Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. In fact, a whole egg contains all the nutrients needed to turn a single cell into a whole chicken. However, eggs have gotten a bad rap because egg yolks are high in cholesterol. But cholesterol is not so simple. The more you eat, the less your body produces. This is why eating a few eggs does not lead to a large increase in cholesterol levels.
This article explains this process and how many eggs you can safely eat per day.
How does your body regulate cholesterol levels?
Cholesterol is often considered a negative element. Indeed, some studies have linked high cholesterol to heart disease and premature death. The truth is that cholesterol plays a very important role in your body. It is a structural molecule essential to every cell membrane.
It is also used to make steroid hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol. Given the importance of cholesterol, your body has developed elaborate ways to ensure that it always has enough of it. Since it is not always possible to find cholesterol in the diet, the liver produces enough to meet the body’s needs. But when you eat a lot of cholesterol-rich foods, your liver starts producing less to keep cholesterol levels from getting too high.
As a result, the total amount of cholesterol in your body changes very little, if at all. What changes is its source, your diet or your liver. However, you should avoid consuming excessive amounts of cholesterol if your blood level is high. High consumption can lead to a moderate increase in blood cholesterol levels.
The benefits of eggs
A whole egg contains about 7 grams of protein. Eggs are also an excellent source of potassium, which promotes healthy nerves and muscles. Potassium also helps balance sodium levels in the body, which improves your cardiovascular health. Eggs contain many nutrients, such as lutein and choline. Lutein protects you against disease, and choline is believed to improve brain health. Egg yolk contains biotin, which is important for healthy hair, skin, and nails, as well as insulin production. Eggs from pasture-raised chickens are high in omega-3, beneficial fats.
Eggs are also easy to digest. A large egg contains only about 75 calories and 5 grams of fat, of which only 1.6 grams is saturated fat. Eggs are versatile and can be prepared in a variety of ways, depending on your tastes.
What happens when you eat several whole eggs a day?
For several decades, people have been advised to limit their consumption of eggs, or at least egg yolks. A single medium-sized egg contains 186 mg of cholesterol, or 62% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). On the other hand, the white is mainly composed of proteins and is low in cholesterol. Current recommendations call for a maximum of 2 to 6 egg yolks per week. However, this limit is not scientifically substantiated.
A few studies have looked at the effects of eggs on cholesterol levels.
These studies divided people into two groups: one group ate 1-3 whole eggs a day while the other ate something else, such as egg substitutes.
These studies show that:
In almost all cases, the “good” HDL cholesterol increases. Total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels generally remain unchanged but sometimes increase slightly. Eating omega-3 enriched eggs can lower blood triglycerides, another important risk factor. Blood levels of antioxidant carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin increase significantly. It seems that the reaction to eating whole eggs depends on the individual.
In 70% of people, eggs had no effect on total cholesterol or “bad” LDL cholesterol. However, in 30% of people, called hyper-responders, these markers increase slightly.
Although eating a few eggs a day can raise blood cholesterol levels in some people, it causes “bad” LDL particles to change from small and dense to large. People whose LDL particles are predominantly large have a lower risk of heart disease. So, even if eggs cause a slight increase in total cholesterol and LDL levels, there is no need to worry.
Up to 3 whole eggs a day are perfectly safe for healthy people.
Eggs and heart disease
Multiple studies have looked at egg consumption and heart disease risk. Many of these are observational studies in which large groups of people are followed for many years. Researchers then use statistical methods to determine whether certain habits, such as diet, smoking or exercise, are linked to a decreased or increased risk of certain diseases.
These studies, some of which involve hundreds of thousands of people, consistently show that people who eat whole eggs are no more likely to develop heart disease than those who don’t. Some of these studies even show a reduced risk of stroke.
A controlled study in people with type 2 diabetes found that eating two eggs a day, six days a week, for three months did not significantly affect blood lipid levels. The health effects may also depend on the rest of your diet. As part of a low-carb diet, which is the best diet for people with diabetes, eggs lead to improved risk factors for heart disease
How many eggs is too much?
Unfortunately, no studies have found feeding people more than three eggs per day. It’s possible, though unlikely, that eating more than that could have a negative impact on your health. Consuming more than three eggs is uncharted territory, scientifically speaking.
However, one case study involved an 88-year-old man who consumed 25 eggs a day. He had normal cholesterol levels and was in very good health. Of course, how an individual reacts to extreme egg consumption cannot be extrapolated to the whole population, but it is nonetheless interesting.
It’s also important to keep in mind that not all eggs are the same. Most eggs sold in the supermarket come from factory-raised hens fed grain-based feed. The healthiest eggs are omega-3 rich eggs or pasture-raised eggs. These eggs are much higher in omega-3s and important fat-soluble vitamins.
Overall, egg consumption is perfectly safe, even if you consume up to 3 whole eggs per day. Given their range of nutrients and powerful health benefits, quality eggs are perhaps among the healthiest foods on the planet.