Are eggs good or bad for you?
Raw eggs.When I hear that term it makes me think of the famous scene in the movie Rocky...the one where Rocky's morning alarm goes off, he gets out of bed and then opens the door of his refrigerator.
He grabs an empty glass and proceeds to crack five eggs into it. He drinks all five eggs down as if it was fruit punch.
The implication of the scene being that if you're looking to get into shape that consuming raw eggs will somehow give you an edge.
Today I'm going to take a look at whether Rocky was being a good role model for others in that scene. Plus I'll take a look at the benefits to consuming eggs, the egg white versus the egg yolk, how many eggs it's safe to consume per day and some egg tips.
Let's get started...
What are the pros and cons of eating raw eggs?
The main benefit to eating an egg raw, other than the convenience of not having to cook it, is that when you compare a large raw egg to a large hard-boiled egg, it has more nutrients. According to the US. Department of Agriculture's nutritional database the raw egg has: 36% more vitamin D; 33% more omega-3s; 33% more DHA (docosahexaenoic acid); 30% more lutein + zeaxanthin; 23% more choline; 20% more biotin and 19% more zinc.
So what does this potential increase mean to you? Probably not that much for the average person. The possible exception is when it comes to choline. Choline is hugely important for proper brain function. It was first discovered in 1862 by Adolph Strecker. However it was not until more than one hundred years later in 1998 that the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine ordained choline as an essential nutrient. It's estimated that 90% of North Americans don't get enough choline on a daily basis. The FDA recommends you consume a minimum of 550 mg per day.According to the World's Healthiest Foods website a 77.5 calorie egg contains 146.9 mg of choline. So while 23% more due to eating an egg raw is a good thing, it's probably still not advisable. Here's why...
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that one out of every 30,000 eggs contains the Salmonella bacterium. Now while eating a raw egg that contains the Salmonella bacterium does not 100% mean that you'll contract Salmonella, why risk it? Now people do disagree on the level of threat Salmonella is when it comes to raw eggs. However, one thing they don't disagree on is that if you insist on eating raw eggs, eat pastured eggs. These are eggs from chickens who are allowed to roam free in a pasture. Salmonella is more likely to gain a footing when the chickens are raised in confined, less sanitary circumstances.
What are the benefits of consuming eggs?
Eggs are inexpensive and easy to cook for starters. Plus they contain the following nutrients:
Iron - carries oxygen to the cells, helps prevent anemia
Vitamin A - healthy skin and eye tissue
Vitamin D - strengthens bones and teeth
Vitamin E - a health-maintaining and disease-preventing antioxidant
Vitamin B12 - heart health
Folate - helps produce and maintain new cells; protects against serious birth defects during the first 3 months of pregnancy
Protein - builds and repairs muscle tissue
Selenium - helps prevent the breakdown of body tissues
Lutein and zeaxanthin - maintains good vision
Choline - plays a strong role in brain development and function
The egg white versus the egg yolk
While the egg yolk does contain the cholesterol, fat and saturated fat, it also contains the majority of the above nutrients (and 43% of the protein.)
Egg whites are low calorie and fat free. A typical egg white contains about 4 grams of protein, 17 calories and 55 mg of sodium (87% of the sodium of an egg is contained in the egg white.) So the only reason you'd want to skip the yolk is if you were trying to cut down on fat and calories.
How many eggs is it safe to eat per day?
This is the big question. A review article published in the British Medical Journal in 2013 found that eating one egg a day did not increase the likelihood of someone having a heart attack or stroke.
But what about eating more than one egg a day?
There are not a lot of scientific studies that focus on people who eat three or more eggs per day.
There is anecdotal information though. For instance, in 1991 The New England Journal of Medicine published a story (that has been widely referenced by egg lovers) about an 88-year-old man who ate 25 eggs a day and had a healthy cholesterol level.
A December 2015 article on the Authority Nutrition website by Kris Gunnars, a nutrition researcher who has a Bachelor's degree in medicine, insists the science is clear that up to three eggs a day is perfectly safe for healthy people.
He cites a 2006 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information writing that "eggs consistently raise HDL (the “good”) cholesterol. For 70% of people, there is no increase in Total or LDL cholesterol. There may be a mild increase in a benign subtype of LDL in some people."
Chris Kresser who is "a globally recognized leader in the fields of ancestral health, Paleo nutrition, and functional and integrative medicine" citing the same study, agree that it's ok for healthy people to eat three eggs a day. What is universally accepted is that if you have diabetes or heart disease you should limit your egg intake to a maximum of three eggs per week.
I tend to agree that eating three eggs a day (spreading them out over three meals if possible) is perfectly healthy. The bottom line though is if you're going to radically increase your egg consumption, check with your doctor first.
Four Egg eating Tips
1) Be mindful of what you eat with your eggs- You're not doing yourself any favors if every time you have an egg you accompany it with three strips of bacon or a greasy sausage. Instead accompany it with fruit or a whole wheat piece of toast or a whole wheat bagel.
2) Look for the word "pastured" on the carton- As mentioned, pastured eggs are eggs from chickens who were kept outside and allowed to roam around free (versus caged chickens.) A 2010 study by Penn State University found that eggs from pastured chickens had twice as much Vitamin E and 2.5 times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
3) Consider poaching (or boiling) your egg versus frying it- If you fry eggs in butter it will up your saturated fat intake (especially if your frying bacon at the same time.) Poaching (or boiling) is the solution. There are inexpensive poaching devices you can buy now that allows you to microwave a couple of eggs in under three minutes.
4) Don't let them go bad- If you make a dish that includes eggs and there is some left over keep the food in fridge and eat it within two days. Same goes for a hard-boiled egg. Don't let it sit in the shelf for longer than two (tops three) days. In terms of keeping raw eggs in the fridge the general rule of thumb is to eat them within five weeks of the purchase, but eating them within three weeks is preferred.
That's it for part two of my article on chicken eggs. Eggs are clearly one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. So if you've been avoiding them (for a non-health-related reason) it might just be time to get cracking.