The cholesterol in an egg: are eggs healthy?

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Eggs don't deserve their bad reputation. Ultimately, the influence they have on our cholesterol levels is minor.

Cholesterol in eggs

Eggs – or rather egg yolks, to be precise – have a relatively high cholesterol content. This is a fat-like substance that is found in all animal cells. It is particularly important for building cells, transmitting stimuli along the nervous system and secreting hormones. Cholesterol is produced in the liver and distributed to our organs via the bloodstream. Our body regulates the absorption and production of cholesterol itself. 

Cholesterol produced by the body

This ‘self-production’ is of great importance, because 90% of the cholesterol in our body is produced by the body itself. Absorption through food is usually low and has little effect on cholesterol levels. If the body has a high concentration of cholesterol, the liver automatically produces less and the intestines absorb less.

And yet: a high cholesterol level in the blood can be harmful to health. Cholesterol is deposited on the walls of blood vessels and damages them in the long term, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Good and bad cholesterol

On closer examination of the cholesterol concentration in the blood, a distinction is made between the two components HDL (high-density lipoprotein), the ‘good cholesterol’, and LDL (low-density lipoprotein), the ‘bad cholesterol’. The more HDL, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and vice versa. Sport has a positive influence on HDL, by the way. People who are physically active on a regular basis are also doing something good for their cholesterol levels.

Eggs are healthy

Eggs have everything that a small chick needs to grow up. The egg white contains high-quality proteins which our body can absorb well and which also keep us feeling satisfied for a long time, while the egg yolk contains a high density of nutrients, such as carotenoids. These are responsible for the colouring and have an antioxidant effect. The egg yolk also contains various B vitamins, fat-soluble vitamins, minerals like iron and zinc and trace elements.

Eggs from organic production contain a slightly higher proportion of healthy omega-3 fatty acids due to the hens having more freedom to move. However, the difference is not so great. In the best case, organic eggs are free of genetic modification and pesticides.

How many eggs a day are healthy?

A chicken’s egg contains around 250 milligrams of cholesterol – the daily recommendation is 300 milligrams. As mentioned above, the body regulates the cholesterol level in the blood by first reducing its own production in the liver when intake is increased. The advice that the consumption of eggs should be limited is therefore outdated. 

Healthy people can eat an egg a day. And there’s usually no problem if they sometimes eat more, such as at Easter. Exceptions are genetic conditions, such as familial hypercholesterolemia, where cholesterol intake via food must be restricted and controlled.