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Can We Eat Eggs as Part of a Low Fat Diet?

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Eggs
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Question: Can We Eat Eggs as Part of a Low Fat Diet?
Answer: Yes, eggs can be part of a healthy, low fat diet—-in moderation. Eggs have been demonized because of their high cholesterol content. A single egg contains around 210mg of dietary cholesterol (one brand, Eggland's Best, contains only 180mg per egg), which although less than the previously estimated 275mg, is still more than two-thirds of the 300mg daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association.

Most of us eat two or even three eggs in our scrambled eggs or omelets, which takes us way over the 300mg limit before eating anything else. But if we view this recommendation as an average daily limit, this would allow us to eat one or two egg-based dishes a week, or to eat one egg a day.

Cholesterol Connection

The jury is still out on whether there is a direct link between dietary cholesterol, which is found in the foods we eat, and blood cholesterol, which is manufactured by the body. Many factors affect our blood cholesterol levels, including family history, diet, age, whether we smoke, and exercise. In terms of diet, there is evidence to suggest that our intake of saturated fats and trans fats have a greater impact on blood cholesterol levels than our intake of dietary cholesterol.

Fat Content

True, many high cholesterol foods are also high in saturated fat or trans fats. But the egg is not one of them. One egg has 5g of fat (about 8% of daily value), of which only 1.5g is saturated. Because eggs are often enjoyed with high-fat foods such as cheese (in omelets), or fried with bacon and sausage, they are seen as a high-fat food.

Nutrient Dense

Eggs are a good source of protein and contain more than a dozen vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, folate, phosphorous, riboflavin, vitamins A, D, E and B-12. They pack quite a nutritional punch for around 70 calories each.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

For a premium, you can also buy eggs that contain omega-3 essential fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, which cannot be produced by the body, are thought to reduce the risk of heart disease. These enriched eggs provide the same amount of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as a 3-ounce serving of oily fish such as salmon.

Yolks vs. Whites

All the fat and cholesterol of an egg are contained in the yolk, and most of the protein is in the white. To get the most out of our egg allowance, we can cut out some of the yolks in our recipes. You can generally use two egg whites for every whole egg required, but this may affect some recipes, especially baked goods. If you don’t like the idea of an egg-white omelet or scrambled egg whites, trim the fat and cholesterol by using one whole egg and two egg whites per person instead. And if your cakes are too dense when you use egg whites only, use a blend of whole eggs and egg whites instead (again using two whites per whole egg formula).

Eggs the Low Fat Way

So yes, enjoy eggs in moderation. Poach them, scramble them, and make veggie-filled omelets with them. If you use nonstick pans and skillets, you don’t need to use butter. Use cheese fillings sparingly, with reduced fat cheeses or small amounts of strong, flavorful cheese.

If you would still rather avoid using whole eggs, you can use one of the many egg substitutes available, which work well in most dishes. Egg substitutes use egg whites as their base, and contain coloring, flavorings and sometimes vegetable oil. Some varieties lack many of the important nutrients found in "real" eggs (others have vitamins and minerals added to compensate), but they are undoubtedly lower in calories, fat and cholesterol.

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