The final word on eggs – good for you or not?
When we were growing up, we ate eggs, usually for breakfast, because they tasted good, contained protein and other nutrients and could be prepared in a variety of fun ways. Then in the 90s came the dire news that our beloved eggs contained large amounts of cholesterol which increased the cholesterol levels in the blood.
Although we missed them, we started eating less eggs, limiting our consumption to the acceptable three per week. If we wanted the low-fat, low-calorie protein from eggs, we ate only egg whites, which did taste good but were nowhere near as delicous as eggs with good old-fashioned yolk. Egg substitutes, containing mainly egg whites, became popular for low-cholesterol diets as they contained zero cholesterol compared to regular yolks which pack 250mg of cholesterol.
After several years of this, information started popping up about how the cholesterol in eggs apparently wasn’t quite the death sentence they thought it was and eggs have regained their rightful place at the table. How did the change of heart come about?
Although it’s still true that eggs and particularly yolks, are rich in cholesterol, there are two bits of information that make this not such a bad thing. One is that two-thirds of the fat found in eggs is the healthy, unsaturated kind of fat. The other is that there are no trans-fatty acids in eggs. Trans fatty acids are bad for your heart because they increase total cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol (bad) levels and reduce HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
And eggs have even more benefits! The fat that the egg does contain is a good source of vitamin A, E and K. Eggs yolks are also one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, which is the wonder vitamin people are beginning to have a lot to say about. Other hard to get nutrients are also found in eggs – iron, folate and vitamin B12. The protein in egg white is considered an ideal protein, containing all the amino acids in the right amounts that your body needs.
Another important nutrient found in egg is choline. The established recommended intake for choline is 550mg for men, 425mg for women and 450mg for pregnant women. One large egg contains 125mg of choline. A study in 2008 at the University of North Carolina suggests that women who consumed more choline had a reduced risk of breast cancer. Three thousand women were studied and it was concluded that those who had the highest intake of choline had a 24 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer. Other studies have shown the same findings.
However, there are cautions that should be considered. Researchers conclude that while egg consumption in middle-aged men of up to 6 eggs a week is not associated with risk, consumption of seven or more is assocated with a 23 percent greater risk of death. Men who already had diabetes died sooner if they ate any eggs at all. Researchers suggest further study is needed, because the men in these studies who ate the most eggs were also older, fatter and were more likely to drink alcohol, smoke and less likely to exercise. Further studies will be undertaken, but in the meantime, caution is urged for middle-aged men.
Remember though, that it’s not only the egg that you eat that’s important. It’s how it’s cooked and what you eat it with! An egg fried in oil or butter with garlic fried rice and sausages is multiplying the calories, fat, and cholesterol in the egg by a whopping amount! There exists too large a variety of ways to prepare eggs to have it the same, artery-clogging way forever.
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