The egg. A simple, inexpensive food that comes packaged in its own protective shell. For over forty years we’ve come to believe that eggs can be harmful due to their cholesterol content. We’ve overwhelmingly received the message that eating eggs can dangerously raise our cholesterol, and high cholesterol can lead to heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. But in 2015, the court of medical opinion is changing. Is it possible that we misjudged the egg?
Primo Source of Protein
Eggs are an important source of high quality protein. High biological value protein (HBV) means that the egg contains all of the essential amino acids; amino acids that cannot be produced in the body and must be obtained from food.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein of the body.
On the scale used to assess the quality of protein, egg protein gets the highest rating: 100. As such, egg protein is the gold standard against which other proteins are judged. Egg protein is easily digested, of high biological value, and easily utilized. Eggs are a wonderful protein source.
Most of the protein in an egg is in the egg white, but there is some protein in the yolk, too. Egg protein is rich in leucine; an essential amino acid that helps the muscles uptake glucose during exercise and recover after exercise.
This is why egg protein is advantageous to athletes undergoing endurance training as well as the everyday exerciser who seeks to improve health and wellness with their exercise routine.
Egg protein may be healthy for Seniors
Some research addresses the fact that as people age, they naturally lose muscle mass and strength. Many lose muscle mass and gain fat tissue. Whereas in the past, this muscle and strength loss was pinned to the fact that older people may be less physically active, new research suggests that decreased protein intake can also be a reason for declining muscle mass and strength in the aging population. It may be possible that a focus on HBV protein, like the protein in eggs, can help prevent the breakdown of muscle in the elderly.
Increasing HBV protein (as in egg whites) and staying as active as possible can improve the strength of seniors.
The cost of protein:
Eggs are an inexpensive protein source. A large egg contains the protein of an ounce of meat, fish, or poultry. The cost of egg protein is less than these high quality protein sources.
Costing less than a quarter a piece, eggs can play a key role in everyone’s healthy diet.
Impressive nutrient profile!
For such a small food, the egg packs a huge quantity of nutrients. Most of the nutrients contained in the egg are in the egg’s yolk.
The yolk contains calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, B6, folate, B12, and panthothenic acid, copper, manganese, and selenium. The white of the egg contains magnesium, sodium, niacin, potassium, riboflavin, and protein.
It is said that the number of nutrients in the egg yolk is so complete that having a few in a day would be similar to taking a multivitamin.
Calories and Carbs….2 issues that are non-issues with eggs
Eggs are low in calories, only 80 calories per extra large egg. In a recent study, overweight men and women were given a breakfast of 2 eggs or an equal amount of calories from bagels. After 8 weeks, the egg- eaters had a 61% decrease in BMI, 65% more weight loss, and a 34% greater reduction in waist size.
A high carbohydrate meal causes an increase in LDL, triglycerides, glucose, and insulin response. A high protein meal can help increase HDL and have insignificant impact on triglycerides, glucose, or insulin.
For those with metabolic conditions like metabolic syndrome, pre diabetes, or type 2 diabetes, eggs or egg whites at breakfast with vegetables and a small amount of whole grain carbohydrate is preferable to a breakfast of cereal, milk, and fruit, bagels, croissant, Danish, or a fruit smoothie.
Since eggs contain no carbohydrate and do not prompt insulin release, they give a feeling of fullness after the meal. Having eggs or egg whites at breakfast with a slice of whole grain bread or fresh fruit will leave you feeling full until lunch time. Have a bagel or hard roll at breakfast and be prepared to feel hungry two hours later.
The egg contains most of the recognized vitamins with the exception of Vitamin C. (This is probably why orange juice became a staple at the breakfast meal.)
Eggs contain all the B vitamins and are an excellent source of folate and B12 as well as the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Today’s eggs contain 41 IU of vitamin D. This is an increase of 64 percent from 2002. Eggs are one of the few foods that are naturally high in Vitamin D. (The vitamin D found in milk and milk products is ADDED to the milk…milk is fortified with Vitamin D).
Eggs contain choline, a nutrient that is important for brain health. Close to 90% of Americans don’t get enough choline in their diet.
Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids?
Egg yolks contain the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is necessary for the brain and proper retinal function in the eye, and the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid, which is required for the healthy skin, hair, libido, reproduction, growth and response to injury.
Eggs contain many important minerals. Eggs are a great source of iodine, required to make the thyroid hormone. The also contain phosphorus for bone health, zinc for growth, wound healing and immunity, and iron; a vital part of red blood cells.
Eggs contain lutein and zeaxanthine that target the retina and protect the eye against macular degeneration and cataracts . Those with diabetes are more prone to retinal disease and cataracts.
Let’s talk cholesterol
Eggs are a source of dietary cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that is essential to the structure and function of cells. Dietary cholesterol is not essential to the body as the body can make cholesterol. Cholesterol makes fatty lubricants for the skin, helps produce sex hormones, cortisol, vitamin D, and bile salts..
Thankfully, a recent USDA study concluded that the eggs of 2015 contain 14% less cholesterol and more Vitamin D than in the past. With these improvements, consuming an egg yolk/day can fit easily into any recommendation that still limits dietary cholesterol consumption to 300mg/day.
Low Saturated Fat?
An extra large egg contains about 6 grams of fat. Most of the fat is contained in the yolk. The egg white is considered to be fat free. Most of the fat in the egg is monounsaturated and polyunsaturated; only 28 per cent is saturated fat. So, the egg is high in cholesterol content, but low in saturated fat.
What About Eggs and Heart Disease?
Over the past 40 years, recommendations regarding egg consumption have tremendously changed. Since the 1970’s, when there was a major focus on lowering blood cholesterol by restricting cholesterol in the diet, egg consumption has been frowned upon.
Those with a history of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke were limited to two egg yolks/week. As time passed, the tightest egg restriction was loosened to allow 3 egg yolks per week. (Egg whites were not limited as there is little fat or cholesterol in the white of an egg). Next, 5 eggs per week was the recommendation. And in 2015, it appears that an egg yolk a day (or seven yolks per week) is not excessive for dietary cholesterol.
It is now accepted that eggs and dietary cholesterol intake have very little to do with cholesterol levels in the blood. In fact, eggs have been shown to increase HDL (good cholesterol).
In 2013, a meta- analysis of 17 egg studies concluded that eggs have no association with causing either heart disease or stroke. Many older studies came to the same conclusion.
“The amount that one egg a day raises cholesterol in the blood is extremely small, so small in fact that the increase in risk in heart disease related to this change in serum cholesterol could never be detected in any kind of study,” said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health.”Elevations in LDL of this small magnitude could easily be countered by other healthy aspects of eggs.”
The most nutritious eggs are Omega – 3 enriched or free range eggs. Factory raised chickens do not produce the most nutritious eggs. If possible purchase organic, free range, and/or Omega-3 enriched eggs to avoid eggs that have been exposed to antibiotics, pesticides, and hormones.
In conclusion, science has come a long way over the past 40 years regarding its recommendations regarding egg consumption. From no egg yolks to 2 per week to 3 per week to 5 per week to 7 per week…it is obvious that the right restrictions on avoiding egg consumption are quietly being lifted. Yes, the egg is high in cholesterol…but it is low in saturated fat. It’s nutrient profile is tremendous, and there is no better source of protein.
Don’t combine your egg with excess saturated fat sources like fatty cheese, sausage, butter, or bacon. Keep it simple and add a serving of whole wheat bread or fresh fruit and you will be giving your body a boost in high quality protein, vitamin, minerals, antioxidants at a very low cost.
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