They might be small or large, white or brown or speckled, come from chicken, quails, ducks or any other bird - eggs come in many varieties, but despite all their differences, they have one thing in common. Eggs are powerhouses of nutrition. 

A single egg is packed with all the nutrients a single cell needs to develop into a well-developed bird. Obviously then, eating eggs is going to provide you with everything from proteins to build your muscles to vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to boost every type of function. No wonder humankind has been consuming eggs for a millennium now.

And yet, eggs are sometimes considered to be unhealthy and it’s believed that eating too much of it can lead to heart disease and stroke. This idea stems primarily from some researches since the 1960s, which linked increased intake of dietary cholesterol with high blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is in turn linked to cardiovascular diseases.

However, more recent research has shown that dietary cholesterol intake does not necessarily translate into high blood cholesterol, and eating eggs does not directly cause cardiovascular diseases or stroke. Here is everything you need to know about the link between eggs and heart diseases:

  1. Can I eat eggs every day?
  2. How to buy, cook and eat eggs

In 1968, the American Heart Association (AHA) first recommended that people should not consume more than three eggs in a week. The reason AHA gave was that egg yolks are chock full of dietary cholesterol and this may lead to cardiovascular problems. This dietary recommendation influenced dietary patterns across the US and soon permeated the world. The concept that eggs are unhealthy took root all over the world. Many other studies have also come out in support of this concept since the late 1960s.

However, since the late 1990s, researchers have pointed out some major flaws in this idea. The following are some of the points made by different studies to show that eggs are not unhealthy and, in fact, can even be eaten every day:

Dietary cholesterol versus blood cholesterol

High dietary cholesterol - or the cholesterol in food - has not been successfully linked to high blood cholesterol levels, especially low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol levels.

Our liver regulates the production of cholesterol in the body for normal functioning - cholesterol is useful to us as it is an important component of cell membranes; that is, the walls of each and every cell in the body.

Studies have found that while eating foods that are high in saturated fats and trans fats can affect blood cholesterol, there is no evidence to link dietary cholesterol intake to an increase in blood cholesterol levels. In effect, eating junk food does much more harm than eating eggs every day.

Read more: Diet for high cholesterol

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Egg yolks are packed with nutrition

Egg yolks get a bad reputation because they’re the part of the egg that is full of dietary cholesterol. This has led to a debate around which is healthier: egg whites or egg yolk?

The consensus: while egg whites have most of the protein in eggs, the yolks are full of vitamins, minerals and bioactive compounds like choline, folate, lutein and zeaxanthin - all of which are vital nutrients that are not easily found in such large quantities in a single other food.

This means that eating egg yolks is actually very important, especially if you’re not getting enough nutrition from the rest of your diet.

Eggs might suppress bad cholesterol

A study published in the peer-reviewed journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology in 1996 indicated that adequate intake of dietary cholesterol actually suppresses the synthesis and production of blood cholesterol by the liver. So, instead of increasing bad cholesterol levels and leading to heart diseases, healthy sources of dietary cholesterol (like eggs) can actually help keep cardiovascular issues at bay. Based on recent researches, even the American Heart Association has changed its stand on eggs: it now recommends eating one whole egg (or two egg whites) per day as part of a healthy diet.

Eggs are a relatively cheap source of high quality protein

Almost all the studies that report that eating eggs can lead to cardiovascular diseases were done in the US. Naturally, the participants in these studies followed a diet that is popular in America (this diet may or may not be healthy, depending on the individual, of course).

However, diets elsewhere can vary. In India, where many people are flexitarian (mostly vegetarian, but eating non-vegetarian food occasionally), eggs may be a crucial source of high-quality protein for many families.

(That said, both America and India have seen a sharp rise in the cases of obesity and heart disease in the last few decades. And individuals, especially those living with a lifestyle disease such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, should consult their doctor to determine the right diet for them.)

Eggs are globally consumed, and their consumption can provide vital nutrients to countries which are developing. This is because eggs are a relatively cheap source of high-quality proteins and essential micronutrients, and they are easily available.

The parameters for understanding how eating eggs affect the population of India - a country where malnutrition is a major health risk and cause of declining quality of life - may be very different from the ones suggested by the previous studies.

Even though eating eggs is no longer considered to be a direct cause of heart diseases and stroke, there are a few things one must keep in mind while buying, cooking and eating eggs. The following are some safety guidelines suggested by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI):

  • Consult your primary physician about your egg intake and do not eat too many eggs if:
    • You have a pre-existing heart condition.
    • You have suffered a stroke.
    • You suffer from diabetes, hypertension or any cholesterol-related issue.
  • Always buy eggs from a vendor or store which has a licence, and check the egg cartons or packaging for the Agmark or FSSAI’s approval.
  • Do not buy eggs that are dirty, old or have cracked shells. These eggs could be contaminated and cause salmonella or other bacterial infections.
  • Store eggs in a refrigerator within two hours of buying them. Keep the eggs in their carton or a separate box, and keep them in the top or middle shelf of the refrigerator.
  • Do not store eggs in the refrigerator door. The temperature on the door fluctuates every time you open it, and this can spoil the eggs.
  • The best way to cook eggs is to either boil or poach them in water. If you do plan to fry them, do not cook the eggs in animal fat. Use olive oil to cook them. 
  • Do not store cooked eggs in the refrigerator for more than a day or two. This can cause infections or food poisoning.
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