Eggs and Cholesterol a Good Combination?
Most people think that eggs and cholesterol are not a good combination. But the truth about eggs, if it is about the effect on your cholesterol level, is much more complex.
Simply saying that eggs are bad for your cholesterol level is part of one of the biggest myths about cholesterol so far.
The good news is that this article will elaborate on the relationship between eggs and cholesterol and that you will learn everything you need to know about this topic in this article.
You will also get more information about how you can check your cholesterol levels, how to maintain the ideal cholesterol level by avoiding foods that are high in cholesterol, how eating low-cholesterol foods can help you, what to do have high LDL cholesterol and more …
But first something else:
What is Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that comes from two sources: your body and the food you eat. Your body and especially your liver produces the cholesterol that you need and circulates it through the blood. But cholesterol is also found in foods of animal origin such as meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Your liver produces more cholesterol when you eat a diet rich in saturated fats and trans fats.
Excess cholesterol can form plaque between the layers of the vessel walls, making it more difficult for the heart to circulate blood. Plaque can break open and cause blood clots. If a clot blocks an artery that feeds the brain, it causes a stroke. If it is an artery that feeds the heart, it causes a heart attack.
There are two types of cholesterol: “good” and “bad” cholesterol. Too much of one type – or too little of another – can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, a heart attack or a stroke. It is important to know the levels of cholesterol in your blood so that you and your doctor can determine the best strategy for reducing your risk.
Let’s look at the different types of cholesterol:
LDL Cholesterol (Bad Cholesterol)
LDL cholesterol is considered “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to the formation of plaque, a thick, hard substance that can clog arteries and makes them less flexible.
This condition is also known as atherosclerosis.
If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Another condition, the so-called peripheral arterial disease, can occur when the build-up of plaque narrows an artery that carries blood to the legs.
HDL Cholesterol (Good Cholesterol)
HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol because it helps to remove the LDL cholesterol from the arteries. Experts believe that HDL acts as a carrier because it brings LDL cholesterol from the blood vessels to the liver, where it is broken down and disposed of.
A quarter to a third of the blood cholesterol is borne by HDL. A healthy level of HDL cholesterol also lowers your risk of heart attack and stroke, while low levels of HDL cholesterol have been shown to increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Triglycerides are a different type of fat and your body mainly uses this fat to store excess energy from your diet. High levels of blood triglycerides are associated with atherosclerosis.
Increased triglycerides can be caused by being overweight and obese, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol abuse and by a diet that is very high in carbohydrates (more than 60% of total calories).
Underlying diseases or genetic disorders are sometimes also the cause of high triglycerides. People with high triglycerides often have a high total cholesterol level, including a high level of LDL cholesterol (bad) and a low level of HDL cholesterol (good). Many people with cardiovascular disease or diabetes also have high triglyceride levels.
Lp (a) Cholesterol
Lp (a) is a genetic variant of LDL (bad) cholesterol. A high level of Lp (a) is an important risk factor for the early development of fat deposits in the arteries.
The effect of Lp (a) is not yet entirely clear, but it reacts with substances in the vessel walls and contributes to the build-up of fat deposits.
Eggs and Cholesterol: are eggs really that bad?
Let’s start by looking at one of the big myths about cholesterol: eggs and cholesterol …
Eggs are usually demonized as a monstrous source of cholesterol, but before you take eggs out of your diet completely, remember that an egg has two parts:
The egg yolk is the part of the egg that contains all cholesterol
Did you know that each egg yolk contains slightly less than 190 milligrams of cholesterol?
Doctors recommend limiting your daily cholesterol intake to around 300 milligrams if you are in perfect shape or 200 milligrams if you are overweight, have heart problems or have high cholesterol levels. T
his means that eating an egg yolk accounts for more than half of the daily total cholesterol intake, which means that yolk really has the potential to cause all kinds of problems.
But here comes the surprise about eggs and cholesterol
Most people forget about the egg white
The egg white does not contain cholesterol … and that is the part of the egg that really contains all kinds of other very good things. So you see, eggs and cholesterol are not as simple as it sounds.
Most of the minerals and vitamins in the egg are included in the egg white and almost all of the protein is also in the egg white. You will get very few calories from the egg white and it contains virtually no cholesterol. The egg white is actually the good part of the egg and eating egg white is actually one of the best ways to get high-quality proteins.
This means that removing egg yolks from the egg, instead of eating the whole egg, is a great way to reduce the cholesterol and calories that you would normally consume.
