When I hear the same misunderstanding about a food item three times in one week, it’s time to write the wrong. Today’s topic is the egg yolk.
In the late 1970s dietary guidelines recommended limiting cholesterol to no more than 300 mg a day. As egg yolks are the largest contributor of dietary cholesterol, the message was to limit whole eggs. Science has moved forward since then, but people’s perceptions have not.
Saturated and trans fatty acids are the primary culprits in raising blood cholesterol levels. Recent clinical studies on the effect of dietary cholesterol on plasma lipid levels have shown that it has a measurable — but mostly clinically insignificant — effect on plasma cholesterol levels. Genetics, as always, are involved. It is estimated that 15 to 30 percent of the population responds to dietary cholesterol with increased blood cholesterol levels. That means that 70 percent are not affected. The American Heart Association recommends less than 300 mg of dietary cholesterol for the general population and less than 200 mg a day for people with heart disease.
One egg is about 75 calories, 7 grams of protein (almost half in the yolk), 186 mg cholesterol and 13 essential nutrients including vitamins A, E,D, choline and selenium. The catch is that most of the power nutrients, as well as the cholesterol, are in the yolks. They are a primary source of choline, a critical nutrient for brain health; they even contain eye protective leutin and zeazanthin.
Here is how you do it: For breakfast, eat one whole egg and one egg white with whole wheat toast and a piece of fruit; for lunch, have spinach salad loaded with veggies and quinoa; for dinner, have a 3-ounce piece of salmon and veggies. That adds up to only 233 mg of cholesterol.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.