Are Eggs The New Health Food -- Again?
I still remember Egg Council commercials from the 1990’s. A cartoon character talked about how eggs were packed with protein and vitamins, how they will help you grow, and the fact that you could even feed them to your dog to make their coat shinier. I was sold!
After seeing this commercial I made my mom make scrambled eggs for me before school every day. But at the time, physicians warned about the health problems associated with eating too many eggs. It was believed that eating too many eggs would lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart attacks. But now, scientists and medical professionals seem to be reversing their views. Recent research shows that cholesterol from eggs contributes less to blood cholesterol levels than once thought. Once word started to get out that eggs may not be as bad as we once thought, consumption started increasing again. But is this well-founded?
Let’s start with the good news. Eggs are definitely a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, they contain one of the most digestible forms of protein on earth. It is estimated that our bodies absorb 100% of the protein found in eggs, which would help explain why bodybuilders love them. They also contain vitamins A, D, B12 as well as iron, and some potentially disease-fighting compounds such as lecithin. As for which type of eggs are healthiest, authors of another study revealed that free-range hens lay eggs that contain less saturated fat than eggs laid by conventionally raised hens.
Typically, eggs contain saturated fat (about 1.5 grams in a large egg) and cholesterol (about 213 milligrams), all found in the yolk. The American Heart Association (AHA) still recommends we limit our saturated fat intake to no more than 7% of our total calories for the day. What about cholesterol? The 213 milligrams of cholesterol found in 1 large egg sounds like a lot. In lieu of recent research findings, the AHA reversed its stance on dietary cholesterol and now believes that it likely does not contribute to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. This does not mean we should overindulge on foods high in cholesterol, either. This is because these foods may also be high in saturated fat. (If you are concerned about the saturated fat and cholesterol in eggs, one way around this is to consume only egg whites, though you miss out on some of those healthy vitamins and minerals found in the yolk).
One other option, particularly for those allergic to eggs, is a healthy plant-based egg substitute. One product I have seen is made from only garbanzo beans and chia seeds. When I first read that these were the ingredients I was skeptical, but so far feedback has been positive. Garbanzo beans and chia seeds do not contain any cholesterol and are good sources of fiber and protein. Chia seeds also contain a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked with lower risks of heart disease and some forms of cancer.
Ultimately, whether you choose to eat whole organic eggs, egg whites or try a healthy egg replacement product, be certain you are getting your daily protein requirements. If you would like more nutritional guidance around healthy food choices, schedule an appointment with a naturopathic doctor at Bastyr University Clinic in San Diego, CA or Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seatte, WA.