… and that’s how you get all the good things from the eggs.
While you should really try to avoid eggs processed in ready-to-eat foods such as cakes, cookies, pasta, etc., you don’t have to worry that your cholesterol levels will be greatly increased by eating regular eggs.
You can actually still cook and bake dishes that contain eggs, but then you just use two proteins to replace an entire egg. Egg substitute is also a great way to achieve the same binding of the egg without using cholesterol.
You don’t always have to omit the egg yolk from your diet
Doctors agree that if you eat no more than four egg yolks a week, your cholesterol levels will not increase and that it is actually very good for you. If you don’t see yourself eating just the protein, you can also use the egg yolk provided that you eat less than four egg yolks a week.
In addition to being bad for cholesterol, the egg yolk also offers a number of important benefits:
- More vitamins. The yolk contains many vitamins including A, D and E. Vitamin D is especially important because most people lack vitamin D.
- Twice the protein. Eating whole eggs doubles the protein intake compared to eating only the proteins: the yolk contains half the protein.
- Higher testosterone levels. Saturated fat and cholesterol increase the production of testosterone. Both are strongly present in the egg yolk.
More Myths about Eggs and Cholesterol
Now that the myth about eggs and cholesterol has been invalidated, let’s look at some other myths about cholesterol:
Cholesterol Myth 1: Cholesterol is by definition bad for your body
Cholesterol actually has an important function in your body and that is why your body naturally also produces cholesterol.
It is only when your LDL cholesterol gets way too high that the problems begin, but your HDL cholesterol is actually a good form of cholesterol that controls the levels of bad cholesterol.
Not all cholesterol is bad, but the problems will start when your bad cholesterol gets too high.
Cholesterol Myth 2: Americans have a higher cholesterol level than the rest of the world
The truth is that Americans do not have the highest cholesterol levels, but they do score 83 for men and 81 for women. Colombian men have a cholesterol average of 244, while Israeli, Norwegian, Uruguayan and Libyan women all have a cholesterol level of 232.
While Americans usually have the worst dietary habits, the popularity of light products and better diets has helped lower Americans’ cholesterol.
Cholesterol Myth 3: Food that contains cholesterol is worse than the excess of cholesterol that is produced by your own body
Food that does not contain cholesterol is good for you because it does not raise the level of cholesterol that you already have in your body.
Note the phrase “already in your body,” which indicates that there is already cholesterol in your body.
This cholesterol is produced by the liver and can get out of control. Avoiding food that contains cholesterol is important and you should try to avoid eating trans and saturated fats if you have cholesterol problems. The cholesterol in your diet can be dangerous, but the cholesterol that is produced by the body in response to these fats is even worse.
Cholesterol Myth 4: Children cannot have high cholesterol
However, the truth is that anyone can have cholesterol problems and that Atherosclerosis has already been observed in patients under the age of eight.
Children who are overweight, have poor dietary habits and come from families with a history of heart disease should be cautious and should consider having their cholesterol levels checked regularly.
This can help them to prevent high cholesterol levels which can lead to heart-related problems at a young age.
What happens if I have too much LDL cholesterol?
So, now we know the truth behind these myths, but we haven’t talked about high LDL cholesterol yet.
LDL cholesterol is known as “bad cholesterol” because it produces the cholesterol that sticks to the walls of your arteries. These low-density lipoproteins roam around your body and they find the walls of your blood vessels a great place to nest. They stick to the walls and then sit there.
The patrolling white blood cells that pass by and notice these ‘invaders’ will then attack them. When the white blood cells attack the cholesterol particle, a chemical reaction arises while it is being destroyed by the white blood cells, which hardens the particle. The hardening also makes it possible for more particles to adhere to the wall around the one particle of cholesterol.
If the white blood cells harden the cholesterol too much, there is a risk that the hard plaque will crack. If a crack appears in the walls of the blood vessels, the body quickly sends platelets to clot the artery and stop blood flow.
But what happens if that is the artery between your heart and your brain or another part of your heart or your legs or another body part? That’s right then the blood cannot flow well and the body part will no longer be properly circulated. When body parts no longer receive blood, they begin to die due to a lack of oxygen that the blood brings them.
When the cells of your brain die, this is called a stroke.
When the cells of your heart die, this is called a heart attack.
All this is the result of high LDL cholesterol levels in your body, but what can you do to lower your cholesterol and keep it under control?
Nutrition that helps lower your cholesterol
Eating is your worst enemy and at the same time your best ally in your fight against cholesterol.
