Eggs are a cornerstone of many diets. They’re used not just for breakfast, but are great for a quick lunch or dinner, a high-protein snack, or as an ingredient in all sorts of sweet and savory recipes. But whole eggs have long been villainized, in large part thanks to their high cholesterol content (a large egg contains about 200 mg of cholesterol).
The belief was that foods that contained a lot of cholesterol would cause your blood cholesterol levels rise, therefore increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Sounds logical, right? Many people thought so, which is what led to the proliferation of egg white omelets (one of the saddest menu items ever, in my opinion), pre-packaged liquid egg whites, and egg substitutes.
But turns out, this cholesterol belief was unfounded. Over the past several decades research has found that foods that contain cholesterol – including whole eggs – have little effect on our blood cholesterol levels. More closely linked to increased cholesterol levels: saturated and trans fats. This led the updated dietary guidelines, published in 2015, to remove the recommended limit on dietary cholesterol.
A whole egg is much more nutritious than just eating the white. Not only do you get more protein, but the yolk houses most of the important nutrients. This includes choline, a compound important for brain health, selenium, a mineral that supports thyroid and immune function, and antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in older adults) and cataracts. Bonus: carotenoids need to be eaten with fat in order to be absorbed, and the whole egg contains this too (versus egg whites, which are fat-free). The yolk also is home to the fat soluble vitamins A, E, D and K and is one of the only food sources of vitamin D, a nutrient important for strong bones and teeth. While egg yolks do contain some saturated fat, more than half the fat in an egg comes from heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fats.
The protein and fat found in the whole egg helps to keep you full and satisfied for longer. Fat and protein trigger our appetite-control hormones that tell our brain we’re full. Plus they slow down digestion, which helps us feel full for longer.
So go ahead – eat the the whole egg!
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