Eggs: Isn’t everyone eating too many?

Eggs: Isn’t everyone eating too many?
Photo Credit: Old Chang Kee

Photo Credit: Old Chang Kee

The Health Promotion Board (HPB) recommends that Singaporeans eat no more than four eggs yolks per week.  Eggs are not consumed as eggs alone but also found in cakes, kaya spread and local dishes like mee rebus, Chinese style hor fun, nasi lemak, kway chap and roti prata. With eggs being so versatile, one might find it challenging to avoid consuming it on a daily basis. With that in mind, an average Singaporean would most certainly exceed the recommended limit, which begs the question - is four eggs per week the maximum we should consume or we can push this limit further?

Ms Carmen Wong, a dietitian from Sengkang Health, commented on our question on whether the recommended egg intake limit is outdated and how does our lifestyle affect that limit.

HPB’s limitation of 4 egg yolks per week takes into account the common recommendation for cholesterol intake of 300mg/day which is the average essential consumption of dietary cholesterol from our daily diet. We ought to remember that there are many other sources of cholesterol other than eggs – chicken, beef, fish, prawns and squids, just to name a few. The recommended egg intake limit may or may not be outdated but it is a reasonable limit to help control our dietary cholesterol intake around 300mg. The new U.S. 2015 Dietary Guidelines no longer place a quantitative limit on the consumption of dietary cholesterol, however, the guidelines did illustrate that a healthy eating pattern consists of approximately 100-300mg of cholesterol across different calorie levels.

- Ms Carmen Wong, Dietitian, Sengkang Health

According to the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, in 2010, an average Singaporean consumes 320 eggs per year. You might not think that you have eaten that many eggs, but then you might start to realise just where all the eggs could come from. Salted egg yolks anyone?

Photo Credit: Stephanie Chua via burpple/Melissa Koh via burpple/sgfoodonfoot

Photo Credit: Stephanie Chua via burpple/Melissa Koh via burpple/sgfoodonfoot

The salted egg yolk craze is the most recent egg-based obsession that had taken over the Singapore culinary scene in creative ways that only Oreos lovers would know how. From crabs to croissants to chips, we are eating it in almost any way possible. And the numbers add up pretty quickly when you couple that with the usual sunny side ups and scrambled eggs.

What’s more, salted egg yolks contain not only double the amount of dietary cholesterol in normal hen’s egg but are also very high in salt content which should be alarming to those who have high blood pressure, heart problems or kidney problems.

- Ms Carmen Wong, Dietitian, Sengkang Health

But does that necessarily mean that you are leading an unhealthy lifestyle – that this indulgence is just a one-way road straight to the hospital and a diagnosis of high blood cholesterol? Not really.

We have to remember that at the end of the day, all of these recommendations are based on averages, and your lifestyle choices and underlying medical conditions do significantly influence your flexibility when it comes to diet (although we recommend you should avoid having salted eggs given its higher dietary cholesterol and high salt content).

So to answer the question of “are you overeating eggs?” We will have to define “you”. Here are some facts to give you some perspective. And as mentioned previously, the average healthy Singaporean should limit their intake to four egg yolks per week. Those with high cholesterol should limit their intake to two egg yolks per week. As for bodybuilders and other active Singaporeans…

Body builders and very active individuals have higher energy and protein requirements due to their increased metabolic needs associated with their regular workout. However, this does not mean a higher limit of egg intake is justified. 

This population should still follow the recommended egg consumption limit and consume adequate protein from various other food sources such as lean meat, fish, nuts and low-fat dairy products. One should not limit protein sources to just eggs.

- Ms Carmen Wong, Dietitian, Sengkang Health

So, depending on your current state of health and lifestyle choices, you may or may not be eating too many eggs, but experts like Ms Carmen Wong believe that it is better to focus on saturated fat and trans fat intake rather than the eggs themselves.

Many people forget that blood cholesterol is affected by a multitude of factors, including saturated fat intake, trans fat intake, age and genetics.

In fact, the strongest dietary determinant of elevated LDL-cholesterol concentrations is dietary saturated fat and trans fat intakes. Saturated fat can be found in fatty meat, lard, ghee, skin of poultry, full cream dairy products and any food/dishes containing these. Trans fat can be found in pastries, commercially deep-fried food and products containing vegetable shortening and partially hydrogenated oils.

- Ms Carmen Wong, Dietitian, Sengkang Health

You may ask; what is LDL-cholesterol? Well, recent research has shown that not all cholesterol are the same. There are “bad” cholesterol, a.k.a. LDL-cholesterol, and “good” cholesterol”, a.k.a. HDL-cholesterol. In fact, studies and observations point out that HDL-cholesterol actually helps protects us from against heart diseases and stroke – the exact opposite effect of LDL-cholesterol. Who would have known?

There is simply not enough evidence to show that limiting dietary cholesterol can bring down LDL-cholesterol. However, foods rich in dietary cholesterol are mostly rich in saturated fats, therefore people with high blood cholesterol levels or high risk of having high blood cholesterol levels are still advised to limit their cholesterol intake to no more than 300mg per day.

- Ms Carmen Wong, Dietitian, Sengkang Health

A thought occurred while writing this article. Maintaining a healthy diet can be complicated given that there are many perspectives on this. . What is truth and what is misconception? Sometimes it is difficult to determine. And yet, with the speed of knowledge and advances in understanding, the foundational truth still holds – one that you would find in almost all health and diet related articles, and one that you would also find here. 

That at the end of the day, it is about knowing yourself better and making wiser decisions because of it.

 


This series is made possible through our collaboration with Sengkang Health, a SingHealth institution that aims to build a community compact for a healthier Northeast. We have worked with the doctors of Sengkang Health in creating this health series. Let us know if you want to see more similar content in the comment section below and check out the other articles of this 6-part series.