By Carol Guarino, MS, RD, CDE | Helen Hayes Hospital
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? What people really want to know is do eggs negatively impact cardiac health?
Past recommendations called for keeping dietary intake of cholesterol under 300 milligrams per day. In 2019, the American Heart Association Nutrition (AHA) Committee concluded that “a recommendation that gives a specific dietary cholesterol target within the context of food-based advice is challenging for clinicians and consumers to implement; hence, guidance focused on dietary patterns is more likely to improve diet quality and to promote cardiovascular health.”
The AHA recommends healthy eating patterns such as DASH and Mediterranean. But how much is too much when it comes to eggs? AHA went on to recommend:
- Healthy individuals can include up to one whole egg daily in heart-healthy dietary patterns.
- For older healthy individuals, given the nutritional benefits and convenience of eggs, consumption of up to 2 eggs per day is acceptable within the context of a heart-healthy dietary pattern.
- Vegetarians who do not consume meat-based cholesterol-containing foods may include more eggs in their diets within the context of moderation.
The science on dietary cholesterol and eggs continues to grow and demonstrates that eggs are an important part of healthy dietary patterns across the lifespan. Data supports the value of eggs as a nutrient-dense food within a healthy dietary pattern. The 70-calorie egg is a nutrient-rich choice that can help improve dietary intake and optimize health.
However, when consuming eggs, it’s important to be mindful of how they are eaten. Pairing eggs with other high saturated, sodium-laden breakfast foods such as butter, bacon, sausage and cheese can have a negative impact on cardiac health. To reduce dietary cholesterol, consider foregoing the yolk and eating only the egg, which provides some protein without the cholesterol.
Fun facts about eggs:
- Do not store eggs on the refrigerator door; it is the warmest part of the refrigerator.
- Eggs should be stored round side up, pointed side down. There are naturally occurring air bubbles inside each egg's rounded side, which helps keep the yolk more centered inside the egg and, in turn, will help eggs stay fresh longer.
- Brown eggs and white eggs have the same nutritional value. The color of the shell is determined by the breed of the chicken.
- Organic eggs are produced by chickens that are fed only organic feed. No hormones or antibiotics are given. They also have access to the outside.
- Cage free means chickens are not confined in a cage, but they are confined inside. Keep in mind, a chicken barn may be a highly populated area.
- Free range means chickens are given access to the outdoors.
- Omega 3 enriched eggs come from chickens that are fed omega 3-rich feed such as flax seed or fish oil, which can have a positive effect on cholesterol.
Carol Guarino is a Clinical Dietitian at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw, New York.
(2020, September 16). Making sense of cholesterol – the good, the bad and the dietary. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2020/09/16/making-sense-of-cholesterol-the-good-the-bad-and-the-dietary
(n.d.). Eal. https://www.andeal.org/topic.cfm?menu=5300&cat=6215
(n.d.). Top 10 Things You Need to Know About the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/resources/2020-2025-dietary-guidelines-online-materials/top-10-things-you-need-know-about-dietary