Eating the wrong foods will raise your cholesterol, but eating the right foods will help lower them.
Here are some of the ‘good’ foods that will lower your cholesterol and make it possible to maintain your ideal cholesterol level:
Lowering Cholesterol 1: Oatmeal, oat bran and whole grains
A spoonful of oatmeal lowers cholesterol. Whole grains contain soluble fibers that many researchers believe bind to fats and remove them from the intestinal tract. They also think that the soluble fibers are able to bind with LDL cholesterol, preventing them from attaching to your vessel walls.
An extensive 2007 study conducted at Wake Forest University in North Carolina found that people whose diets contained high levels of whole grains had much thinner carotid artery walls and had fewer signs of atherosclerosis.
Oats and oat bran contain more soluble fiber than other grains, making them the best example of cholesterol-lowering foods. 5-10 grams of soluble fiber per day can already lower your LDL cholesterol by about 5%, although some studies have shown that it can actually be as much as 23%.
Lowering Cholesterol 2: Nuts
Nuts are rich in polyunsaturated fats and are important for maintaining healthy blood vessels.
Nuts can be high in calories, but they also contain many other nutrients that can lower your LDL cholesterol, increase your HDL cholesterol and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Nuts are rich in fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants and many vitamins.
What are phytochemicals? Phytochemicals or phytonutrients have become the newest sensations in health and nutrition and have already received much attention because of their ability to help prevent disease and cell damage.
More than 1,000 have been discovered to date, but scientists continue to discover new ones. According to the researchers, these plant-based substances can inhibit cancer, prevent inflammation, stimulate the immune system and reduce LDL cholesterol.
Most of these benefits are due to the fact that phytochemicals prevent oxidation that we have already learned to be the leading cause of many conditions such as high LDL cholesterol and heart disease.
It is best to eat the almonds with the skin because it contains a high content of antioxidants that can inhibit the oxidation of LDL.
Clinical studies have shown that eating almonds can lower your total cholesterol by 8-12% and your LDL cholesterol by 9-15%.
In addition, walnuts are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which lower triglycerides, delay the build-up of plaque on the vessel walls and lower cholesterol levels.
Pistachio nuts contain antioxidants, which are usually also found in dark leafy vegetables such as kale and have a high level of phytosterols. Image of pistachio nuts – phytochemicals can lower LDL cholesterol and they contain more beta-carotene (vitamin A) than any other kind of nut.
When these nuts are added to a heart-healthy diet, the pistachio nuts can lower total cholesterol by 9-12%.
Eat a handful of hazelnuts to lower your cholesterol naturally.
A study conducted by the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Hacettepe University in Turkey showed that men who added 40 grams of hazelnuts to a diet that is healthy for their heart, a 5.2% drop in total cholesterol, can achieve a 3.3% decrease in LDL cholesterol and a 12.6% increase in HDL cholesterol.
Lowering Cholesterol 3: Legumes
Legumes are rich in soluble fiber that has been proven to lower LDL cholesterol. They also contain no salt (if you don’t use canned legumes) and they are rich in minerals such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.
Legumes are very suitable for lowering cholesterol and especially red lentils. During one study, 20 men with high cholesterol received either 100 grams of oat bran or 100 grams of pinto and white beans per day. After 21 days there was a 19% decrease in total cholesterol and a 23% reduction in LDL cholesterol in the men who had been given oats and a 24% reduction in the men who had eaten the legumes.
In addition, cholesterol-lowering foods, such as these legumes, also contain plant sterols that have been found to lower LDL cholesterol.
What are plant sterols and stanols? Vegetable sterols and stanols are found in vegetable foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, yogurt, fruits such as avocados, apples, blueberries and vegetables such as broccoli. Vegetable sterols and stanols have a structure similar to that of cholesterol and help with the absorption of LDL cholesterol so that less LDL cholesterol is available for oxidation.
A 1995 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that less than 50 grams of plant sterols per day can lower LDL cholesterol by more than 14% and another study has also confirmed that the consumption of 2 servings of sterol-rich foods per day, can lead to a 10-15% reduction in LDL cholesterol.
Cholesterol Lowering 4: Red wine
Yes, a glass of red wine is actually very good for your cholesterol level. Red wine is one of the most well-known products that are taken for heart health and it contains many beneficial substances that can combat diseases.
