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How Many Eggs?

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

Last month, we reported on a study that suggested eating eggs for breakfast helps weight loss by reducing calorie intake through the rest of the day. The story created lots of interest with many of you saying you’d started going to work on an egg – and better still, found that it helped keep hunger at bay until lunchtime.

But it also highlighted that many of us are still confused about how many eggs we should eat each week and are concerned about their cholesterol content.

So this month, we answer the question . . . 

How Healthy are Eggs?

Together with liver, kidney and prawns, eggs do contain more dietary cholesterol than many other foods.

It was for this reason that past advice focussed on limiting intakes of these foods if you had high blood cholesterol.

As eggs tend to be eaten more frequently than liver, kidney or prawns, they were particularly thrown into the spotlight when it came to advising people to cut down on cholesterol-containing foods.

However, thanks to more recent research, we now know the cholesterol in food has little effect on our blood cholesterol levels.

What really affects blood cholesterol is the amount of saturated fat we eat.

This means if you need to lower your cholesterol, the most important thing you can do is cut down on the amount of foods you eat that contain saturates, such as fatty meats, full-fat milk, butter, lard, cream, pastry, cakes and biscuits.

Eating more fruit, vegetables and foods such as oats and pulses, which contain a type of fibre called soluble fibre can also help to lower cholesterol.

Thanks to this newfound knowledge, the Food Standards Agency doesn’t recommend limiting the number of eggs you eat, unless your GP or a dietitian has specifically advised you to do this.

This is great news for slimmers as eggs contain just 85 calories each but are packed with nutrients including protein, zinc, iron, iodine and vitamins A, D, E and some B vitamins (see chart below).

Nutritional Values for Eggs

Nutrients Per egg % contribution to daily recommended amounts from one egg
    Women Men
Kilocalories 85 4* 3*
Protein (g) 7.1 16 13
Fat (g) 6.2 9* 7*
Saturates (g) 1.8 8* 6*
Carbohydrate (g) 0 0 0
Phosphorus (mg) 114 21 21
Iron (mg) 1.1 7 13
Zinc (mg) 0.7 10 7
Selenium (mcg) 6.3 11 8
Iodine (mcg) 30.2 22 22
Vitamin A (mcg) 108 18 15
Vitamin B1 (mg) 0.1 13 10
Vitamin B2 (mg) 0.3 27 23
Vitamin B3 (mg) 2.2 17 13
Vitamin B12 (mg) 1.4 93 93
Vitamin D (mcg) 1 No values set No values set
Vitamin E (mg) 0.6 20 15

*Based on calorie recommendations for weight maintenance rather than weight loss

What About the Salmonella Risk?

In the past there have also been concerns about the safety of eggs, particularly in relation to salmonella.

However, thanks to the introduction of a number of stringent food safety procedures, the UK egg industry has totally overcome salmonella in eggs, a fact that’s confirmed by the Food Standards Agency.

To reduce the risk of food poisoning from eggs, the British Egg Information Service recommends the following…

  • Looking for the Lion Quality mark (or the words Lion Quality or Lion Qlty) on the egg shell and egg box – it shows the eggs have been produced to the highest standards of food safety in the world including a programme of vaccination against Salmonella Enteritidis.
  • Buying eggs from a reputable retailer where they will have been transported and stored at the correct temperature (below 20°C).
  • Keeping eggs in the fridge in their box after buying them.
  • Storing eggs separately from other foods.
  • Always using eggs by the ‘best before’ date shown on the egg or box.
  • Washing your hands before and after handling eggs.
  • Discarding dirty or cracked eggs.
  • Eating cooked egg dishes as soon as possible after cooking them or store in the fridge.

Meanwhile, the Food Standards Agency recommends against eating raw eggs or uncooked foods made from them such as mousses or fresh mayonnaise. Furthermore, they suggest that elderly people, babies, toddlers, pregnant women and people who are already unwell should only eat eggs that have been cooked until the white and yolk are solid.

Find out more about eggs at the British Egg Information Service at www.britegg.co.uk

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Further Information

H.E.A.R.T. - The Cholesterol Charity

HEART UK supports all those at risk of inherited high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. www.heartuk.org.uk

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