By Dr. Jack Rutherford
In previous columns I have written about the nutritional value as well as the drawbacks of eggs as part of a healthy diet. I have extolled eggs’ virtues – only 70 calories per egg, 6 grams of protein, vitamins A, D, and E, plus 240 mg of leucine, an amino acid responsible for muscle building. I have also panned eggs because of their high cholesterol and saturated fat content. Overall, I suggested that egg yolks be consumed sparingly and that one could reap most of the benefits by eating mostly the egg whites.
In view of recent evidence, I’m officially softening my stance on eggs. In fact, I’m going to go so far as to suggest that eggs should be a standard part of your diet.
One of the reasons I’ve used against eating eggs is because 60 percent of the calories comes from fat (5 grams of fat per egg). And they have too much cholesterol (200 mg per serving). As most everyone knows, too much fat and cholesterol in the diet is a risk for coronary heart disease.
However, dietary cholesterol doesn’t actually raise cholesterol as much as we used to think. Only one in three people experience significant increases in cholesterol levels after following a diet high in cholesterol. A Harvard University study of more than 100,000 people found that daily egg consumption didn’t increase risk of coronary heart disease.
Also, the combination of fat and protein in eggs (5 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein) increases satiety hormones – the ones that tell your brain you’re full, an effect you wouldn’t get by eating just egg whites. The protein in eggs also causes the release of glucagon, a hormone that helps your body use stored fat.
In comparison, compare eggs to rice cakes, a timeless “diet” food. Two rice cakes also have 70 calories, but they come with no protein or fat but instead, 14 grams of high-glycemic refined carbohydrates, making it a much less desirable option.
Egg yolks outperform egg whites in nutrient value as well. They contain all of the leucine as well as choline – essential for cell membrane function, along with most of the vitamins. If the eggs came from chickens fed omega-3 rich feed, you can benefit even more from the omega-3 fats in the yolk.
This recent evidence shouldn’t suggest that a two egg per day breakfast is recommended for good health. However, it does mean that can enjoy whole eggs a couple of times a week with less guilt and the knowledge that they are a great food for a number of reasons.