Did you know it’s World Egg Day?
To celebrate, here is what you need to know about one of nature’s perfect foods and 7 eggcellent reasons to eat eggs.
There are plenty of reasons to enjoy eggs: They’re delicious, convenient, versatile, inexpensive, nutrient-rich and are a dieter’s BFF.
Many of my clients, however, have shied away from eggs because they’ve seen reports that the cholesterol counts in eggs may lead to increased risk for heart disease. While there have been observational studies that suggest a link between egg consumption and heart disease, upon closer inspection, the foods some individuals often eat with eggs—bacon, sausage, fried potatoes—are the problem, not eggs. Eggs have simply become guilty by their association with these foods.
Studies that carefully control for other diet and lifestyle factors, like saturated fat intake, smoking or exercise levels, show that eating eggs as part of a balanced, healthy diet, doesn’t increase risk for heart disease and can may help prevent chronic disease.
Most of us can enjoy an egg a day without worrying about any increased risk for heart disease. (I eat about 10-12 eggs a week and my cholesterol levels are perfect, despite having a strong family history of high cholesterol and heart disease.) A large egg contains 185 mg dietary cholesterol and the American Heart Association recommends that healthy individuals get, on average, less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day. The saturated fat, however, in eggs is just 1.5 grams, which is much lower than many other protein-rich foods.
The most effective ways to improve your heart’s health is to lose weight (if overweight); avoid trans fats; minimize saturated fat; fried foods and anything rich in added sugars like sweets, baked goods and desserts. These are much more effective ways to in your diet are better ways to improve your heart’s health than eliminating eggs, shrimp and other foods that contain dietary cholesterol but are relatively low in saturated fat and nutrient-rich.
Eggs are Nutrient-Packed
An egg has more than 10 essential nutrients, including iron, vitamin D, iron, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and choline, and provides high-quality protein and antioxidants. Few foods naturally contain vitamin D or choline, and most animal-based proteins lack antioxidants, making eggs one of the most nutritious additions to your diet
Eggs are Diet-Friendly
A large egg provides just 70 calories and 6 grams protein and 5 grams total fat. Recent studies show that eating a high-quality protein breakfast of eggs vs. a breakfast of cereal or other carbohydrates helps turn down hunger hormones and enhances feelings of fullness. In an egg vs. bagel challenge, dieters who ate an egg breakfast versus the same calorie breakfast of bagels lost 65% more weight and significantly more belly fat compared to those who ate the bagel breakfast.
Egg Protein is High-Quality
Eggs are always considered the gold-standard for protein because they contain all the nine essential amino acids and in the exact combinations that are most usable by the body. Egg protein is so “bioavailable” that it is the standard by which all other proteins are measured.
A meal with eggs eaten after exercise can help aid in muscle recovery by providing the essential amino acids necessary to repair tissues and aid in gaining strength. Athletes are urged to eat about 20-30 grams of protein at each meal and especially post-exercise to help encourage muscle tissue repair protein synthesis. Some examples of perfect, post-exercise protein choices include protein pancakes, baked eggs in Canadian bacon and scrambled eggs with a high-protein English muffin.
Eggs are Choline-Rich
Choline is an essential nutrient that may help reduce your risk of breast cancer. In addition, choline has been shown to enhance memory and cognitive function in infants and toddlers and help prevent certain birth defects.
One egg yolk packs in 126 mg of choline, or nearly one-third of the 425 mg women need daily. In a population based study, researchers found that women who got the most choline in their diet slashed their risk of breast cancer by 24 percent. Women who consumed the most choline had a daily average of 455 mg of choline or more — mostly from coffee, eggs and skim milk. Women with the lowest intake consumed a daily average of 196 milligrams or less. Few foods contain significant amounts of choline, so eating eggs is one of the best ways to ensure you get your choline quota.
Eggs are a Good Source of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is thought to help protect against a wide range of conditions including certain cancers, diabetes, autoimmune diseases and may even aid in weight management. Most Americans are considered D-eficient because so few foods provide vitamin D and while sun exposure enables the body to make vitamin D, many people don’t get enough daily sun exposure to meet their requirements. A large egg is now considered a “good” source of vitamin D, providing 41 IUs or 10 percent of daily value.
Egg yolks contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two beneficial carotenoids that are concentrated in the macula of the eye and act to help block harmful UV rays from damaging eye tissues. Diets rich in lutein and zeaxanthin are known to help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. AMD is the leading cause of blindness among older Americans. What’s more, the carotenoids in egg yolks are considered more bioavailable than carotenoids present in colorful fruits and vegetables because they’re more absorbable.
For more about eggs: Read They’re Eggcellent.
–Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD