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Are eggs back on the table?

Many were shocked by the recently released 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and its position on dietary cholesterol. Namely, that there wasn’t one.

The report states that cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for Americans, while it continues to advocate for reductions in added sugars, saturated fat and sodium.

For decades, health professionals have dutifully recommended that our clients avoid dietary cholesterol in the name of heart health. At the same time, evidence has accumulated to show that dietary cholesterol wasn’t implicated in rising levels of blood cholesterol across the continent. To the generation raised to fear a two-egg breakfast, the news might come as quite a surprise: eggs are back.

This reversal is a long time coming for some health professionals, who quote the lack of response to dietary cholesterol reductions.

This may seem counterintuitive. The main driver of blood cholesterol levels is, in fact, the liver’s production of the stuff.

Your body is responsible for perhaps 85% of your blood cholesterol levels with the rest attributed to diet. And the main dietary driver of blood cholesterol is not dietary cholesterol–it’s saturated fat– found in eggs, dairy, coconut and meat. As saturated fat intake increases, so may cholesterol–but the ultimate outcome for your heart is not as predictable.

Other news from the 2015 recommendations includes a focus on sustainability and overall dietary patterns. A plant-based diet has been recommended in the name of sustainability, which means the trend towards vegan products will not be going anywhere, anytime soon.

Organic foods will enjoy positioning as a more environmentally friendly choice–and sustainable seafood options benefit from both their role in a healthy dietary pattern and being an eco-friendly choice. In addition, the recommendations named three optimal dietary patterns: a ‘healthy’ American diet; a ‘healthy’ Mediterranean diet; and a ‘healthy’ vegetarian diet – the first time a vegetarian dietary pattern has been described in these regulations.

What does this mean for retailers? A lot more marketing for eggs in the coming year, to be sure. But, as a dietitian, I hope that the messages to eat whole foods, more fruits and vegetables and to focus on overall healthy diet (instead of single nutrients) will resonate most with consumers.

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