Food Q&A: I Want My Scrambled Eggs

Are eggs unhealthy?

Need ideas for coping with restaurant buffets? Want some good snack ideas? In our Q&A series, nutritionist and food editor Leslie Fink, MS, RD, answers readers' questions about food, nutrition and weight loss.

Q: I want to know the truth about eggs. Are they unhealthy?

A: Somewhere along the way eggs got a bad reputation and they've been sadly misunderstood ever since. While eggs do contain a high amount of dietary cholesterol, that is not the type of cholesterol normally associated with heart disease.

In fact, cholesterol obtained from food serves many important functions in your body: It's involved in the manufacture of vitamin D, aids in the digestion of fatty foods (by helping to form bile) and assists in the production of certain hormones. If you don't ingest any dietary cholesterol, your body will actually make some on its own.

Elevated serum or blood cholesterol, on the other hand, can cause major health problems. In particular, LDL cholesterol, known as "bad" cholesterol, can rise when you eat too much saturated fat. It can then clog your arteries, put a strain on your body and cause heart disease. Someone following a low fat/low cholesterol diet should therefore be more concerned about limiting foods high in saturated fat than those high in dietary cholesterol.

For comparison's sake, look at three ounces of cooked beef round. It contains nearly 205 calories, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 11.5 grams of total fat. That makes an egg, at 70 calories, 1.5 grams of saturated fat and 4.5 total fat grams, a real bargain.

You may want to reconsider eggs as a healthy food source. Check with your doctor for recommendations specifically tailored to you. Meanwhile, don't overlook the value of egg whites, which are fat-free and cholesterol-free. Combine them with diced vegetables, salsa and low-fat cheese to make a very tasty omelet.

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