High quality protein in eggs makes them a great choice in a carbohydrate-controlled diet.
The nutritional benefits of eggs have been well established, despite their dietary cholesterol content. In fact, the forthcoming Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 may no longer restrict dietary cholesterol intake, as experts agree that it’s no longer a “nutrient of concern.” However, researchers have questioned the consumption of eggs in the type 2 diabetes (T2D) population. For example, as part of the Health Professional’s Follow-up Study, Hu et al. (1999) noted a two-fold increased risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) in men with T2D who consumed more than one egg per week, and 49% increased risk in CHD in women with T2D in the Nurses’ Health Study. Another study, published in 2009, looked at the relationship between egg intake and the risk for developing T2D; the authors suggested that an intake of one egg per day was linked to an increased risk for T2D diabetes (Djousse, 2009).
Newer research, however, seems to refute, or at least challenge both of these concerns. A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February of this year concluded that:
“High egg consumption did not have an adverse effect on the lipid profile of people with T2D in the context of increased MUFA and PUFA consumption.” (Fuller, 2015)
Furthermore, the study’s authors noted that eggs can safely be included in the eating plans of people who have T2D, and doing so may provide greater satiety. In addition to increasing satiety, eggs and other high protein foods may help people with T2D more easily achieve hemoglobin A1C targets. A higher protein intake is also beneficial in the context of weight reduction: aiming for approximately 20-30% of calories from protein may reduce hunger, increase thermogenesis and limit the loss of muscle mass in conjunction with a lower-calorie eating plan and physical activity (Hamdy, 2011).
Of note, another recent study also published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that men who ate approximately four eggs per week had a 37 percent lower risk of T2D compared with men who ate just one egg per week (Virtanen, 2015). Several reasons may explain this, including the fact that eggs contain many beneficial nutrients that could improve glucose metabolism and low-grade inflammation, thereby lowering risk of T2D.
How, then, do eggs fit into a diabetes eating plan or an eating plan aimed at diabetes prevention? First, it’s important to dispel the misconceptions that many people (and not just those who have diabetes) have about eggs: that they’re high in cholesterol and eating them will raise blood cholesterol levels, increasing the risk for CHD. Second, because of their high-quality protein, eggs easily fit into an eating plan that contains a moderate amount of carbohydrate and is calorie-controlled. One large egg contains just 70 calories and 6 grams of protein, yet it contains less than 0 grams of carbohydrate. Including eggs at any meal, not just breakfast, can help individuals with type 2 diabetes boost their protein intake, thus increasing satiety, without exceeding their carbohydrate goal for a meal or for the day. Finally, eggs make an ideal snack: they’re portion-controlled, low in carbohydrate and high in protein, convenient and portable.
Take a look at a video Amy made at the Culinary Institute of America demonstrating how to make a simple, quick Baked Egg Muffin with Black Beans and Swiss Chard.
Hu FB, MJ Stamfer, EB Rimm EB et al. “A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women.” JAMA 1999;281:1387-1384.
Djousse L, MJ Gaziano, JE Buring et al. “Egg consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in men and women.” Diabetes Care 2009;32:295-300.
Fuller NR, ID Caterson, A Sainsbury et al. “The effect of a high-egg diet on cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes: the Diabetes and Egg (DIABEGG) study – a 3-mo randomized controlled trial.” Am J Clin Nutr 2015 101:705-13.
Virtanen JK, J Mursu, TP Tuomainen et al. “Egg consumption and risk of incident type 2 diabetes in men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study.” Am J Clin Nutr 2015;101:1088-96.
Hamdy O and ES Horton. “Protein content in diabetes nutrition plan.” Curr Diab Rep 2011;11:111-9.
Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, is a nutritionist specializing in diabetes management and is part of the Egg Nutrition Center Health Professional Advisory Board for which she receives compensation in exchange for contributing to this blog. However, all opinions reflected in this post are the authors.