Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Don’t write off the much-maligned egg

February is National Heart Month and a good time to address the ambiguity of the poor egg.

Back in the 1970’s and 1980’s eggs were thought of as part of the dietary axis of evil. Recommendations were for no more than two egg yolks per week, because of the high cholesterol level contained within -- 212 mg per large egg.

The American Heart Association advised limiting dietary cholesterol to 200 mg per day (as they still do) as dietary cholesterol was believed to raise blood cholesterol levels, leading to higher risk of heart disease.

Ignored were the positive aspects of the chicken egg. This being the sole source of nutrition for the developing baby chick, the egg is an excellent source of protein -- six grams per large egg -- and a good provider of lutein, vitamin A, Vitamin E and folate. These compounds are mainly found in the egg’s yolk. Lutein is thought to be useful in protecting the eye from damage from UV light.

Studies are also finding that the link between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol is weak.

More important is the content of saturated fats in the diet for increasing heart disease risk. Eggs contain about five grams of fat, two grams being saturated fats. Compare this to: three grams of fat and 1.6 grams of saturated fat in two ounces of white meat chicken.

The American Heart Association recommendation for total intake of saturated fat is no more than 7% of total calories or 15 grams if 2,000 calories are consumed per day.

Eggs containing a higher amount of omega-3 fats can be found in the grocery store, providing even less saturated fat, 1.2 grams.

Eggs are a low cost source of protein. Prices range from 18.25 cents per large regular egg to 27 cents per egg for high omega-3 eggs.

When using eggs, take care to cook thoroughly, as there is a potential for salmonella contamination.

Raw egg products, unless pasteurized, should never be given to anyone with a compromised immune system, children or elderly persons. Always wash hands and preparation surfaces after handling eggs to prevent cross contamination with other foods.

Keep in mind that an egg is only as healthy as what you eat with it. Having your egg with whole grain toast and fruit is a better option than combining your egg with biscuits, sausage and cheese. Eggs in moderation can easily be part of a heart healthy nutrition plan.

Mary Beth Dahlstrom Green is a dietitian at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. E-mail Green and all of the Healthy Living columnists at healthyliving@wwbh.org or comment on their blog at healthydocs.blogspot.com.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?