Eggs are one of those foods surrounded with a lot of mixed messages. Some health experts say they’re unhealthy, some say they’re great, and some have said both at one time or another. The message has flip flopped frequently because our understanding of cholesterol’s role in strokes and heart disease has evolved over time. When we first made the association between high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, doctors suggested avoiding cholesterol-rich foods like eggs to reduce the risk. The funny thing was, this only made it worse.
Your body actually produces cholesterol in your liver, so while the food you eat can raise cholesterol, it has been shown that eating cholesterol in foods like eggs doesn’t increase cardiovascular risk even in people that are genetically predisposed to heart disease. However, processed carbohydrates and high fructose corn syrup does actually increase LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind). What most people don’t realize is that not all LDL cholesterol is the same. We’ve all lumped it together into the bad category, but some is even worse for your health than others. High fructose corn syrup tends to create smaller and denser particles of LDL cholesterol. These particles increase the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to three fold. Even though eggs can raise LDL cholesterol in some people, the particles tend to be larger and less dense which actually provides a protective effect by reducing the concentrations of the more dangerous small and dense particles. Long story short, we now understand that the cholesterol in eggs does not increase cardiovascular risk.
Eggs are health food
Even people that have received the message that eggs are not a health risk don’t understand that they’re a health food. It’s not a guilty pleasure that you shouldn’t feel as guilty about anymore, but rather they’re a great healthy option that provide a ton of benefits. Most of these nutrients are in the yolks, so don’t think you’re doing yourself a favor by switching to egg whites:
High in bio-available vitamin D: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so type 2 diabetics and people with a lot of fat tissue actually tend to be deficient in a specific form of vitamin D (known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D-3) because their fat cells effectively steal this nutrient away from their other cells. Eggs are naturally rich in 25-hydroxyvitamin D-3, and one study with diabetic rats found that eating eggs improved vitamin D levels by 148 percent and decreased blood triglycerides by 52 percent.
High in healthy omega-3 fatty acids: I’ve mentioned the benefits of this healthy fat before. One of the best sources of omega-3 is in fish or grass-fed beef, but if you’re not a fan of either of these, eggs are a great choice. Just make sure the carton says that they’re omega-3-rich eggs. It’s the same with the grass-fed beef. They only contain healthy fats if the chickens were fed the right kinds of seeds.
High in protein: Protein is important no matter your goal, but getting at least 20 percent of your daily calories from protein will help prevent muscle loss while trying to lose body fat. It’s also what makes eggs so filling and satisfying.
High in vitamins: Aside from vitamin D, eggs contain vitamin E, vitamin K, calcium (which also helps reduce fat storage), zinc, choline and all B vitamins. The healthy fat content in eggs also helps with the absorption of many of these fat-soluble vitamins.
Eggs aren’t the problem
I’ve seen it many times before. When people decide to adopt a more healthy diet, they assume they need to give up eggs as well because it was something they used to enjoy (and because of the mixed messages surrounding them). As I’ve said many times, you don’t have to eat foods you hate in order to eat healthy. Eggs can and should be a part of your healthy diet. They’re filling, nutrient-packed, and the satisfying effect of eggs will help you naturally eat less calories throughout the day without even trying.