If there is one thing that has become clear to me in 20 years of being a dietitian it is this: it’s our dietary patterns or what we eat (and drink) day in and day out that really matters. No single food makes or breaks a healthy diet. When we start chasing down “super nutrients” and “bad nutrients” I worry we can lose sight of this and I’m not certain the end results net us where we want to be. In part, that’s why I was disheartened to see research looking into a single food, in this case egg yolks, and the link to heart disease. As the researchers noted, there were some major weaknesses in their study. For example, apart from how many egg yolks subjects ate what else do we know about their lifestyle choices which can directly impact on heart health? Some things that come to mind are:
- How active were these people?
- Trans fat can be 10 times worse for our bodies than saturated fat but how much trans fat did these people eat?
- Was their fatty fish, whole grain and vegetable and fruit intake low (known protective factors)?
- Did they have high waist circumferences?
- Did they mostly eat lean protein and lower fat milk products?
- Did they eat a lot of processed and fast foods?
So until we can account for these important variables, I’m going to have to fall back on the decades of independent research that confirms dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol levels. BOTTOM LINE If you’re healthy, you don’t need to be concerned about restricting eggs, and as ho-hum as it may seem, the best advice is to follow Canada’s Food Guide. Two large eggs is one Meat and Alternatives serving. The Food Guide recommends adult women have 2, and men have 3, Meat and Alternatives servings a day. Aim to have a variety of foods from this group including at least two servings of fish a week. Cook all your food with little or no added salt, sugar and fat. If you do have diabetes, heart disease, high blood cholesterol or are at high risk for these conditions, consult a registered dietitian about your total diet. Cutting back or cutting out one food alone is not likely to deliver the best benefits. My last word! Consider this: Fast food and sweetened baked goods account for ¼ of our fat intake. Kids get about ¼ of their calories from “Other Foods” like pop, chips, candy and chocolate. We don’t need research to tell us that’s unhealthy. I think it’s well within our reach to replace those poor choices with tasty, whole, minimally processed food. I’d like to see a lot more attention and action paid to this.