This article is shared with permission from Alina Islam.
Have you been told that having too many eggs are bad for you? Do you opt for egg-white omelets because you think it’s a healthier choice? This is one of the biggest misconceptions I’ve seen, and my heart breaks a little each time a beautiful, nutritious egg yolk is tossed aside and into the garbage bin.
To understand why throwing away egg yolks is a mistake, let’s first take a look at what cholesterol really is.
The Role of Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance that is made in the body by the liver. That’s right, we make it. For some reason, we’ve been made to view it as an evil substance or molecule that’s only found in food. In fact, cholesterol is found in every single cell, as part of the cell membrane. It helps cells retain their structure; without cholesterol, the cells would either become too firm or too fluid and turn to mush.
Not only does the health of every cell in the body depend on cholesterol, it also plays an important role for the following reasons:
- Cholesterol produces bile, a substance that helps us digest and absorb fat, along with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
- It makes Vitamin D, the all-important nutrient for our bone and immune health
- Lastly, it manufactures the following hormones: estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, cortisol, aldosterone, DHEA
Let that sink in. If you do not consume or make enough cholesterol, or are taking medications to block cholesterol production, you will have trouble producing the substances above, and are likely to suffer from hormonal imbalances, a poor immune system and digestive problems as well.
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So, Why Has Cholesterol Been Demonized?
Great question. Remember when once upon a time doctors thought smoking was good for you? Then they said “whoops, sorry we were wrong!” Or that “margarine is healthier than butter” and then said “whoops seems like it’s full of trans-fats and butter is healthier after all!” This is one of those situations that science initially got wrong, and is now backtracking (1) (2). Unfortunately, the myth of avoiding cholesterol continues to persist.
Allow me to explain why cholesterol was made out to be the enemy in the first place: researchers were finding that people with heart disease had arteries that were essentially clogged up with plaque, or cholesterol. So the assertion was made that high cholesterol causes heart disease. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Just because there is a correlation between cholesterol and heart disease, it doesn’t mean cholesterol is the cause. In fact, it’s a symptom of a much larger problem.
The real culprit is a poor diet and an unhealthy lifestyle (3). If you eat a diet high in sugar, trans fats, preservatives and other inflammatory substances found in junk or processed food, you create excess free radicals, which damage the arteries (imagine free radical poking tiny holes into them). Then along comes cholesterol, a waxy fat-like substance, to help seal up the holes and repair the damage. As you can see, it’s a symptom, not the cause. It’s like blaming firefighters for starting the forest fire, just because they were at the scene of the crime!
The cholesterol found in the arteries is known as oxidized cholesterol, or more specifically, oxidized LDL cholesterol (the bad kind!) (4) If you want to lower your oxidized LDL cholesterol, clean up your diet and move more. It’s that simple.
Why Eating Eggs WON’T Raise Cholesterol
So let’s recap:
- The body makes cholesterol and it has important roles like making Vitamin D and hormones. Clearly, a good thing.
- Cholesterol is only bad when it becomes oxidized LDL cholesterol, due to a poor diet and lifestyle
And here’s the last piece of the puzzle:
- The liver has a feedback mechanism (5). If we eat too much dietary cholesterol, the body will make less.
That means if you eat eggs every single day (yes, the whole egg including the beautiful, bright yellow yolk that’s full of nutrients), your liver will simply make a little less cholesterol to keep you in balance.
Sunny side up eggs anyone? 🙂
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