For a long time, eggs have been demonised for fear of cholesterol; today, however, it is scientifically confirmed that not only don’t they increase cholesterol, but, on the contrary, they can improve the level of cholesterol in the blood, increasing the good one and decreasing the bad one.
Foods rich in fat, such as eggs, suffer many prejudices. In fact, these nutrients should not be blamed as such, as it is their inappropriate use in terms of quantity and quality that is harmful. In fact, they are useful, indeed indispensable, for the well-being of the body, provided that they are consumed with awareness.
Lipids are present in many foods of animal origin (butter, cheeses, meat, etc.) and of vegetable origin (vegetable oils). First, let’s look at the difference between saturated and unsaturated fats.
Saturated fats, the so-called “bad fats”, are recognised because at room temperature they appear solid, apart from a few rare exceptions; chemically, they have so many double bonds between their carbon atoms and are, in most cases, of animal origin (for example, the fats found in butter are saturated). This type of “bad” fats, over time and without giving signs, tend to raise the level of cholesterol in the blood, favouring the onset of cardiovascular diseases. Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, commonly named “good fats”, are in most cases of vegetable origin and liquid at room temperature; they do not have double bonds between the carbon atoms but only single ones. Olive oil is an excellent source of these “good” fats. They fluidise veins and arteries, keeping them healthy and protecting our entire cardiovascular system.
As said before, however, fats, and in particular cholesterol, should not be demonised: we must remember that cholesterol is an indispensable component of our cell membranes and it is necessary to produce many hormones, including sex hormones.
There are two types of cholesterol:HDL (or good cholesterol) and LDL (or bad cholesterol). We can imagine HDL cholesterol as a scavenger able to “seize” excess LDL in the blood to take it to the liver where it will be destroyed. The higher the circulating HDL values, the lower the bad cholesterol present.
From theory to practice: a focus on eggs!
The suggested daily amount of HDL is approximately 300 mg. If we think that an average egg contains about 220 mg of cholesterol, with only one egg per day we reach about 80% of the recommended daily requirement.
When put in this way, it might seem that eggs are a food to avoid in case of high cholesterol, but this is a false myth, now refuted for a long time. Eggs, in fact, also contains a considerable percentage of lecithins, enemies of cholesterol, which help reduce its absorption and keep it low.
Lecithins are phospholipids, i.e. molecules consisting of a phosphorus-linked fatty acid. Thanks to their chemical composition, they are able to “seize” fats by decreasing their absorption. Their cholesterol-lowering effect seems to be even greater than that of omega-6 supplements. Lecithins, therefore, lower the total cholesterol while maintaining almost unchanged the levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
We must also not forget that our body is a perfect machine: it synthesises alone the cholesterol it needs. If we do not introduce enough cholesterol daily with our diet, in fact, our body feels threatened and produces it in excess.
This explains why it is not true that the less cholesterol you consume, the better. The trick is to always introduce the right amount through a healthy and varied diet. In this way, the organism will not feel endangered and will only produce what is really necessary, without exceeding.
In eggs, cholesterol is all concentrated in the yolk, while the egg white does not contain it. However, important essential fatty acids are also present in the yolk, which are crucial from both a nutritional and health point of view: since our body is not able to synthesise them independently (as it does for other fatty acids), it is necessary to introduce them with the diet, paying attention to which type of fat to choose.
In conclusion, within a healthy and balanced diet, we can safely eat up to 4 eggs per week, always remembering to vary as much as possible the sources from which to draw all the necessary nutrients.