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eggs and cholesterol

Remember when breakfast almost always included eggs - boiled, scrambled, poached or fried? Back then eggs were considered to be nourishing and something that would "stick to your ribs" for the rest of the day.

During the 1970's the medical community made many recommendations about foods and cholesterol - we were told to limit our egg consumption to 3 per week.

But are eggs really that unhealthy for us? Here's the real truth about eggs.

cholesterol and fat, what's the difference?

Many factors seem to influence blood cholesterol levels, such as heredity, diet and activity level.

First, one has to understand that cholesterol is not necessarily bad. Humans need dietary cholesterol to maintain cell walls, insulate nerve fibres and help absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. Second, there are two types of cholesterol - dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol.

Both types of cholesterol are important. Dietary cholesterol is found in meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products. The second type (blood/serum cholesterol) is produced in the liver and floats around in our bloodstream.

Blood cholesterol is divided into two sub-categories: High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL). LDL cholesterol is considered bad because it sticks to artery walls. Too much LDL can cause heart problems, but scientists are now discovering that consuming foods containing dietary cholesterol does not necessarily increase blood cholesterol.

what does raise blood cholesterol?

Of the three types of fat (saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), saturated fat raises blood cholesterol and LDL levels.

Eggs contain mostly polyunsaturated fat. The real truth is that the yolk in a single large egg contains about one sixth of the fat found in an avocado. This means an egg a day is OK, and there is research to prove it!

Recent studies have suggested that people react differently to dietary cholesterol. One study has shown that healthy young adults can consume as many as two eggs each day as part of a low-fat diet without significantly increasing blood cholesterol levels. Another study, which followed 117,000 adults over 14 years noted that in healthy adults, there was no difference in heart disease risk among those who consumed just one egg a week and those who ate more than one egg a day.

eggs for adults

If you are a healthy adult, an egg a day should be appropriate in your diet - so long as you do not overload on other food sources of cholesterol like seafood and offal (such as kidney, lambs brains etc.).

eggs for children

Healthy children can eat eggs. In a diet moderate in fat and other proteins, you can include up to five or six eggs each week. Studies conducted in South Australia also show that weaning infants (from 6 months) respond well to the inclusion of 4 egg yolks per week in their diet.

dish up eggs with low-fat foods

Much of the misinformation about eggs and fat is because of the way eggs are prepared and served. Use less oil when cooking eggs. If you want to fry eggs or make an omelette, use a non-stick pan. Rather than serve up eggs with fatty bacon, sausages and hash browns, try grilled tomatoes, lightly sautéed mushrooms and wholemeal toast.