Eggs are a versatile food and a great source of protein, and the American Diabetes Association considers eggs an excellent choice for people with diabetes. That’s primarily because one large egg contains about half a gram of carbohydrates, so it is thought that they aren’t going to raise your blood sugar. Eggs are high in cholesterol, though. One large egg contains nearly 200 mg of cholesterol, but whether or not this negatively affects the body is debatable.
Monitoring your cholesterol is important if you have diabetes because diabetes is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. High levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream also raise the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. So it’s important for anyone with diabetes to be aware of and minimize other heart disease risks.
Benefits of eggs
A whole egg contains about 7 grams of protein. Eggs are also an excellent source of potassium, which supports nerve and muscle health. Potassium helps balance sodium levels in the body as well, which improves your cardiovascular health. Eggs have many nutrients, such as lutein, which protects you against disease, and choline, which is thought to improve brain health. Egg yolks contain biotin, which is important for healthy hair, skin, and nails, as well as insulin production. Eggs from chickens that roam on pastures will be high in omega-3s, which are beneficial fats for diabetics.
Eggs are easy on the waistline, too. One large egg has only about 75 calories and 5 grams of fat, only 1.6 grams of which are saturated fat. Eggs are versatile and can be prepared in different ways to suit your tastes. You can make an already-healthy food even better by mixing in tomatoes, spinach, or other vegetables.
As healthy as they are in so many ways, eggs should be consumed in moderation.
Eggs got a bad rap years ago because they were considered to be too high in cholesterol to be part of a healthy diet. A lot has changed since then. The role of dietary cholesterol as it relates to a person’s total blood cholesterol count appears to be smaller than previously thought. Family history may have much more to do with your cholesterol levels than how much dietary cholesterol is in your food. The bigger threat to your cholesterol levels is food that is high in trans fats and saturated fats.
Eggs still shouldn’t be consumed in excess if you have diabetes. The current recommendations suggest that an individual with diabetes should consume no more than 200 mg of cholesterol each day. Someone without diabetes or heart health concerns may consume up to 300 mg a day. One large egg has about 186 mg of cholesterol. There isn’t much room for other dietary cholesterol once that egg is eaten.
Research suggests that high levels of egg consumption may raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. While the connection isn’t clear, researchers believe that excessive cholesterol intake, when it comes from animal foods, may increase those risks.
Since all of the cholesterol is in the yolk, you can eat egg whites without worrying about how they’re affecting your daily consumption of cholesterol. Many restaurants offer egg white alternatives to whole eggs in their dishes. You can also buy cholesterol-free egg substitutes in the stores that are made with egg whites.
Keep in mind, however, that the yolk is also the exclusive home of some key egg nutrients. Almost all the vitamin A in an egg, for instance, resides in the yolk. The same is true for most of the choline, omega-3s, and calcium in an egg.
- Scrambled? Poached? Hard-boiled? However you like your eggs prepared, try to eat up to three of these versatile wonders each week to take advantage of their protein and carbohydrate benefits. Remember, the healthier the hen, the healthier the egg. Aim for eggs from organic, pastured or free-roaming hens for an increase in heart-healthy omega-3 fats. If you’re concerned about cholesterol, lower your intake or use egg whites.
So what’s for breakfast?
If you have diabetes, you should limit egg consumption to three a week. If you only eat egg whites, you can feel comfortable eating more.
Be careful though, about what you eat with your eggs. One relatively harmless and healthy egg can be made a little less healthy if it’s fried in butter or unhealthy cooking oil. Poaching an egg in the microwave only takes one minute and doesn’t need any additional fat. Likewise, don’t serve eggs with high-fat, high-sodium bacon or sausage very often.
A hard-boiled egg can be a handy high-protein snack if you have diabetes. The protein will help keep you full without affecting your blood sugar. Protein not only slows digestion, it also slows glucose absorption, which is very helpful if you have diabetes. Having lean protein at every meal and for the occasional snack is a smart step for anyone with diabetes.
Just as you’re getting to know the carbohydrate and sugar content of various foods, you should also pay attention to the cholesterol levels and saturated fats in your food. If that means swapping out some whole eggs for egg whites or a plant-protein like tofu, well, that’s just a wise way to enjoy protein and keep your health risks to a minimum.