Can we really put eggs back in our shopping carts without fearing that we'll drop dead with a heart attack? Perhaps, according to a report by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee that will be used to draft the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
In the last report published five years ago, we were advised to limit intake of cholesterol to 300 milligrams a day. (One egg yolk contains about 180 milligrams.) Advisors on the 2015 committee chose not to adopt that recommendation, however. Reason? After reviewing the current research, they found "no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol. And, they reported, "cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption."
This news actually confirms what we have known for a while. Cholesterol that we eat in food does not affect the cholesterol in our blood as much as the primary culprit, saturated fat. And Happy Easter, eggs are low in saturated fat.
So can we really eat our Easter eggs with abandon? Hold your chocolate bunnies. It's true that — until the actual Dietary Guidelines for Americans emerge later this year — we are left with no set rule regarding how to limit our intake of cholesterol, or if we need to limit it at all.
Some caution may be warranted, however. Studies have found that eating one or two eggs a day may not have much influence on blood cholesterol levels. But load them down with foods high in saturated fat, such as bacon and sausage, and all bets are off.
We do know, too, that eggs are an extremely good source of high quality protein. They are, in fact, the gold standard to which every other protein source is measured. Within the shell of each egg lies at least 13 valuable nutrients including vitamin D and choline, an important nutrient for nerve and muscle function.
No wonder, then, that in some cultures, eggs are associated with new life. At Easter, for example, some Christians view the life that emerges from a broken shell as a symbol of Christ's death and resurrection.
The Easter bunny is another story. According to the History Channel, "the Bible makes no mention of a long-eared, short-tailed creature who delivers decorated eggs to well-behaved children on Easter Sunday." It goes on to explain that the exact origins of this mythical mammal are unclear; yet the fact that rabbits are prolific procreators may explain how they have come to symbolize new life.
Have a blessed Easter.
(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org .)
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