Do Eggs Really Raise Cholesterol? How many can you eat a week?

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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False myths still circulate about eggs. One of the hardest beliefs to die for is that their consumption should be avoided if you suffer from hypercholesterolemia

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There are still several myths about eggs. One of the hardest beliefs to die for is that their consumption should be avoided if you suffer from hypercholesterolemia. We asked Maria Cristina Varotto, dietician at Santagostino, if this is really the case and how many eggs you can eat each week.





Eggs are foods that we consume with a certain regularity, not only fresh in the various dishes we bring to the table but also present among the ingredients of many commonly used foods: baked goods, pasta, biscuits, ice cream, etc.  

The doubt about the quantity arises above all regarding the number of fresh eggs that we can include in our weekly diet: there are those who do not exceed the quantity of 2 and those who eat 4 or more.

But what is the right amount of eggs to consume every week? And based on what factors can it vary? We asked the dietician Maria Cristina Varotto who first of all, however, wanted to make an important premise:

70% of circulating cholesterol, the one present in the blood, is endogenous which means that it is our body that produces it. The cholesterol on which we can act with our food choices, therefore, is the remaining 30%.

What role do eggs play in this context?

In reality, it is not eggs and products that contain cholesterol that increase the value of circulating cholesterol but how our body works. However, the maximum recommended dose of eggs is set for those suffering from hypercholesterolemia and therefore must keep circulating cholesterol at bay because their body cannot manage it.

How many eggs can you eat then?

For healthy subjects, there is actually no limit other than common sense. If I eat eggs too often, I don't eat everything else and so I risk going in excess of some nutrients and deficient in others, as well as if I eat meat or other foods too often. By common sense we can mean 3 or 4 eggs per week for the healthy population e 1 or 2 a week for those suffering from hypercholesterolemia.



And for sportsmen instead?

I would always stay on the same weekly amount as healthy people. Then maybe there is the week that I eat one more or one less. For sports enthusiasts, however, it is important to keep the increased needs in mind. For example, there are sports that involve an increase in the consumption of calories, those who push on the muscle tone that "ruins" the proteins and has a very accelerated protein turnover, will have to compensate in this sense. On the other hand, those who do aerobic physical activity do not need the extra protein quantity.

How should foods that contain eggs be considered? For example egg pasta, cakes, ice cream, etc.

The quantity we take in this way is very low and therefore should not be considered in the weekly count.

Is there a better way to cook eggs?

If I am a subject with hypercholesterolemia, the advice in general is to reduce saturated fats, present not only in food but also in condiments. In this case, therefore, it is better to avoid, for example, an omelette with butter but prefer a scrambled egg, hard-boiled, soft-boiled or baked in the oven, so as not to further increase the quantity of fat.

However, it must be considered that the more the egg is cooked, the more our body struggles to "break" it, so a hard-boiled egg is less digestible than a soft-boiled or bull's-eye one.

What should eggs be associated with for a nutritionally correct meal?

To better metabolize fat, it is important to have fiber in a complete meal. These can be inserted not only with a portion of vegetables but also with whole grains. Fiber, in addition to helping us with the metabolism of sugars, undoubtedly also helps us with the metabolism of fats. This is something that people with hypercholesterolemia should keep in mind.



What are the differences in nutrients between yolk and egg white? Does it make sense to only consume egg whites to keep cholesterol at bay or to increase protein intake?

There are big differences between these two components of the egg because the yolk is very rich in nutrients, it is the part that contains cholesterol but in reality it also has many proteins, mineral salts and vitamins such as vitamin A. In the egg white they are dissolved instead some proteins but to get a protein increase in my day in this way I have to consume egg whites! The egg white in the ready-made tetrapak makes sense if I have to make cakes, meringues or other preparations in which only this component of the eggs is needed (so as not to waste the yolks), use it instead to increase the daily protein intake or to limit cholesterol in most cases it doesn't make much sense, especially if we also consider the factor of satisfaction. If we have to pay attention to cholesterol, it is better to make an omelette in the oven to which we add some vegetables that we may have sautéed in a pan, aromatic herbs, spices. The yolk has many benefits so going into total exclusion is not recommended.

When should we avoid eggs?

There are very few cases. The first is certainly that of those suffering from allergy to eggs, the second concerns people who suffer from gallbladder stones, in this case it will be the doctor to evaluate subject by subject.

And what about the children? How many eggs should they consume per week?

As a general indication, the Guidelines for healthy eating of the Food and Nutrition Research Center (Crea) suggest one egg (50 g) 2 times a week from 12 months to 17 years.

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