Niki Bezzant: Ova the moon about eggs

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Eggs are relatively high in cholesterol. It was thought the cholesterol in eggs caused high cholesterol in us. Photo / Nicola Topping
Eggs are relatively high in cholesterol. It was thought the cholesterol in eggs caused high cholesterol in us. Photo / Nicola Topping

The Heart Foundation has relaxed its rule about how many eggs are healthy for us to eat, after a review of research. The old advice was just three eggs a week for people at high risk of heart disease; now they can eat up to six. This is excellent news.

Eggs are relatively high in cholesterol. It was thought the cholesterol in eggs caused high cholesterol in us.

Now, science has moved on and we know eating cholesterol doesn't cause high cholesterol. Saturated fat - mostly from animal foods - does more harm, and it's this we should be keeping an eye on.

This is in line with guidelines around the world, most recently, the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans no longer includes dietary cholesterol as a cause of concern for overconsumption.

I heard the new recommendation reported as "science has changed its mind". It can be easy to feel this way. It can seem that one day the experts say a food is healthy and the next day they say it's not.

But that's not how science works. Science evolves.

Each piece of evidence builds on what has gone before. We knew some stuff about eggs; now we know more, and that is enough to change the advice being given.

The Heart Foundation's new egg advice was reported fairly widely, but it would still be possible to get the wrong impression from those reports.

It would be easy to think the "six a week" limit applies to everyone, which would mean that eggs are, really, still to be limited.

But in fact, the six-a-week rule only applies if you are at elevated risk of heart disease. If you're a healthy person, there's no need to limit eggs in your diet. This makes me very happy, since I am a healthy person who eats eggs most days.

In fact, the Heart Foundation says we should be spending far more time worrying about other things, like trying to eat more vegetables and fewer processed foods.

Another aspect they note - and this is an excellent point - is that even though we are now free to love our eggs, we should be mindful of the company they keep.

Eggs become substantially less of a healthy meal when they're eaten with refined white bread and lashings of bacon.

Likewise, frying eggs in butter or coconut oil will not really do your heart any favours.

On the other hand an omelette crammed with colourful veges, or a poached egg atop a mound of greens on grainy toast, or a frittata with kumara, salmon and spinach are dishes that make the most of eggs and their health benefits - carotenoids, vitamin D, B12, selenium, choline.

And as always, remember the big picture. Eggs, like everything else, are best in the context of a balanced, whole-food, plant-rich diet.

Niki Bezzant is editor in chief of Healthy Food Guide.

- Herald on Sunday

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