Eggs seem to conjure quite a nutrition debate-the white, the yolk, the cholesterol, the omega-3s, the protein, cage-free, brown, white… This simple, whole food has been put on the “bad” list as much as it’s on others’ “good” list. Whole eggs have been dissected and rearranged into liquid and powdered egg products. Brown eggs have been bleached white. And some eggs have been fortified. Which are healthiest?
As with many nutrition-related questions, I advocate for food in its whole, most natural form. When it comes to eggs, here are my nutrition bites:
Whole eggs are part of a healthy diet, in moderation.
Eggs are comprised of two things: protein and fat. Eggs are a great source of protein, containing approximately 7 grams per egg. All of the protein is in the egg white. All of the fat is in the egg yolk. If we learned anything from the fat-free craze of the 90s, it’s that not all fat is bad for you. In fact, some fat is essential for health (i.e. omega-3 fatty acids), and eliminating all fat does not result in sustainable health changes.
Regarding egg yolks…
The yolk of the egg contains many vital nutrients that would be used to nourish a new life (a baby chick, that is). In this way, it is one of nature’s perfect foods. Yes, there is cholesterol in the egg yolk, so eating more than two eggs every single day may inch up your blood cholesterol level (although exercise and fiber will inch it down, too).
Eggs are actually low in calories and very filling.
One large egg has only about 70 calories, including the yolk that gets such a bad rap. The reason why eggs are filling is because both protein and fat take longer to digest, and help moderate sugar absorption and blood sugar levels. In other words, having an egg with a typical carbohydrate breakfast food will hold you over longer than if you were to eat just cereal, toast, or pancakes alone.
How the egg is produced and where it comes from matters.
When it comes to animal products, quality matters. A hen’s diet will dictate the nutrition quality of the eggs she produces. The better and healthier her diet and lifestyle are, the better and healthier her eggs will be. Chickens’ natural diet and environment includes roaming around pecking grass, seeds and bugs. Chickens who live and eat this way are often termed “free range” or “cage free”. Modern agriculture practices have tweaked chickens’ natural diet and environment to maximize production and revenue. These chickens live in very close quarters in cages and eat a diet of grain and corn. As you might expect, the yolks of free range-produced eggs have healthier fatty acid content, and these yolks naturally contain omega 3 fatty acids. Furthermore, organic eggs come from chickens that have not been given hormones, antibiotics, and who have been fed an organic diet. In my professional opinion, free-range, organic eggs are the best quality.
Brown vs white
Brown eggs come from brown hens and white eggs come from white hens. Given that all other production factors are equal (see above), brown and white eggs are no different in taste or quality.
I hope this was helpful in deciphering all the ideas out there about eggs. What are your opinions of eggs? What diet myths do you want to investigate further?