Should You Ditch Your Eggs?


Is an egg yolk as bad as it's cracked up to be?Is an egg yolk as bad as it's cracked up to be?by Sheryl Kraft

A new study says eating egg yolks is almost as bad as cigarettes - but maybe not

It's all over the news: Eating eggs is almost as bad as smoking. Aside from the fact that you put both things in your mouth, what's the connection?

When researchers from Western University in Canada studied over 1,200 men and women, they came to the conclusion that regularly eating egg yolks is two-thirds as bad as smoking as it relates to carotid plaque in the arteries (a known risk factor for heart attacks and strokes). The study was published in the journal Atherosclerosis.

Yet many experts are saying, with good reason, that this study is flawed. If you're thinking about ditching the eggs … not so fast.

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For example, the study didn't control for other foods that the participants ate and did not look at how much they exercised -- a big factor in the role of heart disease. There are also other factors that contribute to carotid artery disease that are way more serious than eating eggs, among them hypertension, abnormal lipids or high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.

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And I just came upon this on a popular website, www.mercola.com, which states that two of the study's authors have vested interests in statin drugs, and the third helped create a vegan diet that allows only egg substitutes. That is rife with conflict of interest, don't you think?

The American Heart Association says eating one egg a day (which contains about 186 mg of cholesterol) is acceptable. Their recommendation for most people is to limit their daily cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams. Do keep in mind that it's the egg yolk that holds all the cholesterol, so if you eat one whole egg a day, you need to factor that into your total cholesterol count. To keep the rest of your cholesterol count for the day in check, you can do things like substitute vegetables for meat and/or avoid high-fat dairy products.

If you have heart disease, diabetes or a high level of LDL "bad" cholesterol, it's best to choose a small or medium egg, rather than a large or extra-large size. And the Harvard School of Public Health recommends that those with diabetes and heart disease limit egg yolks to three a week. Of course, if you want to avoid the cholesterol from the egg altogether, use just the whites, either from whole eggs or from a carton of egg whites.

MORE: An overview of heart disease

What else you can do to keep your egg habit a healthy one?

Nix the romance. Eggs and bacon go together like … a horse and carriage, chips and dip, salt and pepper. You get the idea. They may be a natural pair, but they can make for a more dangerous combination. Instead, eat your eggs with a side of fresh fruit, some whole-grain bread or some fresh tomato slices.

Avoid the three-egg omelet. As tempting as they are, they take you over the recommended limit. Instead, use one egg and fill out the rest with egg whites. You'll hardly taste the difference.

Cook them thoroughly. To prevent illness from possible bacteria, it's suggested to keep eggs refrigerated, cook them until the yolks are firm and cook any foods that contain eggs thoroughly.

Keep them in their carton. The egg container that might come with your fridge is usually located in the door, where temperatures can fluctuate when it's opened and closed. Instead, keep the eggs in their carton in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

Treat hard-boiled eggs differently. When you cook eggs in their shell, the protective coating is washed away. This leaves the pores in the shell open for bacteria to enter. Refrigerate hard-boiled eggs within two hours of cooking -- and use them within one week.