Chances are that if you have high cholesterol then you’re well familiar with the dietary restrictions that accompany the diagnosis. It seems that all the tasty foods -- real butter, cream, ice cream, cream cheese, and even shrimp, for example -- suddenly top the list of foods to be avoided with the same fervor that one avoids exposure to the plague. To make matters worse, a diagnosis of high cholesterol changes the face of breakfast forever. With a yolk naturally high in cholesterol, eggs are no longer, as the commercial states -- the incredible, edible egg -- but rather a breakfast pariah to be avoided at all costs. Eggs can still be consumed by the unlucky among us with high cholesterol, but only at the sacrifice of taste as the yolk becomes banned from the food group forever. No matter how you dish it up with peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and so forth, for many, egg white omelets simply aren’t the same as a full egg omelet.
If breakfast just isn’t complete with the real deal when it comes to eggs, then hold on to your salt and pepper shakers -- hope is on the way. You’ve heard the old adage that you-are-what-you-eat. Now it appears that the same is true for chickens -- and their eggs –--as well. According to one study, the return of the egg yolk to breakfast all depends on what the chicken has for breakfast -- and lunch and dinner.
According to Dr. Niva Shapira, Tel Aviv University School of Health Professions, not all eggs are created equal -- it all depends on the diet of the chicken long before the egg is laid. According to Shapira, the culprit in the egg yolk is the presence of omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids increase the ability of cholesterol to oxidize thereby leaving us at greater risk for higher levels of low-density lipoprotein, or bad LDL, cholesterol and plaques in arteries. When chickens are fed a diet based on foods with high omega-6 levels -- such as maize, corn or soy, for example -- the eggs produced are also naturally high in omega-6. As with people, if you change the diet, you change the end result. If you want eggs with low levels of omega-6, then you need to feed the chickens a diet of foods low in omega-6 such as wheat, barley, or milo.
The benefits of eating eggs from chickens fed a healthier diet correlated into a win for breakfast lovers. Shapira found that persons who consumed two regular eggs per day increased cholesterol levels by 40 percent. Those eating eggs from chickens fed a healthier diet were able to maintain cholesterol levels. Despite the positive results, don’t look for egg producers to change their feeding habits overnight. Common feeds can vary greatly by geographic region. For example, in the United States, corn and soy-based feed is very common, rendering eggs high in omega-6 whereas the opposite is true in Europe. Economic factors also play a role. That is, cheaper feeds, which are often higher in omega-6, are frequently less expensive, making them more attractive to egg producers.
Until industry-wide habits are changed, you probably won’t find eggs from chickens fed a healthy diet in your local grocery store. The best bet is to check with local or organic farmers and check the diet out before you buy.
Can Eggs Be A Healthy Breakfast Choice? Medical News Today. 04 Aug 2011. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/232192.php
Foods to Avoid for High Cholesterol. eMedTV. 30 Dec 2008. http://cholesterol.emedtv.com/cholesterol/foods-to-avoid-for-high-cholesterol.html
Reviewed August 22, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith