Eggs are on e of the foods that have the most misconceptions tied to them. We have all heard it since we were children: Eggs will make you fat. Eggs will raise your cholesterol. Don’t eat more than 6 or 4 or 2 eggs a week. As usual, when a dietary trend is becoming more popular, there is money to be made. For example, since the egg yolk got all the bad reputation, manufacturers started selling egg whites in a box. I personally find the concept of egg whites in a box not particularly appetizing. Restaurants and cafes started serving egg white omelets that became especially popular among protein-obsessed bodybuilders and athletes.
Some months ago, I saw a big McDonald’s billboard that showed their iconic breakfast, the McMuffin, with a caption next to it that said: “Great taste, all yolks aside.” The absurd is big enough when a company like McDonald’s tries to push some health agenda. It’s even bigger when it’s totally false.
Eggs are actually one of the most nutritious foods available to us. They hold all the nutrition a developing chicken needs. Since the domestication of the chicken more than 4,000 years ago, people have been nourishing themselves with eggs. For centuries, eggs have symbolized fertility and rebirth. So how did such a nutritious food source become so demonized? Eggs are high in cholesterol, which is considered to be our enemy and a major cause for heart disease. That’s what the mainstream medical establishment told us in the last 50-60 years. More updated science has been proving over and over that the assumption that dietary cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease is false. Cholesterol is a subject of a post by itself, but let me just say that it is an essential component to the health of our cells and hormonal balance, among other things. High levels of cholesterol often indicate other metabolic problems, but cholesterol is not the cause of the problem. It may be the symptom.
In her book, Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon writes that blaming coronary heart disease on cholesterol is like blaming the police for murder and theft in a high-crime area. The idea is that high levels of blood cholesterol often indicate that the body needs cholesterol to protect itself from inflammation caused by consuming altered and manipulated fats—the real bad guys, such as sugar, alcohol and so on. Let’s not kill the messenger then. So what are some of the nutrition benefits of eggs?
- Good source of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
- A great source of B vitamins, especially biotin, thiamine and B12.
- –6 to 7 grams of protein in 1 egg
- Eggs from pastured chickens have a great fat profile and are rich with omega-3 fatty acids.
- Recent studies show that eggs actually lowered the risk of heart disease.
- Eggs are a rich source of choline that provides structural integrity to the cell membrane. Choline is also important for brain function and development, which make eggs consumption highly beneficial during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Feeding babies with egg yolks provides support for their brain development.
- Eggs are rich in iodine that is important for thyroid function.
- Eggs contain phosphorus for bones and teeth health.
- Eggs contain antioxidants that are known to promote healthy eyes.
So you can see that eggs are a highly nutrient-dense food, and not only that—almost all of the nutrients are in the egg yolk! Think about it the next time you order your egg white omelet.
The protein in eggs is considered to be the most bio-available protein of all food sources. The “biological value” scale measures how efficiently a protein is metabolized in the body. The bio-availability of foods is many times overlooked, and we tend to focus on the nutrient content of foods, which is just part of the picture. The biological value scale ranks eggs as the top protein source and assigns them a value of 100; all other foods containing protein are ranked comparatively. Eggs contain a full protein, which means all the essential amino acids. Also, egg protein is quickly digested, usually within two hours, and is completely absorbed by your body.
So what kind of eggs should you buy? As always with animal products, look for the clean, organic, pastured-raised eggs. Commercially raised chickens are fed processed grains sprayed with pesticides and antibiotics to prevent infection and stimulate growth. All these materials end up in the yolk fat. Pastured-raised chickens that stay outside eat all kinds of seeds, green plants, insects and worms along with some grain and laying mash. In 2007, Mother Earth News conducted a test to find if there is a difference in the nutritional content of pastured eggs compared to conventional eggs. The results were significant. Pastured eggs have:
- 2-3 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta-carotene
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 1/3 less cholesterol
Read more about pastured eggs and how the conventional egg industry is not interested (obviously) in you knowing the truth: http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/tests-reveal-healthier-eggs.aspx#ixzz2wiVsXje7.
One of the myths about eggs is that brown eggs are better than white eggs. Again, producers use this as a marketing tool by mentioning this on the package with big letters and pride. The truth is that there is no difference in terms of nutritional value and even taste between brown and white eggs. If you buy your eggs from your local farmers market, will find sometimes that eggs that are even greenish in color. The color differences in eggs are simply due to the breed of the hens they come from. I believe it’s all an image issue. I guess we see in brown eggs a promise for something more natural and rustic. White eggs remind us of the artificial and commercial egg. Again, the most important thing for determining the quality of the egg is the nutrition and environment the chickens are provided. It is the health of the chicken that affects the quality of the egg and your health.
How to Cook Eggs
Cooking your eggs slowly by using water or steam is better than using aggressive methods of frying or high heat. Gentler cooking protects the sensitive cholesterol in eggs from being oxidized. Also, it’s important to cook the egg whites all the way through. Raw egg whites contain avidin, an anti-nutrient that blocks the absorption of biotin, one of the B vitamins. Egg whites also contain trypsin inhibitors that make the digestion of protein more difficult. Cooking neutralizes these anti-nutrients.
I find eggs to be the ideal breakfast. I usually cook the eggs over sautéed greens like kale, Swiss chard or spinach. You can add onions, leftovers from the previous night’s broccoli or any cooked vegetables you have ready to use. Just crack some eggs over the vegetables or greens and cover the pan. The steam will cook the egg whites in 4-5 minutes while leaving the yolks half raw and still runny. Poaching is another great way to cook eggs although more time consuming. Scrambling eggs or making an omelet are also great ways to make eggs as long as you keep the cooking method gentle and not applying high hit.
Enjoy your eggs!