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Yolklore: Are eggs okay for your heart?

Yolklore: Are eggs okay for your heart?

Happiest Health tries to get to the bottom of the complicated relationship between cardiac wellness and egg consumption

Eggs offer various benefits for your overall health.

So, are eggs cardiac friendly or not? This has been a topic of debate in health circles for long.

Often, egg-centric diet lovers have strongly defended their favourite food claiming that it has wrongly been accused of spiking cholesterol levels. The main argument revolves around the egg yolk which has been branded as a cholesterol-spiking agent.

But recent research seems to have partially debunked this, claiming that moderate consumption of egg yolk could be a healthy dietary choice — especially since it comes cocooned in a protein-rich egg-white covering.

Experts speak

Happiest Health spoke with some experts to crack the egg-cholesterol myth and understand if a whole egg is to be feared or if a yolk-free egg is a better choice to make. Also, how many eggs is too many eggs?

Dr Punish Sadana, associate director, cardiac sciences, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, dismisses egg’s association with heart disease. “For many years, there was a belief that cholesterol found in eggs contributes to heart disease, but recent research shows that the LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol) ratio remains unchanged or improves because eating eggs causes increase in good cholesterol,” he says.

Dr Sadana says although egg yolk contains cholesterol, recent studies have shown that dietary cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern as it is a tiny portion of the cholesterol produced by our liver. “Also, yolk is good source of vitamin A, D, E, K and minerals. So, yolk should only be avoided if it is advised by a nutritionist,” he says.

Dr Mini Joseph, HOD, department of home science, Government College for Women, Thiruvananthapuram, agrees. “Dietary cholesterol is not a major factor in cardiovascular disease (CVD),” she says. According to Dr Joseph, since studies have not shown enough evidence between dietary cholesterol and blood levels, there is no need to restrict eggs too much.

Most foods rich in cholesterol are also high in saturated fatty acids and thus may increase the risk of CVD due to the saturated fatty acid content, but the exceptions are eggs and shrimp. Eggs contain high-quality protein with minimal saturated fatty acids (1.56gm/egg) and are rich in several micronutrients including vitamins and minerals. Therefore, it would be worthwhile to include eggs in moderation as a part of a healthy eating pattern.

Delhi-based nutritionist Kavita Devgan says saturated fat is not the devil any more if we go by latest research. “Unless you already have a cholesterol problem, the cholesterol content in the egg is not so much of an issue,” she says. “Then too, the yolk in moderation is perfectly fine.”

Devgan says eggs help cut down the risk of heart disease because of a lesser-known compound called betaine, which helps reduce levels of homocysteine (i.e., amino acids, high levels of which are associated with heart disease) in the blood. “So, when there are less plasma homocysteine concentrations in blood, it reduces the risk of cardiac disease,” she says.

Dr Prabhakar Koregal, senior consultant, intervention cardiology, Fortis Hospital, Cunningham Road, Bengaluru, says there is no impact on cardiac health and cholesterol when eggs are consumed in moderate quantities. “While it is safe to consume an egg with yolk every day if you are having more than one egg per day, it is advisable to remove the yolk of the second egg and then consume it,” he says.

So, if you are looking at getting a good amount of protein and benefits from eggs, it is best to stick to egg whites mostly.

Dr Joseph says it is mostly people who are overweight or obese who should watch their overall dietary cholesterol since they need to reduce fats and cholesterol, which add to weight and other health issues.

Egg benefits

Egg is one of the most affordable sources of protein that has all the omega acids. Dr Sadana says eggs are an easy option to include in the diet because they are a great and affordable source of proteins, vitamins and minerals (like zinc, calcium), and various antioxidants.

According to nutritionist Devgan, egg yolks are rich in carotenoids (natural fat-soluble pigments) like lutein and zeaxanthin (both yellow-colour pigments), which are very good for the eyes. “These two carotenoids are known to protect the eyes from ultraviolet light, and some studies have shown that including these in your diet keeps cataract at bay and also brings downs age-related macular degeneration (which can lead to blindness),” says Devgan.

