Eggs, those neat packages of nature's perfect food, with their low, low calories, 14 vitamins, 11 minerals, and protein quality that comes closer to mother's milk than any other food, are well on their way to a deserved comeback after several decades in scientific and public disfavor.
Why, in the last three decades, have eggs become so maligned, blamed, blasted and defamed as a culprit in diseases of the heart? Why has consumption plummeted from 403 eggs per capita in 1945 to a mere 251 per capita in 1986? And are they still bad news?
Public perception of eggs, happily, is changing, based on scientific evidence that shows that eggs may not be the culprit they were once thought to be. There is a place for eggs in the diet of 75% of the population. The remaining 25%, who are considered to be at high risk for heart disease, need to watch not only their cholesterol levels but their overall fat intake.
Total fat--particularly saturated fat, and not cholesterol alone--is now thought to have the highest impact on risk of heart disease.
"The primary concern is saturated fat in the diet. For that reason I don't believe there should be as much concern about eggs as there should be about the amount of both saturated fat and total fat intake in the diet," said Rita Storey, national media representative of the American Dietetic Assn.
FOR THE RECORD - Correction in Times Egg Story
Los Angeles Times Thursday October 22, 1987 Home Edition Food Part 8 Page 2 Column 1 Food Desk 3 inches; 93 words Type of Material: Correction
The Food Section Page 1 story on good eggs by Rose Dosti on Oct. 12 should have stated that five to seven ounces or equivalent of the meat/egg group is recommended per day, and not "week," as stated.
However, it is also important for menu planners to vary the type of foods from the meat group to include meat, fish, poultry, legumes, beans and nuts as well as eggs.
Because of their high cholesterol levels, eggs should be limited to two to three eggs per week for the general population and one to two eggs per week for those on restricted diets. One egg is equivalent to 1 ounce meat. Two eggs are considered a serving and about equivalent to 3 1/2-ounces of meat, fish or poultry.
"Some experts think that if you lower total saturated fat and other fats in the diet, you reduce the levels of blood cholesterol. It appears that the kinds and amounts of fat we eat from a broad variety of sources, not only eggs, has more of a link with blood cholesterol, the indicator of potential heart disease," she said.
(Dietary cholesterol is the amount of cholesterol levels found in animal foods.)
However, weight, exercise, life-style habits as well as genetic disposition also are indicators of levels of blood cholesterol for each individual.
For the majority of Americans who do not have problems with elevated cholesterol levels, it's a matter of using eggs--nature's perfect food--wisely.
To play it safe, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advise moderating meat and egg consumption to allow for five to seven ounces, or the equivalent, from the meat/egg group per week (one egg is equivalent to one ounce of meat). The meat group is made up of foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, beans and nuts.
The recommendation is to use one egg yolk per serving, without limiting the number of whites. The egg white contains protein, while the yolk contains the fat and cholesterol, as well as other nutrients. (The yolk, for instance, is an excellent source of lecithin, which counteracts cholesterol to some degree by acting as a emulsifier.)
Although no quantitative amount for dietary cholesterol intake is given in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, other health sources, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, recommend a daily intake of dietary cholesterol not to exceed 300 milligrams. A single egg yolk contains 265 milligrams dietary cholesterol, which is why some experts recommend limiting the consumption of eggs.
Cholesterol is present in many foods, particularly foods containing fat. "Where there is fat, cholesterol is not far behind," said Genevieve Ho Ph.D., nutrition adviser at the University of California Agricultural Extension Service in Los Angeles. Fatty meats, fat-containing cheeses, other dairy products and to a lesser degree shrimp also contain relatively high amounts of fat, hence cholesterol. Cholesterol also is hidden in bakery products, frozen desserts such as ice cream, and other processed foods in which saturated fats are used.
Cholesterol in Foods
For those interested in the levels of cholesterol in common foods, the new Home and Garden Bulletin No. 72, Nutritive Value of Foods, published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, contains information on the amounts of cholesterol and sodium in commonly consumed foods. The booklet is available at the U.S. Bookstore, 505 S. Flower St., Level C, Los Angeles 90071, at a cost of $2.75.
It is estimated that a family of four could dine safely on a dozen eggs per week, allowing three eggs per person. On a restricted diet, one or two eggs per week are enough.
The Washington-based Egg Nutrition Board, the nutrition-education arm of the egg industry, defers to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, which recommend that everyone know his/her cholesterol level and how many eggs to eat in order to avoid any health risk.
Eggs are second only to human milk in high quality protein and contain far more iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin B1 and riboflavin than cheese, milk or beef. Eggs also are excellent sources of other vitamins, such as A, D, E, K, B6 and B12, as well as thiamine, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid and biotin. Minerals present include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, potassium, magnesium, iron, iodine, manganese, zinc, cobalt and copper.