Monday Medical: The good (and bad) of eggs
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Sunny-side-up or scrambled, poached or fried, the egg is a versatile food. And it can also be a controversial one.
One recent study suggests that eating three or more eggs a week increases risk of heart disease and early death. But that doesn’t mean you should leave the egg carton at the store.
Below, Alexandra Burns, a registered dietitian nutritionist at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, clears up the confusion about eggs.
What’s in an egg?
First, the good news: eggs are nutritional powerhouses.
Egg yolks are one of the biggest sources of choline (second only to liver), which is important for the nervous system, memory and mood. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent blood clots and inflammation and help reduce blood pressure. And they have various minerals and vitamins, including B vitamins and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
In addition, egg whites are an excellent source of protein.
Now, the bad news: eggs do have cholesterol — about 186 milligrams per egg. Which is a lot considering the daily recommended intake of cholesterol is 300 mg or less.
Any combination of the following: chopped vegetables (kale, baby spinach, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms), crumbled goat cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350F.
Coat a nonstick muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or melted coconut oil.
Place a few add-ins in each tin.
Pour in the eggs, leaving 1/4″ from the top.
Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean for each frittata.
Can be reheated later.
Recipe adapted from asassyspoon.com.
“You could do an egg a day, but if you’re eating three or four, then you’re getting more cholesterol than what’s recommended,” Burns said. “However, eggs are nice little nutrient packages. There are other things you can get rid of for cholesterol besides eggs.”
The latest study
“It looks scary,” Burns said, “but when you read the details, it’s not as bad as you might think.”
Burns pointed out that ta recent study tracked people who eat an additional 300 mg of cholesterol from eggs — which means they’re getting double the recommended cholesterol. The study doesn’t review what else people eat throughout the day, for instance, whether they’re eating a plant-based diet of real, whole foods or have a more processed, meat-heavy diet.
Finally, it doesn’t show that eating eggs causes heart disease — just that there might be a link.
“Eggs aren’t innately bad,” Burns said. “But everyone wants this ‘bad’ food to blame, and unfortunately, it’s often eggs.”
Overall diet is key
If you give up eggs but have a cheeseburger and soft drink every day, you’re not doing yourself a favor.
“Your overall diet is more important to heart health than if you eat two eggs for breakfast,” Burns said.
Burns recommends a plant-based diet that’s high in fiber, which helps remove excess cholesterol. People with heart issues should talk with their doctor or dietitian about all sources of cholesterol, including eggs.
And when preparing eggs, stick with healthy recipes.
“Maybe don’t put cheese and heavy cream into them,” Burns said. “Make them more healthfully, with fresh veggies and green onion. One of the biggest things that makes eggs unhealthy is what we do with them.
“The quality of the egg is only going to be as good as the quality of the feed that chicken is eating,” Burns said.
An evolving science
Remember that nutritional guidelines often change.
“Six months from now, we may find out new information about eggs,” Burns said.
The bottom line: enjoy eggs, like most foods, in moderation.
“You do get a lot of nutrients from eggs, so I wouldn’t want to tell somebody not to eat them,” Burns said. “But you want to have a healthy, balanced diet overall.”
Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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