Nutrition Articles

Eggs are Egg-cellent

Healthy or Not? We Crack the Case!

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Having fallen in and out of favor with nutrition experts, you’d think the fragile egg would be broken and beaten by now. Luckily, its ego isn’t nearly as vulnerable as its shell. Oblivious to the attempts to separate the egg from its well-deserved title of "best source of complete protein on the planet," the egg has managed to remain a nutritious, inexpensive, and popular food.

For awhile, nutrition experts hypothesized that the high cholesterol content of eggs raised blood cholesterol levels, which can increase a person's risk of heart disease. But this hypothesis was never proven. In fact, several studies have shown that the consumption of eggs is not associated with higher cholesterol levels but is associated with higher nutrient intake. 

In 2000, researchers set out to assess the nutritional significance of eggs in the American diet and to estimate the degree of association between egg consumption and cholesterol levels. Their straightforward results were published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Eggs make important nutritional contributions to the American diet and their consumption is not associated with high cholesterol levels. Specifically, the study showed that egg consumers had a higher intake of important nutrients like vitamins B12, A, E, and C than non-egg eaters, and that people who reported eating four or more eggs per week actually had significantly lower average cholesterol levels than those who reported eating zero to one eggs per week.

Here are four more ways eggs can enhance your health:
  • Eggs are an excellent source of low-cost, high-quality protein. One large egg provides more than 6 grams of protein, yet contains only 75 calories. And the protein is "complete," providing all nine of the body's essential amino acids.
     
  • Eggs are one of the best sources of choline. Found primarily in the egg yolk, one large egg provides 30% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of this essential nutrient, which plays an important role in brain health and the reduction of inflammation. Many people are deficient in choline, which is found in trace amounts of many different foods.
     
  • Eggs are a great food for those trying to lose weight. Because of the high amount of quality protein in eggs, they make a very satisfying breakfast, which is especially useful for people trying to lose weight. In one study published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2007), subjects following low-fat, calorie-restricted diets were randomly assigned to one of two breakfasts: a bagel or two eggs. After eight weeks, the egg eaters experienced 65% greater weight loss, 83% greater decrease in waist circumference, and a greater improvement in energy levels compared to the bagel-eating group. Also worth mentioning is that changes in plasma cholesterol and triglycerides did not differ significantly between the two groups. Researchers postulated that eating eggs for breakfast enhanced weight loss by increasing satiety, resulting in better adherence to a reduced-calorie diet.
     
  • Eggs protect eyesight. Egg yolks contain a highly absorbable form of vision-protective carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, which help to prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Studies published in the Journal of Nutrition showed that eggs increased blood levels of these nutrients without increasing cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
So how many eggs should you eat? Just because something is good for you doesn't always mean that more of it is necessarily better. In a 2007 study published in the journal Medical Science Monitor, no significant difference in cardiovascular diseases (like stroke and heart attack) were observed between people who consumed more than six eggs per week and those who consumed one or fewer eggs per week. So a couple of eggs a day, a few days a week, should be safe and health for most people.

According to Becky Hand, a Licensed and Registered Dietitian for SparkPeople, "One egg daily can easily be a part of a well-balanced, nutritious diet for healthy adults." An important exception is for diabetics, who experienced an increased risk of coronary artery disease when consuming greater than six eggs per week. If you have a medical condition such as heart disease or diabetes, Hand suggests checking with your physician (or dietitian) regarding egg consumption and dietary restrictions.

"Designer" Eggs: Are They Worth the Money? When you go to stock up on eggs, be prepared for an onslaught of choices. Beyond just white and brown, you’ll see a whole new world of choices in the refrigerator case. Are these “designer” eggs worth the extra money? It depends on the designer.
  • Cage Free, Free Range, Pastured, and Pasture Raised: You may feel like you're doing a good deed by purchasing eggs with one or more of these terms on the package. But in truth, these labels really don't mean a whole lot, as there are no rules or regulations about using these terms. If you want high quality eggs from humanely raised chickens, find a local producer whom you trust. To find one, go to www.LocalHarvest.org, and enter "eggs" in the "Name/Description/Product" box, and your zip code in the "Where?" box. A list of farmers in your area will pop up, many of whom sell their eggs at local farmers markets.
  • Certified Organic: They hens who lay these eggs are cage-free, have outdoor access, and eat a 100% organic and vegetarian diet that is free of antibiotics and pesticides. Third-party auditors enforce these standards.
  • Grade AA, A and B: Eggs in the US are classified according to quality and freshness standards established by the USDA. AA is the most superior in quality, followed by A and B.
  • Omega-3 Enhanced eggs: When is an egg not just an egg? When it's engineered to contain Omega-3s. The hens that lay these eggs eat a diet rich in Omega-3s, which includes algae or flaxseed. The eggs they lay contain higher Omega-3 content but taste like regular eggs. These eggs may help contribute to your intake of essential fatty acids, but they don’t contain enough to make up for a diet that is otherwise low in Omega-3s.
No matter what kind of eggs you choose to eat, be sure to follow proper handling and preparation guidelines to ensure that your eggs are safe to eat. Raw or improperly handled eggs can be a source of disease.
  • Avoid raw eggs, and foods made with raw eggs (Caesar dressing, homemade mayonnaise, eggnog, and cookie dough). These foods are safe if a pasteurized egg product is used.
  • Check the carton to be sure that the eggs you are buying are clean and free of cracks.
  • Store eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator (not in the door), and use within three to five weeks, or by the expiration date on the carton. Hardboiled eggs should also be stored in the refrigerator and used within one week.
  • When cooking with eggs, don’t leave the carton on the counter during prep time. Take out the eggs you will use and return the carton to the refrigerator.
  • Wash all surfaces, cooking utensils, and skin with warm, soapy water before and after handling eggs.
  • Cook eggs until yolks are firm.
  • Cook egg-containing dishes to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit to destroy any bacteria safely.
Give yourself a break! Poached, scrambled, baked or fried—you can rely on the inexpensive and high-quality protein of eggs as part of a varied, healthy diet. "Do be careful with whom your eggs hang out," says Hand. "Bacon, sausage, and high-fat cheeses can be troublesome characters!"

