This article first appeared on The Age on 14 October 2016.
An egg a day may just keep the doctor away and it certainly won’t harm your cholesterol, says leading nutritionist Professor Manny Noakes. Advances in measuring cholesterol in the blood plasma has led to a change in opinion around the role of dietary cholesterol. Prof Noakes, who is the research director for the Food and Nutrition Flagship at the CSIRO, says the myth that associates eggs with cardiovascular disease has been busted.
“Eggs do contain cholesterol but the amount of cholesterol in food has a very, very tiny impact on cholesterol in the blood plasma and the increase you see in cholesterol is usually due to the HDL cholesterol, which is a healthy cholesterol,” Prof Noakes said.
“The current view is that dietary cholesterol is relatively unimportant, the body makes a lot of its own cholesterol far from what you get in your diet and if you eat food with cholesterol your body manufacture less of it,” she added.
Unfortunately it is older people who have been missing out on the health benefits of daily egg consumption because of incorrect beliefs about eggs. Eggs are high in protein and contain the brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, vitamin B12 and iron. The colour of the yolk also contains pigments that benefit eye health.
A CSIRO study of 84,000 Australians found older people in general are eating fewer eggs, while younger people are almost eating an egg a day. The survey also found that people who ate more eggs generally had a better quality diet. They were eating more vegetables and less junk food. “If we are really wanting to improve Australia’s diet the number one area of focus would have to be reducing the amount of junk food consumption,” said Prof Noakes.
The Australian dietary guidelines recommend people eat two to three serves of protein a day, which means it would be ok to be eating up to six eggs a day. “I don’t think that there needs to be any particular cap beyond the amount that is recommended for a healthy protein,” said Prof Noakes.
As for eating just the whites of eggs to reduce calorie consumption it isn’t worth it, says Prof Noakes. “There is a little bit more calories in the yolks than the whites but the difference is minuscule and it really is such a waste.”