Eggs are nutritious but high in cholesterol. So what's the verdict – good or bad?

With at least two eggs used in most breakfast omelettes, the recommended daily cholesterol limit will be busted by that one meal. "Still, eggs are not all bad news as they are also a good source of high-quality protein and are rich in vitamins and minerals," say​ doctors from the Department of Dietetics at Singapore General Hospital, a member of the SingHealth​ group.

Nutritional value of eggs

The average hen’s egg contains:

  • 6.3g of protein, essential amino acids​​ that help the body build muscle mass and strength.

  • A high level of vitamin A, which boosts eye health and keeps night blindness at bay.

  • A wide range of vitamin B, which boosts energy production.

In addition, lutein and zeaxanthin – pigments of the carotenoid family – help prevent age-related blindness (macular degeneration). Some studies also suggest that lutein from eggs is more easily absorbed by the body than other sources. The presence of magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and strengthens bones.

An important nutrient for brain development is choline, found mainly in the yolk. Pregnant and nursing women can include egg yolk in their diets to enhance their babies’ brain development.

Finally, eggs contain zinc, which helps to maintain a healthy immune system, and selenium, a powerful antioxidant which prevents cell damage from free radicals.

The cholesterol count

Some people are wary of eating eggs for fear of increasing their cholesterol. Indeed, the human body is capable of making all the cholesterol it needs, and additional cholesterol from food isn’t necessary.

However, it’s worth noting that cholesterol is influenced by many factors such as body weight, the amount and type of fat, dietary fibre and cholesterol consumed. It’s important to understand that there is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food. Whether a food does more harm than good to your body depends on the amount consumed and your current health condition.

According to the Singapore Heart Foundation, an egg yolk contains about 200mg of cholesterol, so it was previously assumed that it would contribute to increased blood cholesterol levels. But we now know from recent studies that dietary cholesterol increases blood cholesterol only slightly.

In comparison, saturated fats and trans fats (made through chemical process of hydrogenertion of oils) increase blood cholesterol more than dietary cholesterol.

So for most people that eat an egg or two a day, this will not increase blood cholesterol significantly while providing good nutrients. However, for those with diabetes and very high blood cholesterol levels due to genetic factors, they are likely to be more sensitive to eating dietary cholesterol than others. Thus, it is important for this group to discuss this with their doctors. In general, for safe measure, always practice moderation.   

"Designer eggs"

What about the hype over “designer eggs” such as carrot and firstborn eggs? Carrot eggs come from hens fed with alfalfa or marigold petals, which then produce yolks high in lutein content, while firstborn eggs refer to eggs laid by new hens in the first month of egg production.

The cholesterol content of ‘designer eggs’, ranging from carrot eggs to firstborn eggs and such – about 110 to 150mg per egg – are generally lower than regular eggs. Hence, the former are healthier choices. In conclusion, there’s no need to avoid eggs, unless you’re allergic to them. Taken in moderation, they’re a flavourful, nutritious and tasty addition to any diet.

Would you eat these eggs?

  1. In Japan, herring roe on kelp is a prized delicacy. Known as komochi konbu, it’s served as a small appetiser or sushi.

  2. Iguana eggs are eaten as a snack among Colombians, and are popularly accompanied with white rum.

  3. In Norway, hard-boiled seagull eggs are eaten in spring, and washed down with beer.

  4. Ostrich eggs, the largest in the world, are equivalent to 24 chicken eggs. Available in gourmet supermarkets, they can be refrigerated for a year due to their hard shells, and take an hour and a half to boil.

  5. In France, snail egg caviar is painstakingly harvested from specially reared snails. Because the quantity produced is small and the process very labour intensive, a 50g tin can costs US$159 (S$220)!

Ref: V10