I feel like there are more mixed messages about eggs than any other food out there. The other day I was shopping at Trader Joe’s (buying 2 dozen eggs), when I overheard the person behind the free sample booth dishing out mini servings of egg white salads say to a customer “and it’s made with just the egg whites so you’re not getting all that terrible fat and cholesterol.” Wha what?!? It was all I could do to not interrupt this person and publicly debate him on the nutritional properties of eggs and the misconceptions regarding egg yolks… But that wouldn’t have been fair. He was most likely just repeating what he was told by some other misinformed soul. So, I refilled my free mini coffee, continued shopping and knew exactly what I’d be writing about in my next blog.
Yolk or no Yolk?
Lets first dive into exactly what egg yolks do for us and why it’s so important to eat them. We all know that eggs are high in protein (roughly 6-8 grams per egg), and aside from being some of the highest quality protein found in any food, eggs are also packed with vitamins and minerals. The majority of which are found in the yolk! One of the most powerful is an essential nutrient called Choline that according to incredibleeeg.org “contributes to fetal brain developement and helps prevent birth defects. Two eggs provide 250mg of Choline or roughly half of the recommended daily intake for pregnant or breastfeeding women.” Choline also aids in brain function by maintaining the structure of brain cell membranes and helps relay messages from the brain’s neurotransmitters through nerves to the muscles.
Why the bad press?
It’s amazing to me that after all these years and countless studies proving the benefit of eggs the majority of people still shy away from including them, more specifically the yolks, into their daily diets. A major reason why foods like eggs and meat have been demonized for the last century (despite being eaten by every human civilization for the past 250,000 years) is because the founders of our food pyramid (William K. Kellogg ring a bell?) placed breads and grains as the foundation to a healthy diet promoting a low-fat/high fiber diet as your best defense to reducing your chances of getting high cholesterol and/or heart disease caused by saturated fats.. Nothing could be further from the truth.. Want proof? Just take a look at the rate of obesity, heart disease and diabetes in our country today and then take a look at the abundance of carb laden foods and snacks everywhere you turn especially in our school cafeterias. W. K. Kellogg was a smart business man and knew that people, as we often do, associate a brand with quality. Especially in a time when research in this area was very minimal and information was hard to come by. Fast forward a hundred years and many of us are still hanging on to that old belief that carbohydrates should make up the majority of our caloric intake despite health the epidemics related to processed grains popping up like wildfire.
Bottom line: The food pyramid is upside down. The fats that come from eggs and meats are essential to our biology. Our bodies use it to make hormones, regulate blood sugar and assimilate proteins to name a few.
What about all that cholesterol?
According to a 2010 study by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) the amount of cholesterol in a single egg is 14% lower than previously recorded and the amount of vitamin D is 64% higher. According to the American Heart Association, your genetic makeup determines how much cholesterol your body will produce – not your diet. Your liver produces about 75% of your total cholesterol which your body needs for digestion and creation of certain hormones, the remaining 25% comes from food. So, if you’re already genetically pre-disposed to high cholesterol then 4 eggs a day might be a bit much, but the benefits of including 1 or 2 to your diet far out way any risks that may be associated.
With all the misconceptions about food out there, a good rule of thumb is that if it goes bad it’s probably good for you. Anything with a shelf life is suspect and most likely packed with preservatives and artificial ingredients. When it comes to something as naturally occurring as an egg, I would advise anyone without reservation to enjoy in abundance. So trade in your puffed wheat cereal (a.k.a. poison) and try a couple of eggs for breakfast. It’ll be the best decision you made all day.