Eggs have gotten a bad rap over the last few decades. Deemed bad for the heart by health experts, they have been the subjects of criticism and scrutiny. But are our white (sometimes brown) friends really that unhealthy for us? In the last few years, numerous health organizations have been vindicating eggs' reputation. So what are we to believe; why were eggs chastised, only to be acclaimed again?
old egg mythsIt was previously thought that eggs raised blood cholesterol levels -- one of the main causes of heart disease. The yolk in a single large egg contains five grams of fat, so it was only natural for nutritionists to assume that eggs clogged up people's arteries, especially since they also contain dietary cholesterol .
Another myth was that cholesterol is fat. That is simply not true. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that resembles fat, but has little to do with it. Today, scientists know that cholesterol content in food and the cholesterol in our blood aren't as directly related as once thought. So to unravel the mystery that is the egg, one must look at cholesterol.
cholesterolFirst, one has to understand that cholesterol is not necessarily bad. Humans need it to maintain cell walls, insulate nerve fibers and produced vitamin D, among other things. Second, there are two types of cholesterol: dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol . Both are important.
Dietary cholesterol is found in certain foods, such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and diary products. The second type (blood cholesterol, also called serum cholesterol) is produced in the liver and floats around in our bloodstream. Blood cholesterol is divided into two sub-categories: High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL). LDL cholesterol is considered bad because it sticks to artery walls.
What is bad, however, is the amount of LDL blood cholesterol in the body. Too much of it can cause heart problems, but scientists are now discovering that consuming food rich in dietary cholesterol does not increase blood cholesterol. At least that is what some experts believe (they are somewhat disagreeing on the matter... as usual).
Evidence showing that eating a lot of dietary cholesterol doesn't increase blood cholesterol was discovered during a statistical analysis conducted over 25 years by Dr. Wanda Howell and colleagues at the University of Arizona. The study revealed that people who consume two eggs each day with low-fat diets do not show signs of increased blood cholesterol levels.
So what does raise blood cholesterol? One of the main theories is that saturated fat does. Of the three types of fat (saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), saturated fat raises blood cholesterol and LDL levels. It so happens that eggs contain mostly polyunsaturated fat, which can actually lower blood cholesterol if one replaces food containing saturated fat with eggs.
delicious, nutritiousEggs are actually quite nutritious. They are not just fat (yolk) and protein (white). In fact, they contain a wide array of essential vitamins and minerals. Here is what's in an egg...
A: good for the skin and growth.
D: strengthens bones by raising calcium absorption.
E: protects cells from oxidation.
B1: helps properly release energy from carbohydrates.
B2: helps release energy from protein and fat.
B6: promotes the metabolism of protein.
B12: an essential vitamin in the formation of nerve fibers and blood cells.
Iron: essential in the creation of red blood cells.
Zinc: good for enzyme stability and essential in sexual maturation.
Calcium: most important mineral in the strengthening of bones and teeth.
Iodine: controls thyroid hormones.
Selenium: like vitamin E, it protects cells from oxidation.
best type of proteinIf that wasn't enough, egg whites contain the purest form of protein found in whole-foods. It is so high that nutritionists use them as the standard when comparing other whole-food proteins. Their "biological value" -- a measurement used to determine how efficiently a protein is used for growth -- is 93.7. Milk, fish, beef, and rice respectively have a bio value of 84.5, 76, 74.3, and 64.
The higher the value, the better the protein is absorbed. This is why many bodybuilders include eggs in their diet. When a person eats beef, for instance, all of the protein is not necessarily absorbed and used to rebuild tissue.
Protein is a complex substance, which is why bodybuilding protein supplement makers are constantly trying to refine the quality of their product and why some protein shake brands boast that their protein is made from egg whites. Having said that, each large egg contains 6.3 grams of protein.
how to eat eggsExperts advise that despite being low in saturated fat, one should not eat more than two eggs a day on a low-fat diet. Egg yolk is mainly fat, so even though it doesn't raise blood cholesterol levels, it can cause other problems if abused.
Contaminated eggs kill up to 5000 individuals each year. One egg in 10,000 is contaminated with salmonella, so you should never eat undercooked eggs, make eggnog on your own or mimic Rocky by swallowing them raw.
The proper way to cook eggs depends on the type of food served. The American Egg Board advises that grills should never be set higher than 250F. Anything above that will leave the interior raw while burning the outside. If an egg has runny parts, it means it is still not cooked properly.
mmm, mmm, eggsSo now you know the truth about the incredible, edible egg. Once a foe, now a friend, this mighty whole-food contains many great nutrients and isn't as bad as people once thought. A great source of protein and easy to prepare, eggs are nature's golden food... if you don't eat too much of them, that is.