I have just got back from a small trip to Sydney where I spent the majority of two weeks. Where I thought I would be promised sun, sea and sand but what I got was rain (they are having a bad summer) and egg whites. Yes egg whites. Everywhere I went, I was offered a menu offering a ‘healthy option’ consisting of egg whites, generally in omelet form. But is Sydney and probably other cities still in the dark ages?
So with eggs containing about 200mg of cholesterol, the idea is that if you consume eggs then your cholesterol will rise. It was previous thought that this was the case and consuming cholesterol-rich foods had a direct impact on the production of cholesterol in our bodies but this has now been blown out of the water by research showing it is not the case and in fact it is the saturated fat of foods that is the problem.
So what exactly is cholesterol and why is it important?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is known as a lipid that is mainly made in the liver. It is found in all the cells and vital for normal functioning of the body. Cholesterol is important because it assists with manufacturing of hormones such as ostrogen, progesterone and testosterone, manufactures bile acids (helps absorb fat & regulate cholesterol), and also production of vitamin D.
Cholesterol is transported in the blood by proteins. Together they are called lipoproteins. This is where good cholesterol and bad cholesterol come in.
LDL (also known as your bad cholesterol) carries cholesterol from your liver to cells that need it. Too much however can be a problem as can clog up your artery walls, leading to Cardiovascular Disease.
HDL (also known as your good cholesterol) carries cholesterol from cells and back to the liver to be broken down or excreted by the body.
Your cholesterol can be measured by a simple test by your GP.
So why should we eat the whole egg?
Eating the egg yolk not only contains more protein than just eating the whites but also contains vitamins A, D & E. Now if you have seen the press on vitamin D, you will knowhow important it is and how deficient people are in it. Moreover research has shown that egg yolk consumption actually increases our good cholesterol (HDL) with no increase of (LDL).
As a rule of thumb, packaged foods are what you want to be careful of. Eggs are a whole food therefore a perfect option to consider on a balanced diet. It also very much depends on the way eggs are cooked; poaching or boiling are the healthiest ways to cook.
Bupa (2012) Cholesterol. Accessed: http://www.bupa.co.uk/individuals/health-information/directory/c/cholesterol
Gray J, Griffin B (2009) Eggs and dietary cholesterol- dispelling the myth. British Nutrition Foundation Nutrition Bulletin, 34: 66-70
NHS (2012) Cholesterol. Accessed: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cholesterol/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Vishwanthan R, Goodrow-Kotyla E, Wooten B, Wilson T, Nicolosi R (2009) Consumption of 2 and 4 egg yolks/d for 5 wk increases macular pigment concentrations in older adults with low macular pigment taking cholesterol-lowering statins. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90: 1272-1279.