Are eggs bad for you, good for you, or somewhere in between?
The answer will be different depending on when you live. I was raised eating lots of eggs in the 50s but was taught they were bad for you in nursing school in the 70s and carried that thinking into my job as a heart nurse. For the past 4 decades or so, those in the health industry strongly recommended limiting eggs in the diet because of the amount of cholesterol in the yolks, even promoting crazy products such as Eggbeaters.
In 2013, a Harvard study said ‘yes’ to eggs. Now it looks like the good old egg may not be the cholesterol demon it’s been made out to be.
Now they say eggs are amazingly healthful.
From the American Heart Assn: A study published in the journal Heart (read the conclusion) found that an egg a day just may keep the doctor away. Another study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating at least 12 eggs a week for three months did not increase cardiovascular risk factors.
How did eggs get so controversial in the first place?
A lot of it has to do with thinking on cholesterol. A large egg contains about 185 mg of cholesterol. And since the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a limit of 300 mg per day, they assumed if you ate two eggs and you’d exceed that limit. But the AHA assumed wrong. The body doesn’t work that way.
You see, your body makes cholesterol. Lots of it, in fact. Every day you produce between 1 and 2 grams of it on your own. (That’s 5-10 times the cholesterol in a large egg.)
Come to find out there is a paradoxical association:
When you eat more cholesterol from foods like eggs, your liver makes less of it. And when you eat less cholesterol from foods like eggs, your liver makes more.
And the American Heart Association advises eating the yolks: “There’s other good things in the yolk that you’re going to miss out on if you don’t have the yolk.” While most of the protein in an egg is found in the white, the fat, vitamins and minerals are found mostly in the yolk.
How Eggs Help You
There are two types of cholesterol. LDL (“bad”) and HDL (“good”). The latest research repeatedly shows that cholesterol in eggs do not negatively affect the cholesterol levels in the blood. They actually raise HDL (good) levels and increase the size of small (bad) LDL to make them more benign.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, and this keeps bones and teeth strong. Vitamin D (which is really a steroid hormone) protects against heart disease, autoimmune diseases and infections. It may even help improve your mood!
- One typical egg yolk from chickens raised indoors contains 18–39 IU of vitamin D, which isn’t very high (7, 24).
- However, pasture-raised chickens that roam outside in the sunlight produce eggs with levels 3–4 times higher (25).
They naturally contain small amounts of DHA, but new DHA enriched eggs can contain up to 57 mg. of DHA per egg.
The antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin (contained in eggs in high levels) help your eyes by protecting your retinas from age-related eye disorders like macular degeneration and cataracts. They safeguard your eyes from harmful UV rays from the sun.
Proteins are the building blocks of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. Protein is also essential for energy. Eggs pack so much, they are the standard by which protein is measured in other foods. Eggs provide a complete protein as they contain all of the essential amino acids.
Choline is abundant in yolks, one yolk delivering about 215 mg. Choline is required to make acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter. It’s involved in memory, muscle movement, regulating heartbeat. In pregnancy, it lowers the risk of abnormalities in the developing baby.
Eggs are the healthiest, full-range nutritive food on the planet. When consuming eggs, you get phosphorus for your bones, iron for your blood and essential fatty acids for your brain. Minerals and nutrients include magnesium, vitamin A, the B vitamins, selenium, and calcium.
One study showed that women who ate eggs for breakfast ended up eating less food for the next 36 hours. Another study found that on a calorie-restricted diet, those who ate two for breakfast lost more weight, lowered their BMI, reduced their waist size and decreased their overall body fat. Low in calories and nutrient rich, they cause you to feel fuller, faster and longer.
Do you remember Jordan Rubin from the Maker’s Diet? He almost died from out-of-control Crohn’s disease, malabsorption of nutrients and loss of much of his bowel. Jordan outlines a holistic approach to health that includes a biblically-inspired diet rich in whole foods from organically grown sources.
How many eggs should you eat?
In the past, most doctors would have told you to eat only 2-6 eggs (yolks) per week. But there was no scientific support for this! Recent research results give the green light to eat up to three eggs a day. There are no scientific studies to show the effects, good or bad, of eating more than three a day.
Where should you buy your eggs?
At the supermarket, avoid lower quality brands from chickens raised in factories and fed grain-based (usually GMO) feeds to get the maximum benefits. You get the most bang for your buck with Omega-3 enriched, organic (from hens eating non-GMO grain) or eggs from hens that were free-range. To get these, try your local health food store, Trader Joe’s, Fresh Thyme, etc. before going to a big supermarket, although many now carry a higher quality brands due to demand. Be on the lookout for a good local source.
How much should you pay?
Yes, authentically free-range, Omega-3 enriched or organic eggs will cost more, but the price is still low for this nutrient-packed food. Even if a carton costs $4.50- $5.00, the dozen will provide several meals and are quite a value.
I feel terrible that I was part of a system that gave poor advice to my patients. But now I can make up for it!
Remember, your liver produces large amounts of cholesterol. When eating cholesterol-rich foods such as eggs, your liver balances it by producing less. Anyway do eat from happy hens that free-range in the sunlight.
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Thanks for reading!