Why eggs definitely come first!

Monday, March 27, 2017. Author Martin Cheifetz

Never has such a perfect food source caused such controversy and angst. Eggs have been vilified for their cholesterol content, their fat content, for their part in animal cruelty, for the spread in salmonella, not to mention the mess they make when the carton drops on your kitchen floor or takes a tumble in the trunk of your car. Scooping aside the broken eggs (as there’s really no debate about the negativity here), let’s take a quick look at some of the common causes for concern around egg consumption.

Cholesterol

It is absolutely true that eggs are high in cholesterol. For full disclosure, I am 50…..and for most of my adult life, the generally accepted medical wisdom was that food high in dietary cholesterol caused high levels of blood cholesterol and high levels of blood cholesterol caused heart disease (given that I grew up in a somewhat neurotic family, the rest of the equation progressed to: heart disease causes death and therefore, eggs cause death). However, in the last 10-15 years, the first part of this equation has been proven to be false (e.g. - foods high in dietary cholesterol elevate cholesterol levels in the blood). Eating 3 eggs per day is perfectly healthy as part of a balanced diet.

In my case, I have eaten 3-6 free range eggs every day for the last 3 years and my blood cholesterol levels have actually decreased. I am not alone in enjoying this health benefit as several large studies have shown that eggs elevate HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol) and decrease LDL (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) levels. This is largely thanks to eggs’ high Omega 3 content, and in this and other regards, free range eggs are far more advantageous than cage or barn eggs, but more on that later.

Fat

Yes, it is absolutely true that eggs are high in fat (all of which comes from the yolk). In fact, a hard boiled large egg contains about 78 calories and about 62% of this comes from the 5.3 grams of fat (5.3 grams of fat x 9 calories = 47.7 kcal). There’s about 1 gram of carbohydrate (4 kcal and 5% of the total) plus 6.3 grams of protein (6.3 gms x 4 kcal = 25.2 kcal or 32%). The egg whites are pure protein and the yolks are pure fat….hence the inglorious rise of the low-fat egg white omelette, egg substitutes, etc. during the low fat diet trend that has been one of many significant contributors to the obesity crisis in many Western countries. 

Here’s the deal with the fat in the yolks: firstly, if you’re eating free range eggs and preferably eggs that are Omega 3 enriched (via the diet that is fed to the free range chickens that lay the free range eggs); they are very high in Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3’s are the same good fats found in salmon, mackerel, sardines, walnuts, flax, chia seeds and other foods known to be “heart healthy".

Secondly, the yolks are also an excellent source of powerful antioxidants called carotenoids. In particular, the yolks are loaded with Lutein and Zeaxanthin, both of which are widely known for their role in promoting eye health and preventing cataracts and macular degeneration. These 2 important carotenoids are also excellent for the health of your skin.

Thirdly, the high fat and high protein content increases satiety levels, places eggs low on the glycemic index, and helps regulate blood glucose levels, all of which mean they’re more filling and will hopefully stave off snacking and help control your weight.

A moral issue?

As far as the animal cruelty argument goes….well, let’s face it, an egg is an unborn chicken (or duck or goose or quail or ostrich, etc). Some people may understandably find that unappealing. Other people may argue that the way chickens (and therefore eggs) are raised is cruel. Here’s the thing….there’s a big difference between free range eggs and cage or barn eggs. Free range eggs are from free range chickens. Free range chickens are “happy, healthy” birds who can roam around freely, flap their wings, groom themselves, eat good food and lay good, healthy, nutrient dense eggs.

As with anything in life, the higher the quality, the higher the cost, and free range chickens and free range eggs are unquestionably more expensive than cage eggs. Due to their confined, and arguably “unhappy unhealthy” upbringing, cage bred birds and their eggs have a far higher level of salmonella and other diseases, and are really best avoided. If you can afford it, definitely spend the extra money on free-range chicken and eggs! If you can’t spend any extra money, have one less beer or glass of wine when you’re out with your friends and you’ll be better off on two fronts: a better diet, and less alcohol ruining your hard training and clean eating.

Adding eggs to your diet

My colleague Leilah has conjured up another beautiful recipe this week….a delicious beany green and egg salad, and I’ll share a few of my favorite ways to incorporate all of the nutrient goodness of eggs into your daily diet. If you have 5 extra minutes in the morning to make a cooked breakfast, 3 eggs scrambled (or over easy) with whatever other healthy ingredients you have left-over from dinner the night before (your leftover meat, fish, vegetables, Chinese takeout, etc) served on top of a handful of baby spinach leaves is an excellent way to start your day. I always cook more food than I need at dinner time, because it allows me to have an easy and nutritious breakfast and lunch the day after, eliminating the need for cheap and nasty food on the run. 

If you don’t have 5 extra minutes to chop a left over chicken breast and cook it with a scrambled egg and spinach, the easiest option is to boil 6 or 12 eggs at once, cool them down, peel them and stick them in your fridge. Then take 2 or 3 hard boiled eggs with you on your morning commute or to the office for a snack and you’re getting a nutrient dense, inexpensive convenience food that could not be easier to prepare.

Nutritional value

Eggs are pretty much the perfect food. Here’s why...

A single large boiled egg contains approximately 78 calories consisting of:

Approximately 6.3 grams of protein, 5.3 grams of fat, and 1.0 gram of carbohydrate

  • Choline: 35% of the Daily Value (DV) - very important for brain and liver function.
  • Selenium: 28% of the DV - a powerful antioxidant and also important for your eyes.
  • Biotin: 27% of the DV - good for regulating insulin response.
  • Vitamin B12: 23% of the DV - B vitamins are essential for numerous bodily processes.
  • Vitamin B2: 20% of the RDA.
  • Eggs also contain decent amounts of Vitamin A & D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamins B5 and B6, Folate, Phosphorus, Calcium, and Zinc.

The genetics

Now, understanding your genetics can play a key role in knowing if and how much you would benefit from the consumption of eggs. 

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