The Incredible, Edible Egg (or not). An Update on the Latest Science on Eggs and Heart Health
Eggs are packed with nutrients, including the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, choline, essential fatty acids, and contain about 6g of high-quality protein for 1 large egg (1). Collectively, these nutrients play important roles in vision, bone health, muscle health and serve as powerful antioxidants against harmful free radicals. From a nutritional perspective, perhaps the best part is that 1 egg delivers all of these beneficial nutrients for just 70 calories (1). Eggs are also cost-effective and versatile, offering all of the necessary nutrients needed to help meet a variety of dietary needs, especially for athletes. Athletes who are interested in building muscle should also know that eggs contain an amino acid called leucine, which plays a unique role in stimulating muscle protein synthesis (2).
If eggs offer all of these great nutrients, then why does the general public think they are bad for you? The answer to this question is quite complex. While eggs offer a variety of nutrients, they are also high in cholesterol. For example, 1 large egg contains about 185 mg of cholesterol, all of which is found in the yolk. Due to their high cholesterol content, eggs have come under scrutiny over many years, and nutrition recommendations regarding the consumption of eggs have also fluctuated. However, a recent meta-analysis of egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke indicate that intake of up to 1 egg daily may be associated with reduced risk of stroke, and that overall, no clear association exists between egg intake and increased or decreased risk of CHD (3). Additionally, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans describe that eggs are nutrient-dense and can be part of a healthy eating pattern (4).
What does this mean for athletes and the general public? Eggs are a great source of nutrition and can help athletes with fueling prior to or after an athletic event, however individuals should be aware of their own personal health history and consider how eggs can fit into the diet. For example, if you are someone who is healthy with no history of high cholesterol or family history of high cholesterol, then the consumption of 1 egg a day is ok. However, if you suffer from high cholesterol or have a family history of high cholesterol then speak to your doctor and see a registered dietitian (RD) to determine how eggs can fit into your diet.
For more information on egg nutrition and educational materials, including recipes, please visit the Egg Nutrition Center: http://www.eggnutritioncenter.org/.
United States Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. Accessed December 13, 2016. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/112?manu=&fgcd=&ds=.
Egg Nutrition Center. Egg 101-Egg Nutrition Facts. Accessed December 13, 2016. http://www.eggnutritioncenter.org/egg-101/.
Alexander DD, Miller PE, Vargas AJ, Weed DL, Cohen SS. Meta-analysis of Egg Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke. J Am Coll Nutr 2016;35(8):704-716.
United States Department of Agriculture. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines For Americans 2015-2020. 8th edition. Accessed December 13, 2016. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/resources/2015-2020_Dietary_Guidelines.pdf