If you have Type 2 diabetes, you have to think carefully about what you eat. Some foods are obviously unsafe, such as large quantities of sugar. Other foods, such as eggs, might be more ambiguous.
Eggs are a good source of protein and are widely considered to be very nutritious. However, they are also naturally high in cholesterol. So, should you eat eggs?
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Eggs are a natural product and they vary in size and nutritional value. The typical nutritional values for one large, fresh, raw egg (approximately 50g) are:
0.4g carbohydrate (including 0.2g sugar)
1mcg vitamin D
There are distinct nutritional differences between the yolk and the white. Most nutrients are in the yolk, including vitamin D and cholesterol. However, the white has more protein.¹ Some recipes call for only the white of the egg.
The short answer is yes, whole eggs are high in cholesterol. However, the cholesterol in eggs doesn't raise people's cholesterol levels like foods containing saturated fats and trans fats.
Recent research² has claimed that eating eggs does not impact cholesterol levels in most people. One reason might be that egg yolks also contain choline, which supports liver function and thus helps cholesterol levels balance out. (Choline deficiency is also potentially dangerous if you are pregnant).
If your cholesterol levels are normal and you consume food high in cholesterol, the liver will dial down its cholesterol production to balance things out.
Don't forget that most of an egg's cholesterol is in the yolk. You can help control your cholesterol intake by using only the egg white (although this loses many other nutrients found in eggs).
If you have high cholesterol, you should talk to your doctor about how many eggs you can consume.
Despite being high in cholesterol, eggs are not a significant source of carbohydrates on their own.
However, certain recipes containing eggs, such as fried foods or omelets, can add carbohydrates, so be aware of this. A boiled or poached egg is a better choice, as it only contains the carbs in the egg, rather than added ones.
A study² has shown that if eggs are eaten excessively on a regular basis, they may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, the study's participants were not very physically active and consumed a lot of fat and animal protein. The results may be due to overall unhealthy behavior, not the eggs themselves.
Still, another study³ showed increased risk in elderly women who consumed three or more eggs per week, but lower risk than from obesity.
Other studies⁴ have concluded that consuming one egg per day improves factors associated with glycemic control and that it is safe for people with type 2 diabetes.⁵
These contradictory results may reflect some methodological differences between the studies, such as the population investigated.
Whether or not eating eggs increases your risk of developing health issues may be related to a genetic predisposition to respond to dietary cholesterol.
If you have diabetes, eggs are safe to eat in moderation as they don't significantly impact cholesterol levels and have low glycemic index scores. If you have very high cholesterol or dietary cholesterol causes your blood sugar to fluctuate, your nutritionist might suggest limiting egg consumption.
You should also consider how your eggs are prepared. For example, omelets are made with butter, which should not be consumed excessively. However, don't switch margarine to butter. Margarine may contain trans fat, which raises 'bad' cholesterol (LDL) and increases the risk of heart diseases. Instead, boil or poach your eggs, or scramble them with low-fat milk.
The studies show increased risk when consuming one or more eggs daily. However, other studies have shown that this level of egg consumption may be safe. The Harvard School of Public Health suggests limiting egg consumption to three yolks per week, with no limit on whites.
Choosing white-only options at restaurants or stores can be helpful but remember that most nutrients are in the yolk.
Overall, eggs may benefit people with diabetes in two ways:
They are high in protein, which can make you feel fuller for longer, help with weight management, and help maintain your lean mass
Eggs contain lots of vitamins and minerals
Eggs should be consumed in moderation and not paired with fatty cheese or bacon too often. Salsa, vegetables, and other healthy options work better with your egg-based breakfast.
Be careful when choosing an egg substitute. Plant-based egg substitutes, for example, can be higher in carbohydrates than eggs themselves. One such product, VeganEgg, has 25g of carbohydrates per 50g, far higher than in actual eggs. You are much better off using egg whites.
An egg breakfast can also be more filling than other options, leading you to consume less lunch. This can be particularly important if you're on the go and tend to buy lunch from a food truck or fast-food outlet.
We have briefly looked at a few ways to prepare eggs. What you eat with your eggs is particularly important.
Here are some ideas of ways that people with type 2 diabetes can enjoy their eggs. You can search online for specific recipes:
Breakfast egg "muffins": Choose your favorite vegetables, consider adding garlic and onions, and you can use egg whites if you're concerned about the number of carbs in the yolk. You can switch any heavy cream in the recipe with low-fat milk. Choose a low-fat cheese.
Coddled eggs: Poached eggs can be tricky. Coddled eggs are a lot easier, although they do require equipment known as an egg coddler. The only ingredients you need are eggs and seasoning. You can add cheese depending on your carb and fat budget that week.
Loaded vegetable frittata: If your recipe contains bacon, switch it to turkey bacon. A vegetable frittata contains all kinds of nutritious vegetables for antioxidants. You can also make it entirely with egg whites, so as not to blow your 'egg budget.'
Veggie scramble: You can use goat cheese, which is typically lower in carbohydrates than cheese made from cow's milk, but be aware that some recipes call for a small amount of butter. You can add spinach and mushrooms.
Baked eggs with mushroom and spinach: This is made in a ramekin for a single serving containing one egg, ham or bacon, spinach, and chilis. If your recipe makes several servings, you can easily store any extra. You can also change ingredients around, including using up leftovers.
Breakfast salad: This salad also makes a good lunch. You can add eggs, lettuce, radishes, snap peas, cucumber, and walnuts.
Eggs in a mug: This is a recipe that cooks entirely in a mug. It does contain cheddar cheese, but it also has broccoli and bell pepper. It's really quick on a busy weekday morning.
Poached egg Buddha bowls: These are best enjoyed when cherry tomatoes are in season, and make sure to use fresh, not dried, mint. (If you have to use dried mint, remember it is stronger, so reduce the quantity.) If your recipe is wheat-based, you could also use gluten-free grains.
The basic thing to remember when cooking with eggs if you have type 2 diabetes is to avoid frying your eggs if possible. If you must fry them, use healthier oils like olive oil, and include only a moderate amount of cheese and butter. Reserve bacon for a special treat.
A lot of these recipes include vegetables, which helps turn your egg breakfast into a full meal.
Eggs are safe for most people with type 2 diabetes. You may be advised to limit consumption if you have difficulty controlling your cholesterol levels. Talk to your nutritionist about how many eggs you should eat per week.
Prepare your eggs in ways that avoid cheese, butter, and bacon as much as possible. Instead, pair them with vegetables and greens. Eggs are high in protein and nutrients, and very low in carbs, making them a great addition to your diet to help control your diabetes and get on with your life.
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