Invisible Eggs

In the process of my husband’s recovery from a heart attack, he has been working hard at improving his diet and exercise habits. He’s also been going to Cardiac Rehab three days a week.  Near the end of the program, they sent him home with a survey to complete so that he and his instructors could see how his diet has changed.

Before the heart attack, my husband was eating a fairly healthful diet. Needless to say, I was curious to see how his survey would be “graded.” As he was completing the survey, one of the questions stood out to us both. It asked, “How many visible eggs have you eaten in the last week?”

This got him joking about “invisible eggs.” How could he eat an egg that he couldn’t see?

After some thought (and a few laughs), we realized that the questionnaire was really asking about the number of whole eggs he was eating.  These would be eggs eaten as scrambled eggs, over-easy, or even deviled eggs. This type of egg is easy to see and easy to count.

The other type of eggs, “invisible eggs,” must be the ones that are combined with other foods. You know, the eggs in cakes, cookies, meat loaf, crab cakes and combination foods. These are the eggs that you don’t see, and that makes them more difficult to count.

The American Heart Association recommends cutting back on foods that are high in dietary cholesterol. They say to eat less than 300 milligrams (mg) of dietary cholesterol each day. That’s been the recommendation for all Americans with normal blood cholesterol levels for at least 20 years. That’s nothing really new.

Research is still showing that diets high in dietary cholesterol do have an effect on blood cholesterol levels, especially LDL (a.k.a. “bad”) cholesterol. I have seen some recommendations for people with heart disease to try to keep this number to 200 mg a day — but no one has made that recommendation to us.

What does 200-300 mg of cholesterol per day look like? Not a lot.

A medium-sized egg has about 185 mg of cholesterol. A large egg has about 215 mg. Two eggs for breakfast would quickly wipe out the recommendation of less than 300 mg a day.

All the cholesterol in eggs is in the yolks.  Egg whites without the yolks are a heart-healthy protein.  We’ve gone to substituting liquid egg whites for most of the eggs we eat. In most recipes, two whites will equal a whole egg. Replacing an egg with egg whites also helps reduce total fat and total calories in the diet.

Baked goods and other foods often contain “invisible” eggs. Those “invisible” eggs count toward that 300 mg a day limit too.

Keep in mind that two eggs spread over 12 muffins or a whole cake don’t add up as quickly as those two eggs eaten sunny-side up.*

Remember, eggs are only part of the cholesterol equation. It’s also recommended for people with high blood cholesterol levels to reduce not only the amount of dietary cholesterol they eat but also reduce their saturated fat and trans fat consumption.  In addition to helping with the cholesterol levels, reducing saturated and trans fats can help with overall calories, getting people closer to meeting their weight loss goals. Family history and genetics also play a big role in blood cholesterol levels.

Like many folks with heart disease, my husband is also on a cholesterol-lowering drug.  His cardiac doctor is recommending them for at least a year for overall artery health.

Thinking that drugs are not the only answer, we’re being aware of all eggs — visible or invisible — for the long haul.

By Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University

Are you looking for ways to reduce cholesterol, saturated fat, or trans fat consumption? Check out these great resources!

How Much Fat is in That? Poster

Cholesterol 101 Education Bundle

Make the DASH: Heart Health Brochure

* The fat and sugar and other ingredients in that cake or muffins is another story for another day.

Eggnog issues

I’m really not trying to be a Scrooge, but I have food safety education issues with eggnog.

Traditionally eggnog is made by combining raw eggs with milk or cream, sugar, flavorings and perhaps alcohol. What could be wrong with that? Let me name a few issues.

Raw eggs—potential food-borne illness related to salmonella. This is especially risky for people with weaker immune systems such as children, the elderly and those with chronic illnesses.

Fat Calories—there are lots of calories in most eggnogs. Just ½ cup (yes, I’m talking just 4 ounces) of regular-store bought eggnog can have 180 calories with 80 of them from fat. Much of this fat is saturated and hits 25% of the % Daily Value for saturated fats real fast. Even the so-called “light” eggnogs can provide in the neighborhood of 110 calories for ½ cup.

Sugar Calories—on top of the fat calories there is lots of sugar in most store-bought eggnogs. They can have 4-5 teaspoons of sugar in that half a cup of eggnog.

A quick note: adding alcohol to eggnog cannot be relied upon to kill bacterial growth, which may be present in raw eggs.  Also, if  you’re thinking calories, just 1.5 ounces of rum (that’s one small shot glass) adds 97 more calories.

So, what’s a safer and more healthful alternative if you want to serve eggnog this year? There are several options:

#1 Buy commercially prepared eggnog in the dairy section of your grocery store. Most are, but make sure it has been made with pasteurized milk and eggs. This will reduce any food safety concerns. Just keep it refrigerated. Look for the lower fat and lower sugar versions in your store—they aren’t “no calorie” or even “low calorie” —but at least a little less.

#2 Use a recipe for cooked eggnog that makes a custard-like base that is made ahead and chilled. This will reduce the risk from the raw eggs. Your favorite spices and liqueurs can be added before serving.

#3 If you want to use a favorite family recipe that calls for uncooked eggs, substitute a pasteurized egg product. There are several pasteurized egg products on the market now; they can be whole eggs out-of-the shell or low-cholesterol egg white products. These items are all available pasteurized, meaning they have been heated thoroughly to kill any potential bacteria. Pasteurized egg products can usually be found in the dairy or freezer sections in the grocery store. (For more on pasteurized egg products check out

#4 Another option is to use pasteurized shell eggs. These are eggs that have been heated and pasteurized (but not cooked) while still in the shell. These eggs can be found along with regular eggs in the grocery store, but are usually more expensive. But the cost will be worth it if you prevent a food-borne illness of a family member or friend during the holidays.

#5 If you’re making your own eggnog, try using non-fat or low-fat milk or half-and-half (for more on half-and-half check out instead of the heavy cream. Artificial sugars will work great in an unheated beverage such as this, perhaps give them a try.

#6 Limit the amount you drink.

I know a cup of eggnog is a must for some families and special gatherings and I’m not recommending that you skip this tradition— I’m just suggesting you re-think what you’ve always done.

That doesn’t make me a Scrooge does it?

Disclaimer: although we have pictured Trader Joe’s Eggnog products here, we are not receiving any compensation. There are many other brands of both regular and “light” products available.

Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS

Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University