Eggs have been part of our diet for millennia, literally since the beginning of the modern humans. Eggs are protein powerhouses, but in recent years, they have become associated with high cholesterol and heart disease. Is this bad reputation entirely deserved?
At first it was a matter of ease and convenience – collecting eggs was easy. Today we know better: the egg is one of nature’s most nutritious foods, which can enhance the overall nutrient density of a diet. Here’s why:
Eggs Are Like a Multivitamin with Minerals
Eggs have lots of nutrients that help to maintain good health. When asked to name one key nutrient found in eggs, most people would probably say ‘protein’. And indeed, the protein in eggs is considered to be of the highest quality compared to other foods. We need protein for a strong immune system to help us to stay well. In addition, protein is a primary component of our hair, skin, red blood cells, and even our bones, which makes a good source of protein, like eggs, a crucial part of our daily diet.
But there’s more to eggs than just protein. Here’s what else they have inside that thin white (or brown) shell:
- Choline: An important nutrient involved in learning and memory development
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: These help to preserve vision by reducing the risk of macular degeneration
- Vitamin A: Critical for a healthy immune and its ability to fight infection, not to mention to prevent night blindness.
Overall, the humble 80-calorie egg has decent amounts of 14 essential vitamins and minerals needed for health and wellness, including the above, as well as vitamin B2, B12, folate, biotin, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, and more.
Not only do eggs pack a lot of nutrition, but the nutrients in eggs are absorbed much more efficiently than they are from plant foods. Better yet, the egg can be effectively fortified with various nutrients, by simply adding sources or precursors to the feed of the laying hen. This canserve to either increase the nutrients they contain naturally, or to make them a source of additional nutrients, such as vitamin D. Eggs can even be fortified with omega-3 fatty acids! By simply feeding the hen a vegetal source of omega 3, such as flaxseed, the eggs she lays generate the same type of this important nutrient as found in fish oil!
What About Dietary Cholesterol?
Despite these stellar qualities, eggs have had their fair share of tainted reviews, focusing mostly on blood cholesterol levels and a possible role in cardiovascular disease. More recently, people have shunned eggs due to the high omega-6 fatty acid content of regular eggs.
It’s true: eggs are rich in cholesterol. However, a direct relationship between the amount of cholesterol eaten and the amount of cholesterol in the blood has been found in only about one-third of the population – meaning that for the majority of us, this is not a concern. However, for nearly two-thirds of the population, there is no direct connection between the amount of cholesterol eaten and the amount of cholesterol in the blood. That means, for most of us, the amount of cholesterol in our food does NOT impact our blood cholesterol levels.
One exception is for those with familial hypercholesterolemia, a rare genetic disorder in which LDL cholesterol is not cleared from the blood. For people with this condition, dietary cholesterol from all sources is aggressively restricted in an attempt to minimize any impact on blood levels in this unusual situation. If this disorder runs in your family, you would have been told about it at a very early age. Other individuals with pre-existing cardiovascular disorders or diabetes (or are at risk for diabetes), are typically advised to limit dietary cholesterol and particularly eggs. For the rest of us, there’s no need to restrict dietary cholesterol or nutrient-dense foods rich in cholesterol such as eggs. This is the position of the Harvard School of Public Health after having reviewed the best research on the topic and concluding that eating eggs does not increase the risk for cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke). Therefore, eggs can be part of a healthy daily diet.
If you’re still worried about cholesterol, here’s a role eggs can play: the concentrated omega-6 fatty acid content found in most industrially-produced eggs can cause cholesterol in the blood to oxidize. You can reduce your risk by eating modified eggs, including those fortified with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, or eggs from free-range, grass-fed laying hens.
Eggs Are Very Versatile
Eggs can be used almost anywhere. A hard or soft-boiled egg can accompany almost any breakfast. As well, a hard-boiled egg makes an easy and portable snack to be eaten anytime or as an add-on to any lunch. Speaking of lunch, egg salad sandwiches are a classic, and hard-boiled eggs can be sliced and tossed into a salad. They help to boost the protein and nutrient content of meals such as pasta, legumes, or grain-based salads. Both whole eggs and pasteurized egg whites can be used to make omelettes, and whole eggs, with their nutrient-rich yolks, are the foundation for quiches, frittatas, and baked goods. The ideas are virtually endless.
Eggs are nutritious, delicious, and versatile, packing a lot of goodness into a very small package. If you select your eggs with care, you can put many of the classic concerns about cholesterol to rest. And the Trim Down Club makes it easy to include eggs in your diet with the with the Personal Menu Planner. Plus, the Trim Down Club has a wide variety of recipes showcasing eggs, including delicious omelettes, quiches, salads and more – all of which are optimized to help you burn fat while delighting your taste buds.
While eggs are a great breakfast or anytime food, there are other foods that you may be eating every day that are harming your health and causing you to gain weight.