Be heart-healthy and have your eggs, too

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Q: I read that eggs are not so bad for your cholesterol after all. So, can I go back to having my two eggs for breakfast every morning?

A. One large egg contains 186 milligrams of dietary cholesterol — all of which is found in the yolk. The daily recommended cholesterol limit is less than 300 milligrams for people with normal LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. According to the American Heart Association, an egg can fit within heart-healthy guidelines for those people only if cholesterol from other sources — such as meats, poultry and dairy products — is limited. For example, eating one egg for breakfast, drinking two cups of coffee with one tablespoon of half-and-half each, lunching on four ounces of lean turkey breast without skin and one tablespoon of mayonnaise, and having a 6-ounce serving of broiled, short loin porterhouse steak for dinner would account for about 510 milligrams of dietary cholesterol that day — nearly twice the recommended limit.

Mayo Clinic Cardiologist Thomas Behrenbeck advises, “Although eating too many eggs can increase your cholesterol, eating four egg yolks or fewer on a weekly basis hasn’t been found to increase your risk of heart disease.” Breakfast is an excellent opportunity to boost whole grains, skim dairy and fruit consumption while protein is more often eaten at lunch and dinner. If you’re going to eat an egg, substitute vegetables for some of the meat, or drink your coffee without half-and-half in the example above. And remember that many other foods, especially baked goods, are prepared with eggs — and those eggs count toward your daily cholesterol limit. People with high LDL blood cholesterol levels or who are taking a blood cholesterol-lowering medication should eat less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol per day.

If you like eggs but don’t want the extra cholesterol, use only the egg whites. Egg whites contain no cholesterol. You may also use nonfat, cholesterol-free egg substitutes, which are made with egg whites. One egg white or one quarter cup of egg substitute has just 17 calories and virtually no cholesterol or fat.

Scramble nonfat egg whites with fresh sliced vegetables for a veggie omelette that is low in fat and high in nutrients and fiber. Serve over a half English muffin. Another favorite way to use nonfat egg substitute is to microwave a cup in a bowl for 3 minutes or until firm, then chop into squares. Add these to a veggie stir fry for a lean meal that is chock full of vegetables. Serve over brown rice.

Many recipes calling for whole eggs come out just as good when you use egg whites or cholesterol-free egg substitute instead of whole eggs. Replace each whole egg with two egg whites. For baking, you may want to add a tablespoon or less of liquid vegetable oil such as canola, safflower, sunflower or soybean for a moister consistency.

Here’s a healthy heart recipe from the American Heart Association using egg substitutes:

Potato and Egg Scramble

1 cup egg substitute

1 1/2 ounces low-fat tub cream cheese (about heaping 2 1/2 tablespoons), cut into small pieces

1 teaspoon all-purpose salt-free seasoning blend

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 1/2 cups frozen diced hash brown potatoes

2/3 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup no-salt-added canned stewed tomatoes, undrained

4 sprigs fresh cilantro (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg substitute, cream cheese, and seasoning blend until almost smooth (you’ll still have some bits of cream cheese).

Put the oil in a large nonstick skillet, swirling to coat the bottom. Heat over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the potatoes, onion and bell pepper, stirring to combine. Cook for 8 to 9 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to medium. Pour in the egg substitute mixture. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the mixture is set, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, put the stewed tomatoes with liquid in another small bowl. Cut the tomatoes into bite-size pieces.

To serve, spoon the potato and egg mixture onto plates. Spoon the tomatoes on top.

Garnish with the cilantro, if desired. Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 147 calories, 3 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 1.5 gram monounsaturated fat, 7 milligrams cholesterol, 196 milligrams sodium, 20 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 5 grams sugar, 9 grams protein. Dietary exchanges: 1 lean meat, 1 starch, 1 vegetable.