Saturday, January 19, 2008

The "Incredible Edible Egg" Has Gotten an Unfairly Bad Rap

I adore eggs. I love them soft-boiled, hard-boiled (especially in salads), poached, in omelettes, souffles, quiches, as egg salad, etc. If it's made with eggs, I love it.

Unfortunately, the egg, which is a marvelous source of nutrition, a source of high quality protein and vitamin B-12, as well as a source of a wide range of other vitamins and minerals, has gotten an unfairly bad rap because of its high cholesterol content.

Yes, eggs do contain quite a bit of cholesterol, but what most people don't realize is that that cholesterol isn't going to raise your overall serum cholesterol levels unless you eat eggs incessently, day in and day out. Two, three, or even four eggs per week probably aren't going to do you a bit of harm.

In fact, research has shown that our overall serum cholesterol levels are raised more by the intake of trans fats and saturated fats than by foods containing cholesterol, itself. Eggs do contain some saturated fats, but more than half the fat found in eggs is either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated - the "good" fats. In fact, if we don't take in enough of these good fats our body will actually raise our levels of LDL (low density lipoproteins) or "bad" cholesterol. Low density lipoproteins actually carry cholesterol around our arteries and deposit it on their walls, leading to coronary artery disease. The biggest risk factor for LDL cholesterol is a diet high in saturated fats and being overweight. Optimum LDL cholesterol levels are under 100, but a level in the low 100s is still very good.

HDL (high density lipoproteins) or "good" cholesterol, acts as a "cleanser," actually picking up the bad cholesterol from our arteries and eliminating it. Two of the best ways to increase HDL in our body are eliminating excess saturated fats from our diet and engaging in regular aerobic exercise. (And by "regular" we forty to sixty minutes a day, six days a week.) Optimum serum HDL levels are 60 or over. A person can have a very low overall cholesterol reading, but if his or her HDL is low, then that overall low reading isn't so good.

When choosing whether or not to include eggs in your diet, remember, too, that dietary guidelines apply to your overall diet, not to a single meal, a single recipe, or a single food. For healthy people, the advantages of eggs greatly outweigh their cholesterol content, which really, if eaten in moderation, won't raise your overall serum cholesterol count one bit.

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