Also, egg yolk has a component called choline that helps in the normal function of all cells. “It leads to improved brain functioning and greater lifelong memory capabilities,” says Devgan.

Cook it right

How eggs are cooked also affects their nutritional profile. “While an egg can be cooked in various ways, overcooking can destroy some of its nutrients, so it is best to poach or boil eggs because no oil is required in the process,” says Dr Sadana.

He says boiling (as opposed to frying) limits egg’s exposure to air, which reduces the oxidation of the yolk and keeps the nutrients intact. “When we fry eggs, the cooking duration increases and destroys its nutrients, and uses oil,” says Dr Sadana.

Dr Joseph says if you are going to fry eggs the best way is to use oil sparingly for cooking. She suggests using local oils, preferably cold-pressed ones. “Using two or more different types of unrefined oil is good as different oils have different nutrients and properties,” she says.

How much is too much?

Bengaluru-based dietician Deepalekha Banerjee of 360 Degree Nutricare says eggs are full of nutrition, but when it comes to protein intake it is the quantity one is consuming according to one’s weight, height and condition that matters.

For senior citizens the advised protein intake is 1.5gm per kg body weight every day and for an adult with no comorbidity it is 1gm per kg body weight every day of protein intake.  So, if you are consuming both non-vegetarian and vegetarian protein sources along with eggs you should calculate your protein intake keeping the rest of the protein content in mind.

Another thing to be kept in mind is the health condition. “If somebody has a severe kidney disease, then they may be advised very little protein,” she says.

Banerjee usually advises people in their mid-thirties or 40 and above to stick to one or two egg yolks in a week. “At this age — because of sedentary lifestyle, mostly above 35 — co-morbidities start settling in and that’s when you need to take professional nutritional advice to have an optimum protein count to be consumed on daily basis,” she says. “A sedentary lifestyle leads to moderate or nil physical activity that is not sufficient for calorie burn and weight management. Hence, one must be extra cautious on calorie and protein intake to avoid obesity.”

For someone only looking at having egg whites, it is safe to have as many as desired considering other sources of protein they are including in the diet.

“One serving of egg white contains around 11gm of protein, so to meet the optimum protein count per day, including eggs, you need to consult a nutritionist and follow a certain diet,” says Banerjee.

“For malnourished people, eggs are not only good but also a cheap and convenient source of vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats,” says Dr Sadana. Eggs also contain a good number of antioxidants like lutein and choline which help in prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

Side effects

Some doctors say sometimes the body itself tells you when you need to steer clear of eggs. “These symptoms could be abdominal pain, bloating, etc, which means you have an egg allergy,” says Dr Sadana. He says for some people eating more than three to four eggs per day can cause insulin resistance. It can also cause hormonal acnes for some people because of progesterone content.

What’s more to watch out for? Eating unpasteurized raw eggs should be avoided since they contain harmful bacteria like salmonella that cause abdominal problems.

“Egg yolks provide a good source of biotin (water-soluble vitamin B7) but when it comes to raw egg whites, they contain a protein called avidin which binds with biotin and hampers its absorption and depletes biotin,” says Dr Sadana. So, cooking is important because it destroys the avidin protein and the beneficial biotin gets absorbed.


Share Your Experience/Comments

24 Responses

  1. Great article! I love eggs, they are my favorite go to breakfast but clearly I wasn’t eating them right. Thanks to the information provided in this article I now know better 🙂

  2. Thank you! it has been an important topic for me, and I have been exclusively consuming only egg whites, despite knowing that the yolks are packed with nutrition. Based on these prof. advice, I will include them moderately into my diet

  3. Good article . If one egg white serving refers to one egg then the protein content is only 7gms

  4. For 70 yrs old diabetic on insulin already
    How many boiled eggs in a week is sufficient?

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