When you think of controversial health stances on food, eggs top the list. Researchers and nutritionists continue to grapple with this question: Are chicken eggs a healthy and fast way to get protein or a cholesterol-laden bomb you should eat sparingly? It’s a hot topic because eggs are not only a staple ingredient in cuisines around the world, they are also an important symbol in many cultures. The research around eggs is also conflicting, so it’s hard to get a clear answer. So, in attempt to clear things up a little, we decided to show both sides of the debate to help you make up your mind.
New eggs study puts the debate on the front burner
Published in PLoS Medicine, the February 2021 study found that for every additional half an egg, study participants ate per day, they had a 7 percent higher risk of premature death from all causes. The study also found a 19 percent higher risk of dying early linked to every 300 mg of cholesterol consumed.
The study also found that getting rid of the egg yolk—the source of cholesterol, could easily alleviate the elevated health risk. Simply subbing half an egg with egg whites or egg substitutes had the effect of lowering premature death from all sources by 6 percent. Additionally, trading eggs for healthier protein sources, ranging from chicken, nuts, fish and legumes, could cut the risk of death by up to 13 percent. Nearly two-thirds of the increased risk of premature death linked to eggs is blamed on its cholesterol contained in them, researchers said.
Not all the latest research is bad. Other studies say that the cholesterol from eggs doesn’t necessarily spike blood cholesterol. In fact, a recent study in the Journal Heart found people who ate an egg a day scored lower for heart disease and stroke than people who abstained. Some researchers say the link between egg-eaters and heart disease might have more to do with environment than a direct result of eating eggs. People prone to eat more eggs, might also be included in the group that exercises less and eats less healthy food.
Egg health benefits
Despite some negative press, eggs continue to have fans from many nutritionists and health advocates. Some research says it’s safe to eat up to three eggs a day, and that the cholesterol it raises is HDL (or good cholesterol.) The majority of people experience no hikes in total or LDL (bad) cholesterol.
“What’s not to love about eggs?” asks Beth Stark, RDN, LDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and nutrition consultant based in Pa. Not only are they quick and easy to prepare, she says, eggs supply 6 grams of high-quality protein, plus 13 essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, choline, selenium and riboflavin per one large egg. “Not only are they super versatile and able to be paired with a variety of flavors and cuisines, but eggs are also highly affordable at just 15 cents per large egg. Because they are so easily served alongside other foods and flavors, eggs are a vehicle of sorts for increasing intake of whole grains, healthy fats, legumes, vegetables and more.”
Still, if cholesterol intake is a concern, there are many options that you’d be hard pressed to discern the difference between real chicken eggs and these adjusted substitutes.
- Egg Whites: without the yolk. From a large egg, take away an egg yolk, and you still have 2/3 of its protein (4 grams); cholesterol drops to zero from 211 mg and calories drop 77% to 16 grams.
- Egg Beaters: (or generic versions) Made from egg whites that contain half the calories of chicken eggs with no cholesterol. Works great in baked goods and as scrambled. It contains 5 grams of protein and 25 calories.
- JustEgg is a vegan product made from Mung beans and colored with turmeric. It whips up well into fluffy scrambles and omelets. JustEgg is available in many grocery stores, including Kroger, Walmart and Sprouts. It contains 70 calories and 5 grams of protein per serving.
- Flax Egg: Mix 1 Tablespoon Flaxseed Meal with 3 Tablespoons of hot water to replace one egg in vegan baking. Chia seeds can also be used for an egg substitute in baking.
So, if you’re an egg lover purist, or want to try some new options to cut back cholesterol, take heart. There’s lots of options for everyone these days.
JustEgg Scramble: Vegans can enjoy “egg” scrambles, too! Sauté red onions and green peppers. Add JustEgg, stirring till fluffy and cooked. Served on Kontos Greek Lifestyle Flatbread. Plate with mashed avocados and flowering Garlic Chives