Yolks & Good & Bad Cholesterol

Reader Maggie (nice coincidence!) writes that she’d love to make Gold Cake but that she’s in the habit of avoiding egg yolks because they’re fatty and contain cholesterol. Can I talk her down off the ledge? Maggie, I blogged about egg nutrition not too long ago, but this is a subject that bears repetition. So hear goes!

It’s very true that the yolk of an egg contains 75% of the egg’s calories, 50% of the protein and all of the fat. However for all that, the vast majority of the yolk is composed of water. A myth about egg yolks is that they’re very fatty. That’s not the case, as eggs are actually quite lean. Or lean-ish. A yolk contains just five grams of fat, about as much as a small pat of butter you’d put on your toast, but only a fraction of that fat is saturated (the so-called “bad fat”).

True, egg yolks have gotten a bad rap in the past as a result of the relatively high amount of low density lipoproteins (LDL’s) they contain, and those structures have cholesterol within them. Lately the reputation of egg yolks has been rehabilitated, however, as more studies are showing that high cholesterol levels are more a factor of the way our bodies work than the food we eat. Which is to say, the human body produces quite a lot of cholesterol as part of normal metabolism. When that system starts over-producing that’s when you’ve got a problem. The cholesterol we eat, more studies are revealing, adds only a little to what we make ourselves.

All that said, a cake that contains lots of yolks — even twelve — looks pretty darn healthy, especially when you consider there’s no more added fat in the form of either butter or oil. Eat, Maggie…eat!

15 thoughts on “Yolks & Good & Bad Cholesterol”

  1. Well said Joe. My husband (not overweight and has a healthy diet and lifestyle) has high cholesterol was told by his specialist that you don’t get high cholesterol from eating cholesterol.

  2. Don’t forget, people on low fat diets tend to have more cholesterol problems due to eating low fat products, which tend to be laden with sugar to make up for the fat. I’d rather eat a egg with “bad” fat (I swear, eggs are on a see saw- one day good, the next day bad, I think of them as pretty unprocessed and love em) Than eat some “low fat high sugar” monstrosity. I’ve edged farther and farther away from processed foods as I’ve grown older, and sugar along with it. (tea with my sugar as a teen? Now, only tea 99% of the time) My achilles tendon is of course white bread and the like, when made well, no wonderbread for me anymore. As well as cakes and cookies and stuff. But not all the time. I’m a very strange american.

  3. Very well done! I didn’t think you could argue that through nutrition, but you did!

    1. I did my best, Jenn. See Sam’s comment for more information!


      – Joe

  4. Here, here! Love eggs and those yolks are amazing. I’m living proof you can eat them coming out your ears and still be very healthy. I eat a minimum of 14 a week at the moment. HA. That should raise some eyebrows and freak out the egg bashers. I have also heard that the whites negate some of the negative aspects of the fat in the yolk. Not sure if that part is true but eggs are amazing with all their nutrition in one little item. Probably everyone shouldn’t eat 14 eggs a week but wouldn’t some of you like to?? 🙂 Great blog, Joe!!

  5. I know this isn’t the place to expect a rigorous explanation of cholesterol metabolism, but, whilst the thrust of your message is broadly correct, some of the above is a little muddled. Science has known for a very long time (30+ years) that the impact of dietary cholesterol on health has been grossly overstated. However, the dietary-medical-industrial complex (for want of a better term) has continued to push this specious nonsense, such that it is now firmly embedded in the public consciousness with little chance of it being disabused any time soon.

    If anyone is interested in learning more about cholesterol and its health implications, I can highly recommend Peter Attia’s excellent series of blog posts (10 parts, I think). Whilst it may not be for the casual reader, if you make it to the end then you’ll not only have earned your gold star but you’ll know more about the subject than just about anyone you meet – and that includes your doctor.

    Sorry about the rant, but the revolution has to start somewhere!! 😉

    1. Sam, muddled isn’t the worst thing I’ve been called today. Thanks for the comment!

      – Joe

  6. …and who paid for these studies? The way different foods get tossed back and forth as good and evil and back again, makes me suspicious. Especially concerns me when the medical community doesn’t change their stance on how much is too much fat or sugar or salt or alcohol or eggs or dairy or red meat…etc. Why do you suppose that is? Why aren’t they buying into all of these “studies”?

      1. My grandfather was a doctor from around 1914-1967 (he retired in his 80’s). He believed diet had a strong effect on health. He pushed moderation, saying over-consumption of anything causes imbalances. I think I posted before that he once figured – based on two breakfast eggs every day and all the eggs in various recipes – he’d had between fifteen and twenty thousand eggs and that he’d probably die soon. He did, two years later, at 102.

  7. YAY!

    A friend of mine just recommended your blog to me, then I saw this post. SING IT. I’ve been saying this for years, just not as eloquently.

    Thanks, and I look forward to being a part of your community.

    1. Ha!

      Thanks! And welcome, Patricia. Nice to have you aboard! Please check in often, as I’m mostly around and always happy to answer questions about anything you find on the blog. Cheers,

      – Joe

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