Few foods have as controversial a history as the incredible, edible egg. Long an affordable, protein-rich staple of diets around the world, the egg has been maligned for its high cholesterol content in recent decades.
High cholesterol is a serious health issue. A waxy substance that is naturally produced by your liver and is found in dairy, meat, and other food sources, cholesterol in excess can clog arteries and cause stroke and heart attack.
But to what extent does eating foods high in cholesterol impact your blood cholesterol? For many years, the US government’s dietary guidelines have cautioned against eating foods like shrimp and eggs, citing older observational studies that found that eating yolks and other cholesterol-rich foods caused a rise in blood cholesterol. Hand-in-hand with the low-fat craze, Egg Beater omelets, low-fat cookies, and other processed foods boomed onto the market – and largely contributed to the obesity epidemic.
Yet in recent years, scientists and doctors have been calling these studies into question. A body of research now shows there’s only a weak relationship between the amount of cholesterol a person consumes and his or her blood cholesterol levels. In the famous Harvard nurses study, researchers found that eating about an egg a day was not associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
Admitting the error of previous recommendations, a nutrition advisory panel that influences the US government’s official guidelines has recently eased its restrictions on cholesterol consumption and instead refocused its recommendations on the real culprit: sugar.
For the Integrative Nutrition community, these new guidelines are welcome and come as little surprise. Founder and Primary Teacher Joshua Rosenthal has long questioned the well-intentioned advice of USDA guidelines and instead taught each person to experiment with food and find what makes them feel their best. There’s no one-size-fits-all diet – that’s the essence of bio-individuality.
So should high-cholesterol foods be part of your diet? Integrative Nutrition visiting teacher and “real food” advocate Nina Planck calls eggs “the perfect food” and encourages everyone to eat traditional foods, fats and cholesterol included. On the other hand, Integrative Nutrition visiting teacher Dr. Neal Barnard argues against the consumption of all animal foods, arguing that it does indeed contribute to cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. Nutrition is a fledgling science, which is why at Integrative Nutrition, we cover a wide spectrum of dietary theories and respect different perspectives and schools of thoughts.
What do you make of the latest nutritional guidelines? Do you incorporate high-cholesterol foods as a healthy part of your diet? Let us know why or why not in the comments below!