If there’s any one food on this planet that is my soul mate, it’s the egg. The incredible, edible egg. And yes, I DO love eggs from my head down to my legs, and toes, and even further. Y’all, my love for eggs runs DEEEEPPPPP. From the protein to the fat and all the micronutrients, eggs are (to me) perfection. And I do take it personally when people say that eggs are bad for you, it really hurts my feelings.
Recently, a study that garnered wide national media coverage (insert eye roll) stated that eating more than 3 eggs a week raises your cholesterol and puts you at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. This study was observational, meaning the participants were largely unmonitored and would self-report their food consumption. On top of that, the study focuses largely on dietary cholesterol levels and the food consumed, and in those participants who consumed more than 3 eggs a week they saw an increase in overall cholesterol, so therefore the eggs were deemed the reason for that increase. The study does not take in to consideration, or at least it’s not stated clearly, how the eggs were prepared (in a stable or unstable fat), if the eggs were high quality, what the rest of the participants diet looked like (highly processed, high in sugar, etc), or even other various lifestyle factors that are shown to raise cholesterol (like a sedentary lifestyle, a smoker, high alcohol consumption, etc)… but, the media is always looking to confuse the general public with its incessant back and forth on demonizing certain foods, but I’m here to tell you that as a nutritionist, the egg is one of the biggest bang-for-your-buck foods you can consume. We’ve been going through this whole ‘eggs are good vs. bad’ since the 80s, the time in which the low fat craze went rampant and our societal health plummeted to an all-time low, and has remained there ever since.
It’s important for people to know that cholesterol is not bad for you. It’s actually necessary for your body to be able to build and support a strong cellular structure, balance hormones, support your metabolism, and produce Vitamin D. In fact, it’s proven that diets higher in cholesterol have been shown to benefit Dementia and Alzheimer patients because cholesterol helps to protect the myelin sheaths of nerves in the brain. Yes, there are advisable levels of blood cholesterol, which is comprised of High Density Lipoproteins (HDLs= ‘Good’ cholesterol, the higher the number the better), and Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs= ‘Bad’ cholesterol, the lower the number the better). I put ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in quotes because it’s really not that one is better or worse than the other per se, but LDLs have been directly linked to an increase in heart disease, and higher HDL counts associated with lower levels of heart disease. You should also know that your body actually produces most of the cholesterol in your body, and added dietary cholesterol makes up very little of the overall cholesterol in your body. So by avoiding whole foods that are ‘higher’ in cholesterol isn’t wise when it comes to your own overall health.
There are SO many factors that play in to what can and does raise cholesterol… genetics do play a part to a degree, but lifestyle is HUGE player when it comes to if your body uses the cholesterol or ends up getting stored in your arteries. Lack of exercise, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a diet high in processed and refined foods will raise your cholesterol. And those vegetable oils that you’ve been told to consume because they’re better for your heart? Think again. Canola oil couldn’t be more inflammatory and unstable to cook with, is hydrogenated and is a trans fat. How you prepare your food matters too! Pay attention to smoke points of your cooking oils (use saturated fats for high-temperature cooking), and invest in quality cooking oils.
So what can you do to lower your cholesterol? For starters, eat eggs and don’t you dare throw out that yolk. But in all seriousness, take a good hard look at your diet and lifestyle and be honest with yourself. Don’t like to exercise? Be an adult and change your mindset. Smoke? It’s not 1987 and nobody wants to smell that anymore. Drink too much alcohol? Try limiting alcohol consumption to the weekend. Eat a lot of things from boxes or bags? Try incorporating whole foods in to your diet, focusing on plant-based recipes that incorporate good healthy fats and moderate protein.
You don’t need to be a slave to the cholesterol number, you don’t need to be a victim to your genes and you don’t need to live a life on statins. Best of all, you don’t need to cut out eggs to be ‘healthy’. So embrace them, love them- they love you!