Egg yolks contain a high amount of cholesterol and is often consumed with fatty foods. (Photo credit: healthline.com)
Egg yolks have developed a bad reputation with concern largely stemming from the high amount of cholesterol found in them and the belief that dietary cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). There is much controversy over the relationship between dietary cholesterol and CVD risk as the evidence appears to be inconsistent. Based on the results from various cohort studies that evaluated the relationship between the two, it was found that in general, egg intake was not significantly associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease.1
Given that eggs are often consumed with other food sources that are high in both saturated fats and cholesterol, such as sausage and bacon, it is likely that these dietary components contributed to the positive association found between egg intake and CVD risk in some studies.1 Therefore, if you’re worried about the high cholesterol content found in egg yolks, it is recommended to reduce the consumption of the foods high in saturated fats mentioned above, rather than avoiding egg yolks.
Although the effect of dietary cholesterol on CVD is still controversial, we do know that saturated fat is positively associated with CVD, as it increases LDL-cholesterol, or otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol;2 and foods that are high in saturated fats, also tend to have cholesterol.1 Some examples include beef, milk, cheese, and bacon.3 Egg yolks, however, are not high in saturated fats and are packed with many beneficial vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, D, E, K, B12, folate, calcium, and iron.4 Not to mention, they are a great source of essential amino acids.
It is also recommend consuming foods that contain phytosterols, such as whole grains, nuts, or seeds with your eggs. This is because cholesterol and phytosterols are similar in structure, so competitive binding occurs.5 In other words, if you consume more phytosterols, there will be a higher chance of absorbing the phytosterol over cholesterol into the enterocyte, which would reduce the amount of cholesterol that reaches the bloodstream.
- Carson JAS, Lichtenstein AH, Anderson CAM, et al. Dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular risk: A science advisory from the American heart association. Circulation. Published online 2020:E39-E53. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000743
- Rogers D, Campbell R, Catha G, Patterson K, Puccio D. The Skinny on Fats. American Heart Association. Published 2020. Accessed September 12, 2021. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/cholesterol/prevention-and-treatment-of-high-cholesterol-hyperlipidemia/the-skinny-on-fats
- Keast DR, Fulgoni VL, Nicklas TA, O’Neil CE. Food Sources of Energy and Nutrients among Children in the United States: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003–2006. Nutr 2013, Vol 5, Pages 283-301. 2013;5(1):283-301. doi:10.3390/NU5010283
- Réhault-Godbert S, Guyot N, Nys Y. The Golden Egg: Nutritional Value, Bioactivities, and Emerging Benefits for Human Health. Nutrients. 2019;11(3). doi:10.3390/NU11030684
- Cabral CE, Klein MRST. Phytosterols in the Treatment of Hypercholesterolemia and Preventionof Cardiovascular Diseases. Arq Bras Cardiol. 2017;109(5):475. doi:10.5935/ABC.20170158