Too much Cholesterol in Easter Eggs?
April 13th, 2017
After Lent, Easter is in the starting blocks, and along with it comes the time to feast. The egg is traditionally the main food of Easter and is often coupled with an egg hunt.
The origin of the egg hunt comes from the pagan tradition of gifting one another eggs with good fortunes written on them at Ostara (Easter). However, this was penalized by the church to replace old traditions with new religious customs. So that they would not be caught and penalized, people began to hide eggs for family and friends. This tradition, however, was then later taken over by the church to make converting to Christianity easier for the pagans. Eating eggs during Lent was also prohibited, so the eggs were hard-boiled so that they would remain edible until Easter Sunday. The symbolism and adoption of the egg during Easter time plays an important role. In many religions, the egg is seen as the origin of new life or rebirth. In Egypt, Phoenicia and Persia, the egg was previously seen as the origin of the world. In Rome and Greece eggs were dyed or painted during spring festivals and gifted to friends or family, or used in temples for decoration.
In more recent times, the egg has been brought into disrepute. Eggs raise the cholesterol level, therefore raising the risk of cardiovascular disease. An egg contains only 400 mg of cholesterol, of which only half is absorbed by the body. The largest portion of cholesterol that is stored in the blood vessels is produced by the body itself, with only a third coming from nutrition. Additionally, eggs contain many important vitamins, minerals, Iodine, valuable proteins and Lecithin, which improves memory and the development of nerve fibers, which are involved in the transmission of nerve impulses. The yellow of the egg is rich in valuable carotenoids, which can slow down the body’s aging process.
To determine if eggs will have an impact on the cholesterol level, the method of preparation is important: if fried in unsaturated fats such as plant oils, or in unhealthy saturated fats such as lard or butter, which can raise the cholesterol level. Many saturated fatty acids are found in meat, sausage and butter. When properly prepared, eggs are a part of a healthy diet. Eggs are especially filling due to their high protein content, thereby making an egg at breakfast-time helpful when trying to lose weight. Eggs are better than their reputation and are healthy when eaten in moderation—it is therefore okay to eat an extra egg or two at Easter!
However, this is not the case for chocolate eggs. Chocolate eggs should be enjoyed in moderation only, as 100 grams of chocolate contains approximately 500 kilocalories, thereby covering approximately a quarter of the day’s daily energy requirements. Chocolate eggs also contain a lot of sugar and fat. Chocolate is often wrongly advertised as healthy, which is referring only to the cocoa within the chocolate. Cocoa contains flavanols, which help make the blood vessels more elastic and can therefore mildly decrease blood pressure. However, it is important to note that this effect is mild. The largest percentage of flavanols is found in dark chocolate that contains at least 60% cocoa. There is now chocolate available with 85-90% cocoa. White chocolate, on the other hand, has no cocoa, as it contains only white cocoa butter (fat from the cocoa beans). A piece of chocolate is not bad when eaten occasionally, but if it is truly good for the heart is yet to be proven.
Those who want to lower their cholesterol level with the help of nutrition, and therefore reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, should eat a Mediterranean diet. This diet includes eating lots of vegetables, nuts and fish (salmon, tuna, herring), and avoiding foods such as meat, fried foods, carbohydrates, butter, lard, sugar and salt. The best foods to help lower the cholesterol are: oils such as olive oil, nut oil, sunflower seed oil, sesame oil, soybean oil or walnut oil, three teaspoons of flaxseed daily, garlic, ginger, green tea, flea seeds, chickpeas or walnuts.
Detailed information about cholesterol can be found in our specialty article Hyperlipidemia.