Whether you like them poached, scrambled or sunny-side-up, new nutritional data from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service boils down to this: Eggs are lower in cholesterol and higher in vitamin D than previously believed.
In fact, when the USDA-ARS tested standard large eggs from different sources for nutritional content, they found that the average egg contained 185 milligrams of cholesterol, which is 14 percent lower than previously recorded. The analysis also revealed that large eggs contain 41 IUs of vitamin D, which is an increase of 64 percent.
“We collected a random sample of regular large shell eggs from 12 locations across the country to analyze the nutrient content of eggs,” said Dr. Jacob Exler, nutritionist with the Agricultural Research Service’s Nutrient Data Laboratory, in a press release. “This testing procedure was last completed with eggs in 2002, and while most nutrients remained similar to those values, cholesterol decreased by 14 percent and vitamin D increased by 64 percent from 2002 values.”
Eggs have been given a bad rap for many years, with cholesterol-conscious dieters eschewing them in favor of egg substitutes and egg whites. But this new information shows that an egg a day can be part of a healthy, low cholesterol diet, especially when combined with choosing low-cholesterol foods throughout the day.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that individuals consume less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day. At 185 milligrams, a large egg could be a wise choice. According to Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, even individuals with high blood cholesterol can consider eating an egg.
So what accounts for the change in eggs’ content? Some researchers believe it has to do with improvements farmers have made to hens’ feed, which is made up mostly of corn, soybean meal, vitamins and minerals. Nutrition researchers at Iowa State University are in the process of compiling a report to outline potential reasons for the natural decrease in cholesterol in eggs.
Katz says he’s seen no harmful effects of eating eggs, and that in fact, those who eliminate them from their diets could be missing out. With 6 grams of protein, a large egg provides 12 percent of the recommended daily value. Eggs are also one of the only foods that are a good source of vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption, an essential process for building and maintaining strong bones.
They are also nutrient-rich, and can aid in weight management, muscle strength, healthy pregnancy, eye health, brain function and more, according to the news release from the USDA.