This article has been reviewed and approved by Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian.

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Member Comments

  • liza, you have TWO typos in your article. spellcheck doesn't catch it if it is a real word.
  • " people who reported eating four or more eggs per week actually had significantly lower average cholesterol levels than those who reported eating zero to one eggs per week."

    This form of self-reporting doesn't really provide any useful information!! For example: had the people who reported only eating zero to one egg a week previously been told their cholesterol was high and to limit eggs??

    Was that high cholesterol from Grandma, and the doctor five years ago said well, it might be better if you cut out eggs... Its the classic: which came first: the chicken or the egg??? LOL!
  • MS_GODDESS
    Another big fan of eggs here! I usually boil several at the beginning of the week so I can grab and go for mid-morning snacks. If I'm enjoying eggs with breakfast (usually a Sunday-morning thing) - then the yolks have to be runny so I can dip my whole wheat toast into them - yum!!!!
  • I have a hard boiled egg for an afternoon snack at work most days. I add a little sriracha, which is great if you like it. But the egg is the perfect snack and has all but eliminated my desire to hit the vending machines!
  • Eggs are often wiped ,by the producer (not referring to the chicken) lol, but washing before using is a good practice!
  • Eggs are the Perfect Food and the yolk NEEDS to be included with the white because it is the yolk that has the ingredient (good cholesterol) that pushes bad cholesterol out of your system. They also are a good evening meal for diabetics, at least my husband, who finds his morning #s to be a lot better if he has eggs for dinner. As for firm or runny-my yolks will be soft unless they are hard boiled but my husband's will be hard no matter how they're cooked.
  • This confirms the findings of my blood work up, year after year. I have an egg for breakfast most mornings . . . eggs really are good food.
  • I think this article should have stressed that the yolk was not only the main source of choline in the egg, but the primary source of ALL the nutrition of the egg, with the possible exception of protein of which the white is composed. People think that eating only whites is a "good" thing, but they are getting little nutrition in whites.

    Needing to be on a low histaimine diet, I also would like to point out that, per the instructional materials given to me by my health care professionals, the whites are very high in histamines, but the yolks are a "0" on the histamine level. Therefore, I ONLY eat the yolk. Yes, it took a while to get used to tossing all those whites out, but realizing how adversely they were affecting how I felt, it became easier.
  • A chicken that is raised cage free AND given access to natural grazing can not be vegetarian. They eat bugs, mice, small snakes, worms, etc. By nature, this is the way their diet is designed to be. Trying to raise vegetarian chickens sets them up for deficiencies in their own diets which can lead to decreaeed egg production, malformed eggs, and bodily diseases. We raise chickens so we are our own source of information ;)
  • eggs fit into our lives easily; boiled, poached, baked, pickled... bfast, lunch, dinner, snack. What a boost. Oh, don't forget egg-nog. hahaha

    eggs are eggs-actly what we use as it still fits into our very tight budget. We two live below the poverty-level, and have over the past 8 years. For us, it is "just what the doctor ordered".

    hahaha
    May the forks be with you.
    _ga-
  • Does Sparkpeople do native advertising? Is there somewhere on the site I can see a list of sponsors? I would particularly like to know if this article is the result of a collaboration or relationship between SP and American Egg Board or another egg group. Thank you. Trying to be an educated consumer; No offense intended.
  • If the yolk's not dippy, what's the point??
  • MABLEMONSTER
    I love eggs I eat the whole thing love um
  • About 2 1/2 years ago I started raising a small flock of chickens in our backyard. With all of my sons allergies, I thought it would be good to take some control over where some of our food comes from- and what goes into it. I haven't bough eggs from the store in over 2 years and my son loves them - the eggs that is!. With 4 hens currently laying, we have more than enough for the 2 of us, the neighbors get them handed over the fence on occasion, and I sell the rest to co-workers or friends. They all swear that our eggs taste better than what you get in the store and I feel better knowing we aren't eating some chemically processed crap.
  • what about liquid egg whites ? vs the regular common egg i eat a bowl of microwaved egg white each morning for brunch before going to my Dialysis treatment sometimes w/ perfect pinch southwest seasoning other times w/ dinosaur bbq wango tango sauce

About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

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