Updated: Jan 4
Eggs have received a lot of media attention over the years due to their potential impact on heart health. For decades, it was recommended that people limit their egg consumption due to the fact they contain dietary cholesterol. It seemed logical to think that as eggs contain cholesterol, eating a lot of eggs would raise blood cholesterol levels, and increase the risk of heart disease. Up-to-date research and the consensus from experts are that although eggs contain dietary cholesterol, it’s saturated fat (contained in foods such as pies, pastries, butter, and fatty cuts of meat) rather than cholesterol that significantly affects blood cholesterol levels. Generally, eggs are considered fine to eat as part of a healthy and varied diet.
Egg consumption and cancer risk
There have been several studies that have looked at the relationship between egg consumption and cancer risk. Overall, the research suggests that consuming eggs in moderation is not likely to increase the risk of cancer.
A U.S. study published in 2011 made media headlines as it proposed a link between eggs and prostate cancer. The findings of the study were that men who consumed 2.5 eggs or more a week had an 81 % increased risk of fatal prostate cancer compared to men who consumed less than half an egg a week. The World Cancer Research Fund provides a helpful review of the study here. It is important to note that this study was observational in nature and cannot establish a cause-and-effect relationship between egg consumption and prostate cancer. Additionally, other studies have not found a significant association between egg consumption and prostate cancer risk. More research is needed to fully understand the relationship between eggs and prostate cancer risk.
Nutritional research is an ongoing process, and it is not always possible to draw definitive conclusions about the health effects of specific foods based on a single study, or a small number of studies. Also, the media may be more likely to cover studies that have surprising or controversial findings, which can further contribute to the confusion about the health effects of eggs.
It is vital for all individuals, including those with prostate cancer, to follow a well-balanced and nourishing diet that meets their nutritional needs and considers any specific dietary recommendations or restrictions that may be necessary for their individual health situation. If you have prostate cancer and are wondering about your dietary needs, please get in touch for an assessment, or seek the advice of a nutrition professional experienced in supporting people with cancer.
Are eggs good to eat during cancer treatment?
Eating enough protein during cancer treatment is important to support healing and repair, and for maintaining strength and muscle mass. Including eggs in the diet can help to meet nutrient needs as:
Eggs are nutrient-dense. They contain high-quality protein (5-6g protein in a medium egg) and are rich in several vitamins and minerals such as iron, vitamin B12 and selenium. They’re one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D – essential to support the immune system, muscle strength, and bone health.
Egg dishes make a quick, easy, and versatile meal especially if you’re feeling tired. You can make a 'fridge-raid' omelette, or scrambled egg on toast with avocado in just a few minutes.
Protein-rich foods, like eggs, can play a supportive role in regulating blood sugar levels. Eating in a way that maintains a steady blood sugar level can help to reduce fatigue. According to Macmillan Cancer Support, as many as 90% of people with cancer experience cancer-related fatigue.
During cancer treatment, if you’re having problems with eating or are losing weight, you may need to change your diet to help manage your symptoms and ensure your nutritional needs are met. If your appetite is reduced, eating smaller portions more frequently may be beneficial. Snack meals like egg muffins, a boiled egg with baby spinach, avocado egg boats, or a small egg mayonnaise sandwich (made with yoghurt instead of mayo) may be more appealing than a larger meal. Eggs can also be used to ‘fortify’ meals, bolstering the protein and energy content. Try adding a beaten egg to soup or porridge at the end of cooking, or a poached egg on top of savoury dishes.
Can eggs be part of a cancer-protective diet?
Yes, eggs can be a part of a healthy diet to keep people nourished and supported beyond cancer. Wherever possible, consider ways to add more plants to your meals. Plants (vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds) contain an abundance of phytochemicals, as well as other important nutrients, and are considered “cancer-fighting foods”. Pretty much any vegetables you have on hand can be thrown into scrambled eggs or omelettes! Also try adding herbs, like chives.
A key recommendation for cancer prevention is to be a healthy body weight. Studies have shown that eating eggs for breakfast can help with achieving weight loss and fat loss goals. It is important to consider cooking methods and accompaniments. Fried eggs with sausages, bacon, and buttered white toast is not an ideal choice. Poached eggs served with tomatoes, mushrooms, avocado, and rye bread toast would be.
As an egg replacement in cooking and baking - use unsweetened apple sauce, mashed banana or avocado, silken tofu, ground flaxseed or chia seed with water, plain yoghurt or buttermilk, carbonated water, or nut butter.
If you would like nutrition support, advice, and encouragement, please get in touch with us at The Cancer Dietitian for a consultation. I would be delighted to help you.
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