Polyphenols and flavonoids, both antioxidants, prevent plaque formation and prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Resveratrol, found in the skin of red and purple grapes, helps prevent damage to the blood vessels, reduces the risk of blood clots and also lowers LDL cholesterol.
Red wine also contains plant-based glucose, which is also known as saponins, which is effective in preventing the absorption of cholesterol in the body and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
So, pour yourself a nice glass of red wine. You deserve it and it is good for your heart!
Lower Cholesterol 5: Fatty Fish
Certain types of fatty fish are part of the list of cholesterol-lowering foods.
Salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, herring and trout, in particular, contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that have been proven to reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and prevent plaque buildup on the walls of the arteries.
Dark chocolate contains antioxidants; in particular a high level of the polyphenols catechins, flavonoids and procyanidins. These polyphenols have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, increase HDL cholesterol and protect you against oxidation of LDL. So yes, delicious dark chocolate is also a good example of cholesterol-lowering foods.
After eating 100 grams of dark chocolate daily for two weeks, patients with hypertension had lower blood pressure and lower LDL cholesterol, improved mediated dilation and increased insulin sensitivity.
It should be noted that dark chocolate must contain at least 70% cocoa components in order to provide health benefits.
Lower Cholesterol 7: Olive oil
Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and can raise your HDL cholesterol while also preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
It is recommended that you consume 2 tablespoons of olive oil per day and it is also suggested that if you want to lower your cholesterol, you should use extra virgin olive oil because it is less processed and contains a higher level of antioxidants.
Lowering Cholesterol 8: Avocados
Avocados are a great food to lower your cholesterol. It is a source of monounsaturated fats that are thought to raise HDL cholesterol while lowering LDL cholesterol.
Avocados also contain plant sterols and beta-sitosterol, which reduces the amount of cholesterol that is absorbed from your diet.
Lowering Cholesterol 9: Pomegranate juice
High in antioxidants, especially polyphenols, pomegranate juice can lower LDL cholesterol by slowing the absorption into the bloodstream. Research by the National Academy of Sciences has shown that this juice can increase the production of nitric oxide, which helps to reduce arterial plaque.
It is important to note that pomegranate juice should only be taken on doctor’s advice as this may affect the absorption and metabolism of some medications.
Lowering Cholesterol 10: Flaxseeds
Flaxseed is excellent for lowering your cholesterol.
These mini powerhouses are rich in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and phytochemicals called lignans, which help to lower the total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
Lowering Cholesterol 11: Blueberries
While all fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that fight free radicals and help improve your cholesterol levels, blueberries are often referred to as a ‘superfood’ because they contain a compound known as pterostilbene.
Small cholesterol fighters: blueberries on a bush.
Preliminary studies have shown that pterostilbene has the potential to lower LDL cholesterol as effectively as medication. So blueberries should not be missing from the list of cholesterol-lowering foods.
Foods with a High Cholesterol level
Now you know what to eat, but do you also know which foods to avoid?
Here is a list of foods with (sometimes very) high cholesterol:
High Cholesterol 1: Steak – meat that is very high in cholesterol
Red meat such as steak is an example of a food that is very high in cholesterol.
This is another major culprit of high cholesterol in many Western countries. In countries such as the United States, people love steaks and tend to follow diets that are high in cholesterol and contain relatively few foods that have “good” cholesterol.
You can eat a steak every now and then, depending on how good or bad your cholesterol is, but when you eat it, you should try to cut off as much of the fat as possible from the meat.
High Cholesterol 2: Organ meat – liver, heart, brain etc.
While organ meats can be a great source of certain vitamins and minerals such as iron, there is also a high concentration of cholesterol in most animal organs.
Liver, in particular, is food that you should try to avoid if you try to lower your cholesterol.
High Cholesterol 3: Lamb meat – high in cholesterol, but less than beef
Although it does not contain as much saturated fat as red meat such as beef, lamb is still high in cholesterol. For every 100 grams of lamb that you eat, you get around 75 milligrams of cholesterol.
That is about a third of the ideal daily intake of cholesterol recommended by many doctors (about 200 milligrams). In other words, occasionally a little lamb is ok, but you have to be careful and then eat more foods that do not contain cholesterol that day.
As long as the rest of your meals are low in cholesterol, it is best to occasionally eat lamb meat and other red meat.
High Cholesterol 4: Butter and some oils – the silent cholesterol attack
Butter is high in cholesterol and is sometimes called a silent killer – Many people do not consider the health implications of eating butter because it seems like this is a relatively small part of their diet. The reality is that you spread butter on your bread and use it for cooking and baking, making it a major contribution to your cholesterol levels. The same applies to certain oils in which you bake and which contain saturated fats such as palm oil.
