Eggs and your heart: Good news for brunch lovers

March 28, 2017 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

Do you want healthy foods for your family, but feel confused about what that means? You’re not alone.

“It sometimes feels like everything we were told was good is bad, and vice versa,” says Ann Davis, M.D., a cardiologist with Edward Hospital and Advocate Medical Group. “Years ago we were told to replace butter with margarine. Then studies suggested the types of fats and chemicals in margarine made it a worse choice than a controlled portion of butter.”

Another twist in nutritional wisdom concerns eggs, a food that’s been cast as a dietary villain because of its cholesterol-rich yolks.

Our bodies produce cholesterol, a substance that helps us digest foods and produce hormones. But too much of one type of cholesterol, LDL, can create blockages in our arteries, increasing our risk for heart attack and stroke. Another type of cholesterol, HDL, helps prevent cardiovascular disease.

Certain foods trigger our liver to produce additional cholesterol – sometimes more than we need. It used to be thought that strictly limiting the cholesterol in our diets was key to controlling LDL. People began putting eggs on their “seldom, if ever” lists.

Recent research, however, suggests saturated fats have significantly more influence on blood cholesterol than does cholesterol in our foods. A Finnish study, which followed 1,000 men, was published in 2016 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. On average, study participants consumed 520 milligrams of dietary cholesterol and one egg per day. The study concluded that incidences of coronary artery disease were not associated with either a high intake of dietary cholesterol or the consumption of eggs.

Even the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 has dropped the limit on cholesterol. It doesn’t mean we should pile on the bacon just yet. Many high-cholesterol foods are also higher in the more dangerous saturated fats. This includes full-fat dairy, fatty meats and tropical oils, but not eggs, which have no saturated fat.

“You can enjoy that weekly omelet as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet,” says Dr. Davis. “Eggs are a good source of protein and choline.”

She says a heart-healthy lifestyle is a matter of common sense. She suggests:

  • Know your numbers: cholesterol and triglycerides, blood pressure and glucose.
  • Choose complex carbohydrates: whole wheat pasta, brown rice. Avoid white sugar and flour.
  • Manage your weight: the key is portion control. 
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit saturated fats to 13 grams a day (based on a 2,000-calorie per day diet).
  • Choose a type of exercise that you will stick with because you like it.
  • Are you kind to everyone but yourself? To manage stress, give yourself a break. Even 10 minutes of meditation daily can make a difference.

Dr. Davis says, “Start by making small changes here and there. Try to eat well the majority of the time.”

Get more healthy eating tips and recipes.

Heart disease is the number one killer in America. Join us for a Lunch and Learn on Wednesday, May 24 at Elmhurst Hospital, as a cardiologist discusses the latest heart-healthy diet trends. Learn more and register.

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