About 40 years ago it was determined that excessive cholesterol in the diet was a public health concern. Specifically, it was thought that there was a causal link between consuming cholesterol-laden foods and an increased risk of heart disease. For many years, one of the healthiest and most convenient snack choices suffered from a smear campaign that boosted sales of “egg alternatives”. As happens so often, the truth is out now, and the reality is that eggs have gotten a bad rap.
Cholesterol vs Saturated Fats
The original confusion regarding egg consumption stemmed from their cholesterol content. One large egg actually averages over 200 mg of cholesterol which accounts for about 2/3 of the recommended daily allowance. Since high cholesterol was linked to heart disease it seemed logical to suggest limiting any foods with a high cholesterol content. So eggs became a food that had to be avoided at all costs, resulting in a 30% per capita drop in egg consumption among Americans.
Then scientists began to recognize the difference between “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol”. Healthy foods with “good fats” will raise HDL or good cholesterol levels which is beneficial. Suddenly eggs aren’t so bad after all.
Healthy and Nutritious
The reality is that eggs are an amazing source of protein, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. While once considered a health risk, the egg could actually be called a “super food”.
Yes, the yolk does contain the lion’s share of cholesterol found in the egg but it also contains almost 3 grams of protein and is a great source of Vitamin A, D, B-12, B-6 and iron. Consuming only the egg whites eliminates many of the nutrients and all of the antioxidants found in eggs.
Eggs, as a whole, contain Vitamins A, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, D, E, K, Calcium, Folate, Phosphorus, Selenium and Zinc. Altogether, the egg has 77 calories, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of healthy or good fats and Omega-3 fatty acids which lower triglycerides (a well-known risk factor for heart disease).
This amazing food also contains the cell membrane building nutrient, Choline, that is lacking in almost 90% of diets and promotes normal cell activity, liver function and nutrient transportation in the body. Then there’s the 9 essential amino acids.
Last but not least, eggs can actually be beneficial for eye health since they contain the important antioxidants, Lutein and Zeaxanthin, that have shown to help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.
Convenient and Versatile
Our diets can be a huge factor affecting our emotional and physical health. With all its amazing dietary nutrition and health benefits, the egg is a great meal or snack food item. Whether they are boiled, poached, scrambled or fried they can be part of any meal, and when on the run probably one of the most healthy items to eat on the go. With zero carbs, no sugar, no gluten and 6 grams of protein, an egg should be a dietary staple.
In addition to the eggs, the actual chicken itself is also a vital source of nutrients. Read more about the amazingly nutritious bone broth in our other blog post!
The Best Source of Food: Organic
As with many food items the best source is always going to be organic. Surprisingly, the Omega-3 levels in eggs can actually be affected by the hens’ diet and can be increased in either organic or conventional eggs. However, there is clearly a healthier diet and better care provided to hens that lay eggs that are labeled organic.
A primary concern may be contamination in non-organic eggs. While chicken meat has tested positive for arsenic and other contaminants, a study in 2011 tested 497 egg samples and found no residue of pesticides, contaminants or veterinary drugs, including antibiotics. A poultry scientist from Auburn University, Pat Curtis, says that this shouldn’t be surprising as chemicals are not typically given to laying hens, and when they are, there is a “mandated withdrawal period” before their eggs can be sold.
While this may be comforting, to avoid any risk of contamination by pesticides or other chemicals, organic will always be the best source.
Allergy Information about Eggs
According to the Mayo Clinic, eggs are one of the most common food allergen for children and can occur as early as infancy.
While allergic reactions may vary from one person to another, they will generally occur soon after exposure and can include the following: skin inflammation or hives; nasal congestion, runny nose and sneezing; digestive symptoms such as cramps, nausea and vomiting; asthmatic signs and symptoms such as coughing wheezing, chest tightness or shortness of breath.
One of the easiest tests of food allergens is to keep a food or dietary journal. Track what your child eats and when they have an allergic reaction. Then remove eggs from their diet to see if there is a reduction or elimination of their symptoms.
If your child is allergic to eggs, it helps to be aware of potentially hidden sources of egg in their diet such as: marshmallows, mayonnaise, baked goods, breaded foods, processed meat, salad dressings, most pastas and pretzels as they are typically dipped in an “egg wash” before being salted. Additionally, there are manufacturing terms that can indicate the presence of eggs, including: albumin, globulin, lecithin, livetin, lysozyme, vitelline and words start with “ova” or “ovo” such as ovalbumin or ovoglobulin.
The Link Between Vaccines and Eggs
Some vaccines actually contain egg proteins and may pose a risk of triggering an allergic reaction. While some sources say that the risk is minimal and that informing the pediatrician of the egg allergy can avoid any complications, it is wise to consider these concerns. The following vaccines are either produced with eggs or egg protein:
• Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccines are produced using eggs
• Flu (influenza) vaccines sometimes contain small amounts of egg proteins
• Yellow fever vaccine can provoke an allergic reaction in some people who have egg allergies
• Other vaccines are generally not risky for people with an egg allergy but it is always best to discuss concerns with a doctor as they can test for allergic reactions
An Egg a Day
Eggs are one of the most beneficial food items available for consumption. They are incredibly filling and high in protein, which is by far the most filling macronutrient. Eggs also score high on the satiety index, which measures the ability of foods to induce feelings of fullness and reduce subsequent caloric intake. When all is said and done, for any meal or snack, you can’t beat an egg.