Be careful if you want to replace butter with margarine – some margarine products contain trans fats instead of saturated fats, which actually stimulate the production of bad cholesterol in your body.
You better look for spreadable butter and cooking oil products that are made from foods rich in unsaturated fats.
Olive oil and products based on olive oil are good examples.
High Cholesterol 5: Cream – a real cholesterol bomb
While in general, all dairy products in their raw form are high in good cholesterol, cream, in particular, is a product that you should pay attention to.
It makes little sense to switch from ice cream to a healthy fruit salad for dessert if you end up with a thick whiff of cream …
An average tablespoon of cream can contain around 15-20 milligrams of cholesterol. If you use cream, it quickly becomes very easy to exceed the recommended daily intake of cholesterol and this really only requires a very small amount.
High Cholesterol 6: Shrimp – ambiguous in cholesterol
Shrimp is also a food that is high in cholesterol: large pink shrimp. Just like eggs, shrimp contain a lot of cholesterol – many doctors advise their patients not to eat it, but studies have been carried out that indicate that despite the high cholesterol levels it is not bad for you. Due to the low-fat content, shrimp are often considered to be healthier than meat.
But despite the fact that it contains relatively little fat, shrimp are certainly high in cholesterol. Studies have shown that shrimp are not dangerous for patients with high cholesterol, because it not only raises bad cholesterol but also raises good cholesterol, so the effects cancel each other out.
That said, having high cholesterol is naturally unhealthy and dangerous. If you are a true shrimp lover, it is best to discuss with your doctor whether you can continue to eat shrimp or whether you should simply avoid them.
High Cholesterol 7: Duck – no problem in small quantities
It makes sense to assume that duck is relatively low in cholesterol because similar meats, such as chicken and turkey, are similar. In small quantities, duck is not particularly harmful, but because it is usually served as part of an extensive meal, it is easy to get a large amount of cholesterol.
This applies regardless of whether the sheet is removed or not. It is not unusual for a portion of duck, as you often eat in a Chinese restaurant, to contain more than 100 milligrams of cholesterol, and I am not even talking about the cholesterol in the gravy and the oils or butter to prepare it.
High Cholesterol 8: Dairy – whole milk and other full-fat dairy products
Some doctors and nutritionists advise people with high cholesterol to eliminate all dairy products from their diet. This will depend on how high your cholesterol level is, but for many people, it will not be necessary to completely avoid it.
Dairy products offer many people essential nutrients such as calcium for strong bones. There are also other foods that can provide these nutrients, but dairy products are tasty and easily available. You can try to limit your cholesterol intake via dairy using low-fat or options without fat.
You can also substitute certain dairy products with soy-based products that are lower in cholesterol. Some soy products or soy-based products may also help raise your ‘good cholesterol’ levels, which will lower your overall risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
High Cholesterol 9: Tasty things – cake, cookies, etc.
Foods that are high in cholesterol: three cookies with pieces of chocolate. Although you may not have realized that baked goods can raise your cholesterol, it becomes clear when you take a look at the ingredients, which are usually used to make cookies and cakes. They are primarily made from animal products such as eggs, cheese, milk, cream and the like.
However, there are a number of cookies available on the market that are made with ingredients that have been specially developed for patients with high cholesterol and that do not have a negative effect on your cholesterol levels or can even contribute to raising your good cholesterol.
These are the worst foods with a high cholesterol level, but it is always best to avoid foods that contain sugar, oil or fat – unless they contain natural fats such as in nuts, oats and avocados for example.
A few extra guidelines to help you keep your cholesterol levels under control
Here are some guidelines to help you check your cholesterol:
- Exercise and exercise a lot, because this will help you burn fat and cholesterol.
- Drink plenty of water to stimulate the natural production of good cholesterol in your body.
- Eat as much fiber as possible, especially from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Avoid empty carbohydrates and empty calories and try to get as many complex carbohydrates as possible.
- Stop smoking because this reduces your body’s production of good cholesterol.
- Try to lose weight if you weigh more than is healthy for you.
Cholesterol, on the one hand, is a very big problem: Many people walk around with too high a cholesterol, often without knowing it.
On the other hand, cholesterol should not be viewed as a sample either. Eliminating cholesterol completely from your diet is a very bad idea, because your body also needs cholesterol to function optimally.
It’s all about the right balance.
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