The humble egg has been vilified and praised in equal measure. One study will say it is a superfood while another say it is as bad as cigarettes. Indeed, the controversy around the egg has been raging for long. One study by the Western University of Canada showed that regularly eating eggs builds up carotid plaque in the artery at the same rate as that of a regular smoker.
However, the study failed to say how many eggs the subjects ate per day or their general state of health. The study also did not say if the subjects were taking other foods rich in cholesterol. In the egg, the cholesterol-rich yolk has been pointed out as the source of all woes. The average egg yolk has about 185 mg of cholesterol.
For most people, the word cholesterol conjures up images of blocked arteries and strokes. This is partially true as high cholesterol levels can lead to plaque buildup in the arteries which in turn can lead to a stroke. What many people fail to point out is that there are two types of cholesterol.
There are two types of cholesterol, HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) also called ‘good’ cholesterol, and LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) also called ‘bad ’ cholesterol. LDL is bad because it builds up on the walls of the arteries. It becomes oxidized and encourages more deposits of fats and minerals. HDL is soluble and does not stick to the artery walls. Instead, it unbinds some of the LDL from the walls.
Eggs do not contain HDL or LDL. They contain cholesterol which is converted into either type depending on the pre-existing conditions in the eater. A study by the University of Connecticut showed there was no change in the LDL/HDL ratio in subjects who had eaten 1-3 eggs daily for 30 days.
A single egg delivers a huge serving of nutrition to the human body;
- Eggs have 77 calories of energy and 5g of fat. It is also loaded with Vitamins A, B2, B6, B5, B12, D, E, and K. It also has folate, selenium, phosphates, zinc, and calcium. Free range eggs deliver higher doses of Vitamin A and E, and Omega 3.
- Eggs are the richest source of choline. This is a compound that binds with Vitamin B and helps build cell membranes, especially in the brain. An egg has 100mg of this vital nutrient.
- Eggs are rich in antioxidants. Two of these antioxidants, Lutein and Zeaxanthin, are very beneficial in countering cataract growth and macular degeneration in the eyes.
- Eggs are rich in proteins. A single egg has about 6g of proteins. This makes it ideal for building muscle mass and repairing body tissue. Many top athletes will be found drinking raw eggs.
Eggs are classified as superfoods. These are foods that deliver huge servings of nutrients per small servings. Regular consumption of eggs will have benefits in weight loss, more energy, better muscle and other numerous benefits.
This high concentration of nutrients in eggs also means that they can have adverse effects when consumed in high quantities. Some health experts recommend one egg a day. Eating more than three eggs a day can bring on allergies with protein allergy being the most common and can increase overall cholesterol levels that we don’t want.
Are All Eggs Considered Equal?
Now another factor in the raging debate about eggs today is that not all eggs are created equal. The discussion is usually around that wholesome, healthy egg that our parents and grandparents enjoyed from the local farmer, is not the same nutritionally as today’s commercially produced egg. This is a debate is often attributed to the difference in living conditions (stress and sanitary factors), vastly different feed options, and drugs (antibiotics or synthetic hormones) the chickens may or may not be feed. Studies have begun to look into the nutritional value difference between these conditions. Mother Earth News conducted a study on small farmer’s eggs versus commercial eggs. They found differences the cholesterol amount, omega 3 to 6 fat ratios, and overall nutritional composition.
The average shopper is baffled by the labeling on egg cartons. These labels usually tell of how the chicken that laid the egg has been kept. What does it all mean?
- Farm fresh – This says the eggs are fresh, but the hens that lay them are usually kept in very small batteries where they rarely move.
- Cage free – This means that the chicken is kept in an aviary where it has freedom of movement indoors.
- Free range – The chicken can move outdoors, but the area they can range around is usually screened off.
- Organic – The chicken feed is free of antibiotics and synthetic hormones.
- Grass fed – These are sometimes labeled ‘Grass fed.’ The hens here are free to roam the outdoors and feed on grass, bugs dirt and whatever else they can find.
Grass-fed eggs are suggested to deliver the highest dose of nutrients and have better taste. The egg yolk of these eggs is also usually richer in yellow color. Eating eggs as part of a balanced diet can offer fuller health benefits when combined with other helpful habits such as exercising, drinking 8-10 glasses of filtered water a day, and consuming lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.