you have eggs for breakfast, you're having at leat two (you don't usually see a one egg omlette on a menu). Thoughts?

Your Chef said...

The egg yolk has lots of good nutrition in it, even more than mentioned in this blog. See my blog at http://ahighertaste.blogspot.com/2008/04/eat-your-eggs.html for my take on it.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is, eat what you want and don't worry about it. If your body is healthy and you eat what it wants to stay healthy it will take care of itself. That is the way our bodies are designed. If we treat it right it will take care of itself!!!

GI Group said...

Nicole answers your questions about eggs.

Re saturated fat:
No food with fat contains zero saturated fat content. All fats contain a combination of saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – it is the type of fat which predominates which is important. Like olive oil, egg yolk is predominantly monounsaturated fat. When you consider the daily target for saturated fat is around 20g, 1.5g saturated fat per egg is perfectly acceptable, especially when you consider the significant amounts of other important nutrients that come with it.

Re lecithin:
Yes, eggs contain lecithin (phospholipid) which is a natural emulsifier and may reduce cholesterol absorption, although more research is needed.

Re cage or free range eggs:
There is little scientific evidence of nutritional differences between free-range and cage eggs and good quality research is needed. I’ve noticed free range eggs have a more orange-coloured yolk which signals antioxidants such as lutein and xeaxanthin. It would make sense that chickens able to forage on greens could transfer antioxidants from these to their eggs, but I’m not aware of any quality data to back this up. I agree with your comments about grass-fed beef being better (for us and the environment).

Re 2 eggs or 1:
I don’t think having 2 eggs at a time is necessarily a problem as long as this doesn’t occur all the time and push your weekly total up too high. If you enjoy eggs more frequently, make more room on the plate for heart-friendly foods. Roasted tomatoes, baby spinach, baked beans and smoked salmon are delightful accompaniments to an egg. Restaurants are still serving too much of everything in excessive portion sizes and eggs are no exception. They’ll take a while to get the message, but it all starts with us asking for what we want.

Anonymous said...

My husband is a fourth generation chicken farmer and we eat eggs every morning- 2 to 3 a piece, and have for almost 30 years. N0 cholesterol problems here! I still think genetics and not eggs are the problem.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm alone - but I love egg-white omlettes and have ever since I was a kid who refused to eat "yellow" eggs. Having said that, the way conventional chickens are raised - the type of fat and cholesterol actually is a health hazard. Both their cramped stressful environment and crappy diet results in yolks having the worst of the lot - high level of stress hormones and triglycerides. If you want to eat the yolk - free range chickens fed flax and other seeds is your best bet.