It was once thought that those with high cholesterol should avoid eggs completely because they contain a lot of cholesterol. But the general consensus now is that the cholesterol found in food has much less of an effect on blood cholesterol than the amount of saturated fat you eat.
But should you still limit the amount you eat?
I’m a huge fan of eggs, especially boiled eggs with soldiers (a favourite staple of my childhood), so I’ve done a lot of research trying to figure out the answer to this question. This is what I’ve found out:-
Eggs really are high in cholesterol.
A large egg contains about 186mg of cholesterol. It’s recommended that those with high cholesterol should limit their daily cholesterol intake to no more than 200mg a day. So unfortunately that means one egg a day max….
…but egg whites are cholesterol-free.
All the cholesterol is in the yolk, so if you have high cholesterol you could have more than one egg and just leave out the yolks. Not a great solution if you’re having poached or boiled eggs, but scrambled eggs and omelettes are actually ok with just one yolk. And because egg whites are low in calories and saturated fat, you can add as many as you like.
When I was trying to reduce my cholesterol I created this recipe for a cholesterol-friendly breakfast pancake that I make with two eggs and just leave out one of the yolks. It also contains oats and ground flaxseeds, both of which actively lower cholesterol. Another easy cholesterol-friendly one-egg breakfast is french toast (i.e. eggy bread) – see recipe here.
Even those with low cholesterol should be careful.
For those with low cholesterol, the recommended limit for cholesterol intake is 300mg a day. Now that my cholesterol is low, I try to stay within these limits but if I’m having boiled or poached eggs for breakfast I always have two (one is never enough!), and make sure I eat cholesterol-friendly foods for the rest of the day. I also have them poached or boiled, to avoid frying with butter, which is high in saturated fat.
I generally only have two eggs once a week, and if I want eggs on the other days, I’ll make scrambled eggs or pancakes with two eggs but leave out one of the yolks.
Eggs should not be avoided completely.
Eggs contain lots of vitamins and minerals (mainly in the yolk), and are such a good source of high quality protein, that it’s not recommended that anyone exclude them from their diet altogether. Some scientists even claim that they should be considered a ‘superfood’.
Moderation and balance is key.
There doesn’t seem to be a unanimous agreement about what the weekly limit should be. However some experts do seem to agree that those with a history of high cholesterol should eat eggs in moderation (i.e. 2-6 a week), and make sure they are balancing them with low cholesterol foods to keep within the recommended daily cholesterol intake limits as much as possible.
They also agree that saturated fats have much more of an effect on blood cholesterol than cholesterol found in food. Because of this, I try to keep my intake of saturated fats as low as possible (see this blog post for tips on how I do this).