The Updated Egg: Less Cholesterol, But Is It a ‘Healthy’ Food?

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Tuesday that in its routine reevaluations of the nutritional content of foods, it discovered that domestic chicken eggs — which hadn’t been looked at since 2002 — has had something of a nutritional makeover.

Compared with the egg of 2002, the current-day egg has 14% less cholesterol and 64% more vitamin D. A large egg now has 185 mg of cholesterol and 41 IU of Vitamin D, down from 212 mg of cholesterol and up from 18 IU of Vitamin D. It also still contains 70 calories and 6 g of protein. (More on Is School Lunch Making Your Kids Fat?)

The American Egg Board attributes the changes to improvements in American farmers hen feed, which includes a vitamin D supplement.

That eggs have less cholesterol than before is good news, but does it mean you can eat more of them? According to the USDA’s recently updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the average adult should get no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day, so one egg still contains more than half the recommended daily amount. And honestly, who eats just one egg? (More on System Failure: Countries Too Slow To Identify and Treat High Cholesterol)

Still, as Jennifer LaRue Huget reasons over at the Washington Post‘s Checkup Blog:

The impact of dietary cholesterol consumption on blood cholesterol levels isn’t fully understood. It’s not clear that eating an egg now and then will affect your cholesterol one way or another. … On the other hand, even a single hard-boiled egg wouldn’t meet the standards The Washington Post follows for “healthy” recipes. Those criteria allow a serving of a main-course food to contain no more than 80 mg of cholesterol. A side dish, such as soup or salad, may contain only 40 mg.

Eggs may be healthier than we thought, but they’re still a food to enjoy in moderation. You can calculate your meal’s nutritional content using the USDA’s database tool.