Q: My 8yr old son loves eggs. He is physically fit and stays very active. If he had his way he'd eat 4 eggs a day. Is it safe for him to eat eggs for breakfast each day? How many can he eat without worrying about his cholesterol?
A: Eggs are a great source of high quality protein. They supply essential amino acids—the building blocks of protein needed from the diet (as they can’t be made by the body). They also provide several vitamins and minerals: vitamin A (important for healthy eyes, bones, and teeth), vitamin D (also supports healthy bones and teeth), choline (important for brain function and heart health) and selenium (important for thyroid function).
Besides their many virtues, eggs are also a source of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat—things we’re encouraged to limit in our diets to keep our hearts healthy. One large egg has 186 milligrams of cholesterol and almost 5 grams of total fat (1.5 grams of saturated fat). The American Heart Association currently recommends less than 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol each day (less than 200 milligrams a day for those with heart disease or elevated LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels). Although evidence shows that, among healthy adults, consuming one egg per day isn’t associated with risk of coronary heart disease or stroke, consuming more than seven eggs per week does appear to be associated with an increased risk.
The bottom line is that more may not be better when it comes to eggs—or any one food for that matter. It’s good to mix up foods within each food group because they all have different combinations of nutrients. Having no more than an average of one egg a day (from egg dishes, but don't forget to count foods made with eggs, including baked goods, meatballs, meatloaf or breaded fish or chicken) and consuming mostly low fat versions of animal foods (including dairy, meats, and poultry) are good ways to keep your son’s dietary cholesterol and saturated fat intake at bay. Also, especially because your son is growing and developing, it’s wise to offer him small amounts of other protein foods (that contain different combinations of nutrients) as well each day. According to MyPlate, besides eggs, protein foods include seafood, poultry, nuts and seeds, soy foods, and red meat.
When you do offer your son eggs, you can add bulk them up (and make him feel like he’s having more!) with non-fat milk when you make scrambled eggs or omelets. Or you can use several egg whites (that contain the protein without the cholesterol or fat) and only one whole egg—a good way to increase protein and decrease dietary cholesterol and saturated fat.