In her weekly column, Registered Nutritionist Nonie De Long explains why eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can eat.
This week’s column features the fifth of the top ten nutrition questions I get asked. Tune in over the following weeks for the rest. If you missed it, week one I covered soy products and which ones are most beneficial to your health. Next, I covered nutritional supplements and organic foods. Last week we discussed dairy and why some people are turning to dairy alternatives.
Today we are going to talk about eggs. Is it better to eat the whites, the yolks or both? How many eggs a day is safe? What about cholesterol? Keep reading to learn more.
Whites, yolks or whole eggs?
For a very long time, anyone who has worked with a personal trainer or dietician, or anyone with cholesterol or heart health issues, has been advised by their doctor to eat only egg whites. You may have encountered this. Some trainers, dieticians and doctors still give this advice. The reasoning is that egg yolks contain cholesterol and too much cholesterol is bad. Thus, people should avoid consuming more egg yolks and only consume the whites, which are an excellent source of protein.
Sounds logical, right?
Actually no. The whole idea is wrong and based on bad science that has been (and still is) passed down. Dietary cholesterol does not actually raise serum cholesterol (the cholesterol in your bloodstream). The body makes cholesterol at home – and it’s a tightly regulated system. Consuming foods high in cholesterol has no significant impact. Moreover, cholesterol is not directly linked to the risk of heart disease. Please read that again! Cholesterol isn’t the boogeyman it was made out to be. It is actually very important for overall health. You might find this hard to believe, so let’s look at other sources:
“We should clarify, before anyone has a heart attack after discussing the consumption of egg yolks, that dietary cholesterol DOES NOT INCREASE serum (blood) cholesterol and is in no way correlated with a increased risk of heart disease.This is one of the biggest nutrition myths (along with the calorie in = calorie out myth) that continues to circulate no matter how much evidence to the contrary… Many have experienced poor lipid balance followed by doctor’s orders to stop eating eggs Well, researchers have found that when combined with a low carb diet, WHOLE eggs actually improve lipid levels and lower the risk of heart disease atherogenic.This is especially true in relation to the consumption of egg whites alone.Dr Anthony Gustin
“A lot of people think cholesterol is harmful, but the truth is that it’s essential for your body to function. Cholesterol contributes to the membrane structure of every cell in your body. Your body also needs it to make hormones and vitamin D, as well as to perform a variety of other important functions. In other words, you couldn’t survive without it. Your body makes all the cholesterol it needs, but it also absorbs a relatively small amount of cholesterol from certain foods, such as eggs, meat, and whole dairy products. Health line
“High quality studies have shown that dietary cholesterol is not associated with an increased risk of heart disease. There has been a lot of research done on eggs in particular. Eggs are an important source of dietary cholesterol, but several studies have shown that eating them is not associated with a high risk of heart disease.Plus, eggs may even help improve your lipoprotein profiles, which could lower your risk.One study compared the effects of whole eggs and of a yolk-free egg substitute on cholesterol levels People who ate three whole eggs a day experienced a greater increase in HDL particles and a greater decrease in LDL particles than those who consumed an equivalent amount of the substitute of eggs Health Line
The exception to this rule seems to be diabetic patients. In people with diabetes, some studies suggest that cholesterol is linked to the risk of heart disease. However, studies that examine this more closely suggest that more studies are needed because it is highly likely that insulin resistance creates a problem with cholesterol metabolism. This means insulin is the problem, not cholesterol:
“…insulin sensitivity may influence HDL metabolism and cholesterol transport. Riemens and colleagues found that people with lower insulin sensitivity had increased levels of plasma cholesterol, cholesterol to very-low-density lipoproteins and LDL-cholesterol, compared to those with higher insulin sensitivity…These results suggest a biological mechanism for the possible adverse effects of insulin resistance on the risk of coronary heart disease in diabetics by cholesterol metabolism.Nevertheless, this subgroup finding of a positive association between egg consumption and coronary heart disease risk was based on a small number of studies and therefore needs to be replicated elsewhere. other studies. BMJ
Considering all of this, there’s no good reason to fear eggs and plenty of good reasons to include them in your diet.
Eggs, a nutritional powerhouse:
How an egg is produced affects nutrient density, as with all foods. The following nutritional information is for commercially prepared eggs and may be more important if the eggs are of higher quality, such as those from home-raised or free-range, naturally fed birds.
Egg yolks contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamins B6 and B12. These B vitamins are especially important for energy production and nervous system health. For vegetarians and those who avoid red meat, eggs are an excellent source of B vitamins.
Fat soluble vitamins:
Egg yolks are also a good source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, which have an incredible impact on health.
Vitamin A is important for the health of our eyes, skin, bones, reproductive system and immune system. It is a natural anti-viral.
Vitamin D is so important to our health that our bodies make it when exposed to sunlight. In Canada, most people are deficient during the cold months, so eggs are especially important at this time. To learn more about vitamin D, go here.
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant that helps reduce aging and degeneration in the body. It is important for healthy skin and healing, and for reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
Vitamin K is important for dental and bone health, for kidney health, and for wound healing. Without it and without vitamin D, our body cannot transform calcium into bone.
Easily Absorbed Complete Protein:
Whole eggs provide the highest ranked protein on the biological value scale. This means that they are the most easily absorbed form of complete amino acids of any food. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein in the body and are used to build muscle and many other tissues. All cell walls need amino acids, like all enzymes. They are abundantly required by the body for strong structure and proper functioning. As we age, we tend to take in less protein than we consume, so eggs remain an important food throughout life. The nutrients in egg yolks help us better absorb and utilize the protein in egg whites.
Minerals are particularly important for good health and are lacking in many commercial foods today. However, eggs are still a good source of a variety of minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc.
Essential fatty acids:
Egg yolks are loaded with good fats. They contain an abundance of Omega 3 DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and Omega 6 AA (arachidonic acid). These are fats that you must get from your diet because the body cannot make them. That is why they are called indispensable. In addition, eggs contain CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). It is a fat associated with weight loss and lean body mass, as well as increased immune function. That’s just another benefit of eating whole eggs.
Have you heard of choline? It is an incredible powerhouse of nutrients, especially important for brain and nervous system health. It is essential for neurotransmitter function, cell membrane regulation (what goes in and out of cells), muscle movement, including heart rate regulation, and cellular structure and messaging. It is essential for healthy memory, proper brain function and healthy liver function. It is known to reduce inflammation in the body and thus reduce the risk of disease. And egg yolks are one of the best sources!
For these reasons, eggs are an important food group that I do not recommend clients avoid.
If you take fat-soluble vitamins like essential fatty acids or cod liver oil or vitamins A, D, E, or K, taking them with a meal that contains eggs will help you absorb the nutrients better!
If you let your yolk run, the vitamin content will be higher, as high temperature cooking damages the vitamins!
If you want to try a new egg recipe that’s easy and can be made ahead for a great lunch or breakfast all week, try these low carb egg muffins. They can be made with ham, salami or any type of bacon and served hot and fresh or sliced cold over a crisp salad. I love mine with steamed chunks of asparagus and feta or with goat cheese and sautéed mushrooms.
I hope this is helpful. Tune in next week for a deep dive into red meat. How much should we eat and should we avoid fatty cuts? As always, if you have a question for the column, you can email me at [email protected] If you want clinical care to know more about what I do, you can find me online at hopenotdope.ca.