Debunking The Egg Cholesterol Myth

We’ve all heard it: “Eggs are high in cholesterol and cholesterol causes heart attacks, so don’t eat too many eggs.” The trouble with that statement is that it’s based on research done in the 1960’s.

that time, researchers showed there was a link between high cholesterol foods and high levels of cholesterol in the blood.1 But a lot has changed in 50 years: we’ve moved from vinyl records to mp3s, from rotary phones to smartphones, and from typewriters to laptops. It should come as no surprise that scientific research has also kept pace with the times and that the information we now have about eggs, cholesterol and coronary heart disease is better than the information we had way back then.

The egg cholesterol concerns of 50 years ago were based on 3 observations: 1) eggs are rich in dietary cholesterol; 2) when fed experimentally, blood cholesterol levels increased when dietary

cholesterol was increased; and 3) high blood cholesterol is associated with the onset of coronary heart disease (CHD).2

Now, in the 21st century, we know that the liver – that hard working organ that is responsible for so many vital body functions – regulates blood cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a key structural component of every cell membrane in the body. It’s also used in the production of testosterone, estrogen, and other steroid hormones. Essentially, cholesterol is critical to life and the body has very robust systems to regulate its levels in the blood. It’s simple really: the liver produces large amounts of cholesterol but, when blood cholesterol is high, the liver makes less.3,4 So overall, cholesterol levels in the body don’t fluctuate much, what changes is where it’s coming from – from our diet or from our liver.5,6 What’s more, data from the free-living population demonstrates that there is no link between egg consumption and higher cholesterol levels. According to the Review of Scientific Research and Recommendations Regarding Eggs, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 2004, “…as a whole, the epidemiologic literature does not support the idea that egg consumption is a risk factor for coronary disease.”7

Based on this knowledge, today’s scientific community recognizes and recommends that attitudes towards eggs, cholesterol and heart disease risk must change. One study expressly concludes that “within the nutritional community there is a growing appreciation that health derives from an overall pattern of diet rather than from the avoidance of particular foods, and there has been a shift in the tone in recent dietary recommendations away from “avoidance” messages to ones that promote healthy eating patterns… Based on the epidemiologic evidence, there is no reason to think that such a healthy eating pattern could not include eggs.”8

So the new adage “an egg a day is ok” really is ok and is substantially supported by nutritionists and research scientists alike. Anecdotally, the New England Journal of Medicine has documented a case of an 88 year old man (with normal blood cholesterol levels, by the way) who claimed one of the keys to his good health was eating 25 eggs per day.9 Excessive? Maybe. Food for thought? Definitely.

But every rule has its exception. Additional studies have shown that, for people with diabetes, increased egg consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease.10 It’s recommended that people with diabetes limit their cholesterol intake to 200 mg per day. (A typical egg contains 195 mg of cholesterol.)11

The good news is that all of an egg’s cholesterol is found in the yolk. So diabetic patients can still get the wide range of nutrients eggs provide – including protein, calcium, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium – by substituting egg whites for whole eggs. In fact, for some nutrients, the majority amount contained in the whole egg is found in the egg white, not the yolk: protein (57%), magnesium (81%), potassium (74%), riboflavin (62%), niacin (90%).12 And – an added bonus – egg whites are low in calories and contain 0 fat, as well as 0 cholesterol.

Adding eggs to your menu is easier than you think. 

While most nutrition and foodservice professionals think of shell eggs when they talk eggs, there are lots of “value-add” egg options designed specifically with the foodservice industry in mind. The goal of “value-add” eggs is to provide time-saving options with consistent performance, appearance, taste and nutritional value, particularly for high volume foodservice programs. Look for fresh options like hard cooked peeled eggs, basic frozen options like egg patties and scrambled eggs, or more complex items like frozen omelets, breakfast wraps and French toast. For circumstances that call for low cholesterol options, pasteurized liquid egg whites and low cholesterol egg white patties could fit the bill. And for “picky patients” who are put off by the look of “white eggs”, there are even zero-cholesterol egg white omelets, coloured with annatto for the same golden yellow appearance as whole egg omelets. (Annatto, also referred to as “the poor man’s saffron”, is an all-natural, plant-derived, yellow food colouring commonly used in Central and South American cuisine (think of the yellow rice in arroz con pollo).13

Using value-add eggs in hospital care and long-term care settings is easy. For helpful hints about how to get the best results when using retherm ovens, contact your retherm equipment supplier’s customer service and training team. “We worked with Sysco’s supplier to test the performance of the value-added eggs they offer,” says Nicole Evans, Operations & Training Specialist at Burlodge, Canada’s leading supplier of retherm equipment for large facilities. “We tested everything, from your basic peeled hard cooked egg, to frozen scrambled eggs, to entrée style dishes like cinnamon French toast and egg breakfast wraps. We tested the eggs both on their own in bulk and plated with other foods, like a side of veggies or mashed potatoes. We even tested pre-assembled breakfast sandwiches using frozen egg patties. It all cooked up well in our retherm ovens. In general, the eggs turned out better when rethermed in bulk [cp. plated], and there was slightly better performance for some products when we rethermed from frozen instead of from a tempered state, but, at the end of the day, we got a consistent cook every single time.”

All this means that, incorporating the nutritional value of eggs into any health or long-term care menu really is simpler and more efficient that you would think. Plus, with the wide range of egg options available, creating menu options that include the natural nutritional goodness of eggs – and are also palatable and perform consistently – is not difficult, particularly in settings where consistent nutrition and taste is critical for patient and resident satisfaction.

So go ahead, serve an egg (or 2!) every day. Science has shown that the convenience and nutritional benefits far outweigh any of the perceived health risks that doctors warned about 50 years ago. Eggs, cholesterol and risk to cardiac health – another myth debunked by science.



When preparing different foods in the same bulk retherm cycle, load denser foods on the top racks and more delicate foods on the bottom.