We celebrate Heart Month in February to put a spotlight on the importance of heart-healthy eating habits. The American Heart Association released a scientific advisory that summarizes current evidence around eggs and cholesterol, and showcases the ways eggs can fit into a heart-healthy eating pattern.1 Here are three things you need to know about the science of eggs and cholesterol.
A daily limit on dietary cholesterol is not needed
In the United States, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee removed dietary cholesterol from its list of nutrients of public health concern.2 With the elimination of specific dietary cholesterol target recommendations, the American Heart Association’s guidance now focuses on the importance of overall dietary patterns for cardiovascular health, rather than limiting single nutrients.3
Dietary cholesterol (the kind found in eggs) has a minimal impact on blood cholesterol
Cholesterol is a soft waxy substance in our blood, produced naturally by our liver.4 Cholesterol in the body is carried in the blood by lipoproteins, hence the term “blood cholesterol.” The two lipoproteins most relevant to heart health are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL cholesterol is associated with an increased risk in cardiovascular disease.5
Cholesterol is found in foods like eggs, and the cholesterol in food is called “dietary cholesterol.” Dietary cholesterol has a minimal impact on LDL cholesterol levels. In fact, evidence suggests that saturated fat plays a role in increasing LDL cholesterol levels, and that replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat can help to reduce LDL cholesterol.6
Eggs are part of heart-healthy eating patterns
The new American Heart Association guidance concludes that in healthy individuals, consumption of an egg a day is acceptable in heart-healthy dietary patterns.7 In older adults, consumption of up to two eggs per day is acceptable given the nutritional benefits and convenience of eggs.8
A recent Canadian study conducted by McMaster University supports this. Their study of 177,000 people in 50 countries concluded that egg consumption is not associated with an increase in blood lipid levels or cardiovascular disease risk.9
Eggs are a highly nutritious food, especially as a source of high-quality protein. In fact, Canada’s Food Guide recommends eggs for the “protein foods” portion of the plate.10 Eggs also provide many key nutrients that build and repair body tissue, build and maintain healthy muscles, fight infection and more. They are a natural and versatile choice for those seeking to live a healthy lifestyle.
Do you want to learn even more about how eggs support a healthy lifestyle? Click here and read our interview with Registered Dietitian Sue Mah to see her analysis of Canada’s Food Guide and how eggs fit into the Guide’s recommendations for healthy living.