Can healthy meal plans include eggs? As a Certified Nutritionist, this is a question I am often asked. I understand why people are confused. For the last 50 years we were told to worry about eating foods, like eggs, that contain cholesterol.
Healthy Meal Plans Can Include Eggs
Eggs are an excellent source of protein and can be prepared in a variety of ways. An omelet or a scramble is a great way to get your vegetables at breakfast. Hard boiled eggs are a very nutritious grab-n-go breakfast or snack. You can even buy them already hard boiled and peeled.
The Science on Healthy Meal Plans Has Changed
In the 1970s, concerns arose that eggs might raise blood cholesterol levels and lead to heart disease. The UDSA advised us to limit intake of cholesterol to 300 mg per day. As it turns out, the research that recommendation was based on was flawed. More recent studies have cleared eggs as a potential heart disease culprit and even suggested that they may be beneficial to heart health.
Cholesterol Rich Foods Can be Included in Healthy Meal Plans
Eggs had gotten a bad reputation because of their high cholesterol content. One egg yolk contains about 185 milligrams of cholesterol. The USDA recently changed its recommendations about eggs. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans no longer include any upper limit for cholesterol intake. In fact, the guidelines specify that a healthy meal plan should include eating a variety of protein foods, including eggs.
Research now demonstrates that obtaining cholesterol from foods has little effect on blood cholesterol in most people. Your body makes most of the cholesterol that is needs and it produces less if you get some from food. The current thinking is that saturated and trans-fats are the bigger culprits.
The Research Shows that Eggs Should be Included in Healthy Meal Plans
Here are some of the studies that show that eggs should be included in healthy meal plans.
• A small University of Connecticut study, published this year in the Journal of Nutrition, found that when healthy young adults who were not eating eggs ate three eggs a day, they had increases in large-sized LDL particles and improvements in HDL composition, which removes cholesterol from cells.
• Research from the University of Connecticut showed that while eating three eggs a day for 30 days increased cholesterol in some people, their LDL particles were larger, and there was no change in the ratio between LDL and HDL. This suggests that eating eggs had no impact on coronary risk.
• A pivotal study from Harvard in 1999, of nearly 120,000 people, found no association between eating eggs (up to seven a week, on average), and heart disease, except perhaps in those with diabetes. Nor did it find a link between eggs and strokes.
• A study in 2016 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at more than 1,000 middle-aged Finnish men and found that neither egg intake (one a day, on average) nor cholesterol intake was associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
• An analysis of eight observational studies, published in 2013 in BMJ, found no relationship between eggs (up to one a day, on average) and heart disease or stroke in half a million people who were followed for 8 to 22 years.
• A meta-analysis of seven studies found that people who had a high egg intake (generally considered seven a week) had a 12 percent reduced risk of stroke compared with those who had a low egg intake (less than two eggs a week).
Why Eggs are Good for Healthy Meal Plans
One large egg has 72 calories, 5 grams of fat (1.5 grams saturated), 70 milligrams of sodium, and 6 grams of protein. Eggs are a good way to start your healthy meal plan because the fat and protein will keep you feeling full for many hours.
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