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Are eggs really the devil?

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Faith Kariuki Biongo | May 26th 2019

For many years, eggs have been considered more of a threat than a healthy food due to their high cholesterol content. Often, people want to know how many eggs they can safely consume per day or per week and how the eggs affect their blood cholesterol.

Both the egg white and the yolk are a rich source of high quality protein, cholesterol, vitamins including Vitamin A, B12 and E, and minerals like folate and iron.  More than half of protein in an egg is found in the egg white. The egg white also contains Vitamin B12 while almost all cholesterol, fat soluble vitamins A,D,E and K and essential fatty acids are found in the yolk.

What about cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a substance found in every cell of the body and is essential for health. The body uses cholesterol to make Vitamin D, hormones, digestive bile and in building of body cells. Cholesterol is not an essential nutrient. This means the body is capable of making all the cholesterol it needs. High blood cholesterol levels have been linked to increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

The main concern in egg consumption is its high cholesterol content with one boiled eggs giving approximately 186 milligrams of cholesterol. However, cholesterol in the eggs and other individual foods has very little effect on blood cholesterol levels. Blood cholesterol level is mainly influenced by the amount of saturated and trans fats consumed not the amount of cholesterol in the diet. 80 per cent of the cholesterol needed to stay healthy is produced in the liver and only 20 per cent comes from diet.

Saturated fats mainly found in processed meats, fatty meats, poultry skin and dairy products; and trans fats found in commercial deep fried foods and baked goods trigger the liver to make more cholesterol. Eggs have little amounts of saturated fats.

This means what you eat with your eggs matter. For example, if you are eating eggs with a side of sausage, bacon or cake, it is likely the side will have more effect on your blood cholesterol levels than the egg.

Healthy way to eat them

The healthiest way to prepare your egg is to boil, poach, scramble or make an omelette with a side of whole grain bread or other whole grain cereals and vegetables.

We still don’t have a clear upper limit of how many eggs a person can eat per day. People with no health issues that can cause concern can have up to seven eggs per week as a part of healthy diet, with no effect on their blood cholesterol. Some people however are more sensitive to dietary cholesterol than others and should lower intake of high cholesterol foods like eggs. Those whose blood cholesterol is already high should moderate their egg consumption.

If you are following a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains but low in fats, sugar and processed foods you don’t have to worry much about how many eggs you consume in a day for a healthy diet calls for diversity and balance.

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