Eggs are just eggs - they’re unprocessed, one ingredient whole foods that have been around since the beginning of time. Eggs are among one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, so how can something so wholesome be bad for your health?
A single egg is a rich source of cholesterol packing about 180mg of cholesterol (60% of the recommended daily intake). With that maths you can see why most people would worry that they'd be well over this limit on a mere 2 eggs per day.
Eggs have gotten a bad reputation because the yolk part of the egg is rich in cholesterol. We've been taught that cholesterol is bad, therefore eggs are bad. That if we eat cholesterol, it would raise our cholesterol levels and lead to medication, heart disease, and early death.
But we don't only get cholesterol from our food. The body produces it's own cholesterol too, mainly in the liver. Cholesterol is an important molecule in healthy cellular function, and involved in making steroid hormones like testosterone, estrogen and cortisol - all of which serve important roles in the body. The more cholesterol we eat, the less our bodies produce, which helps balance total levels out.
HDL and LDL
HDL (high-density lipoproteins) particles remove fats and cholesterol from cells including artery walls, and transport them back to the liver for excretion or re-utilisation. It's this helpful role that has LDL known as the 'good cholesterol'.
LDL (low-density lipoproteins) are actually made up of two types of LDL. 'Bad' LDL is a smaller denser molecule which enables fats around the bloodstream and can transport their contents of fat molecules into artery walls, while the 'not so bad' LDL is a larger fluffier molecule that has a more benign effect, being neither very harmful or helpful.
They are such a complete source of nutrition because they contain all the nutrients required to turn a single cell into a baby chicken.
If you think about it that way of course they are loaded with everything a mammal needs to develop healthily.
They have been likened to nuts in this potent nutritional capacity, and been called 'natures vitamin pills'.
How many can you eat?
For many decades (since the Food Industry's big push on breakfast cereal in the mid 1900's), people have been advised to limit their consumption of eggs, or at least of egg yolks, you know, the bad part of the egg. The white is mostly protein and is low in cholesterol.
Common recommendations have included anywhere between 2-6 eggs per week. These figures come without much scientific basis, and with a lot of food industry scare-mongering. There have however been some studies done that can help put our minds at ease. The results below are from studies where participants ate 3 eggs per day. These studies, which compare egg eating with non-egg eating groups have shown some good reasons to eat eggs freely*:
- In almost all cases, HDL (good) cholesterol increases.
- Total and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels usually don’t change, but sometimes they increase slightly. Probably not a problem as the LDL particles change from small and dense LDL to large and fluffy LDL.
- The Omega-3 in eggs can lower blood triglycerides, another important risk factor for chronic disease.
- Blood levels of carotenoid antioxidants like Lutein and Zeaxanthine increase significantly. These antioxidants reduce your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
- High in quality animal protein, which has many benefits including improved bone health and increased muscle mass.
- They increase satiety - that full feeling, and can help us avoid overeating.
I wanna eat me some eggs
Ethics aside, it's your choice where to get your eggs, but one thing to remember is that probably the unhealthiest thing about eggs is the the way they have been produced.
This means if you're buying eggs from battery farmed, grain fed, antibiotic pumped chickens these eggs could have a negative effect on your health over time. Most supermarket eggs come from chickens that are raised in factories, that eat grain-based feeds, and are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, which all ensure they grow and produce quickly, while also surviving their unhealthy breeding conditions.
In comparison organic free range eggs come from chickens free to roam, fed from grasses, and kept stress free. All these factors make for a healthier egg eating experience for the consumer. Look for the darkest and richest coloured yolk. If in doubt about which eggs to buy remember, happy chickens produce healthier eggs.
*This article is written for the healthy reader with no pre-existing conditions that may