This is a nagging question that has perplexed many for quite a long time. The first food to always bear the brunt of any health-related problem in the human body is the egg especially when it comes to decisions about the heart (Lol!). Thanks to the big bad boy called cholesterol, eggs usually are sent to the gallows by extracting their yellow souls and stripping them butt naked. With limited or no context about science, we turn ourselves away from this food at the first sign of trouble. No other food has attained so much infamy in our inventory as has egg. The rise in obesity levels and coronary ailments has sounded the death knell for the poultry industry.
Conventional wisdom goes that cholesterol is bad for you and it causes hardening of arteries leading to heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the intake of cholesterol to < 300 mg/d and since a single egg contains 185 mg/d of cholesterol if you eat more than one you’re in deep shit.
EGGS & CHOLESTROL ARE LIKE ROSE & JACK!
Yeah like the inseparable Rose & Jack from the movie Titanic, eggs and cholesterol are pretty much like a good inseparable couple. But just as Jack wasn’t a bad guy, cholesterol in this couple isn’t bad. In fact, just like Jack was the best thing to have ever happened for Rose, cholesterol happens to be one of the most important ingredients in the human body. It is known to be the precursor to the release of some really important hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and cortisone. The reason for so much brouhaha around eggs has been due to the rise of cholesterol that has been linked to CHD, however, it is a tad bit nuanced here.
Research in the last 30 yrs or so has shown that there is no conclusive evidence between coronary heart disease and consumption of eggs. Further, some long-drawn epidemiological studies have shown that there is no correlation between egg consumption and any kind of stroke either. However, some clinical studies have shown that egg consumption may lead to an increase in LDL cholesterol (i.e. bad cholesterol) in certain individuals, only those who are more sensitive to dietary cholesterol, but it also increases HDL cholesterol i.e. ‘good’ cholesterol. This results in maintaining the balance in LDL/HDL cholesterol ratio which is a key marker in determining CHD risk.
In short, it is safe to say that under normal circumstances, egg consumption is not linked to heart attacks and it leads to an increase in good cholesterol, the one that is good for the body. But remember! What’s key is not standalone LDL cholesterol levels but the ratio of LDL-to-HDL which is important to track when it comes to CHD.
HOW TO EAT MY EGGS? & THE BENEFITS OF EGGS
So having laid the cholesterol argument to rest, the question now remains how should you eat the eggs? boiled eggs? fried eggs? sunny side up? Poached eggs? Or omelet? Point is that doesn’t matter. The argument surrounding cholesterol has acted like the Sword of Damocles hanging over the fate of whole eggs. Influenced by it, most of us usually indulge in the petty act of discarding the yolk based on our haphazard factual knowledge. So, let me first puncture that myth.
I’ll begin by saying that the yolk is the most nutritious part of the egg.
Vitamins in eggs - It contains fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, D, and K. The yolk contains 41 IU of vitamin D, a vitamin that more than half of Indians are found to be deficient in. Vitamin D is crucial for bone and muscle health and immune system function.
Other nutrients in eggs - The yolk is widely known to be replete with minerals including calcium, copper, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, vitamin B5, B6, B12, and folate.
They are an excellent source of carotenoids, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin which are known to improve eye health.
Finally, egg yolks contain docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, and arachidonic acid, a long-chain omega-6 fatty acid. Preliminary evidence shows that these fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, and may even have an anti-cancer effect.
Egg whites act as an added source of magnesium, sodium, and niacin, however, overall contain far fewer nutrients in comparison to the yolk. I don’t mean to destroy the reputation garnered by egg whites over the years (even though bodybuilders swear by it!) however, the yolk also is actually responsible for half of the protein in a whole egg.
THE FACT ABOUT PROTEIN IN EGGS
Having said all that, let me defend whole eggs, in fact, let me go one step further and blow the trumpet for whole eggs by showing an interesting table below:
Let me de-clutter this a bit here, and since both the above tables are excerpts from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, all the people who are also trying to get that bodybuilder-like physique, tune in!
What the first table tells us is that - egg contains only 12% of protein by weight yet because of the specific balance of amino acids present in that protein, 94% of it can be used by your body. In contrast, 42% of soybean flour is protein but the makeup of that protein is such that only 61% of it can be utilized.
So, the key point here is, it not only is important to understand how much protein exists in food but also to know how much of it can be utilized by the body. And because eggs are such a good source of quality protein, the second table reveals that as a source of comparison they score a perfect 100 even when compared to other high-protein sources like fish.
It’s time for everyone to cut some slack for egg yolk. Just be eggs-static! and start consuming eggs as a whole. Of course, one needs to take stock of one’s health status and then formulate a meal plan around how much to consume, however, don’t hesitate in consuming two eggs safely every day.
P.S. EGGS & OTHERS!
Eggs & Diabetes - The American Diabetes Association considers eggs an excellent choice for people with diabetes. That's primarily because one large egg contains about half a gram of carbohydrates, so it's thought that they aren't going to raise your blood sugar.
Eggs & Thyroid - Eggs, usually are rich sources of iodine and selenium, which are thyroid-supportive nutrients. One egg contains 20 percent of selenium and 15 percent iodine is required by your body daily for the better functioning of the thyroid gland.
Eggs & Arthritis - Eggs contain a variety of essential nutrients and vital components including egg proteins, phospholipids, lutein, and zeaxanthin that are anti-inflammatory. Also, the vitamin D in the eggs modulates the inflammatory response in rheumatoid arthritis.
Eggs & Triglycerides - Some studies have revealed that consumption of eggs was associated with a significant 16-18% decrease in serum triglycerides.
Notes & References:  Refer to the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (1986-1994) and the Nurses' Health Study (1980-1994) on “A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women” at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10217054/  Refer study on ”Egg consumption and risk of heart failure, myocardial infarction, and stroke: results from 2 prospective cohorts” by Susanna C Larsson, Agneta Åkesson, Alicja Wolk at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26399866/  Refer to “Rethinking dietary cholesterol” study at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22037012/  Refer to the study “Vitamin D deficiency in India” by the Academy of Family Physicians of India at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6060930/  Reference from ‘Nutrition and Diet’ from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding  Refer study “Decrease in blood triglycerides associated with the consumption of eggs of hens fed with food supplemented with fish oil” at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17134951/