by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
What’s the 411 on eggs? Are they part of a healthy diet or should they be left for the rare deviled bite at a picnic? Before you sit down to a holiday brunch or a warm breakfast on a cold winter’s morn, know the facts …
Recent years have produced conflicting advice on egg consumption, leaving their reputation questionable. Chicken eggs are loaded with cholesterol. One large egg has about 212 mg of cholesterol. With only 300 mg as the daily recommended limit for consumption by healthy individuals, what’s an egg lover to do?
Take the Good with the Bad
Although high in cholesterol, eggs are also packed with protein and vitamins. Their fundamental purpose is to feed a baby chick before it hatches. One egg contains over six grams of protein. That doesn’t negate its cholesterol value, but it can help replace other foods in your diet that contain high cholesterol.
An omelet filled with veggies and low-fat cheese successfully satisfies hunger. You can possibly skip the meat at your next meal or forgo a dessert, thanks to the high protein level in eggs. Protein takes substantial time to digest, so you feel full for longer.
Vitamins and minerals found in eggs include:
Choline—promotes healthy cell membranes and improves mental function and memory. Reduces homocysteine levels, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Selenium—a powerful antioxidant.
B vitamins—help convert food into energy.
Vitamin A—helps night vision, promotes healthy skin and general cell growth.
Vitamin E—an antioxidant that teams with vitamin C and selenium to prevent damage from free radicals.
Lutein and zeaxanthin (found in yellow pigment of egg yolk)–help prevent macular degeneration.
Accentuate the Positive
As more research is performed, discoveries are being made about the body’s production of cholesterol, most of which is generated by your own liver. This finding indicates the amount of cholesterol consumed might not affect your blood cholesterol levels as much as previously believed.
Some suggest a daily egg provides more good than harm. As a satisfying addition to your morning meal, it may leave you less likely to snack and, therefore, more capable of losing weight. It also delivers all of the aforementioned nutrients.
If you suffer from cardiovascular disease, high LDL (bad) cholesterol, or diabetes, eggs should be eaten with more caution. Dietary cholesterol intake should be limited to less than 200 mg daily. If you splurge, go for a small- or medium-sized egg. Recognize with that one egg, you’ve reached your daily maximum. Avoid high-fat foods and meats for the day’s duration.
An egg’s cholesterol is entirely contained in its yolk. Two egg whites can substitute as the equivalent of one whole egg. Remember that ratio when baking. Cholesterol-free egg substitutes are available in your store’s dairy section. You may also try replacing any eggs required in baked goods with applesauce. Both provide moisture, and some even prefer the little extra flavor.
Consider the Whole Plate
Eggs often hang with the wrong crowd. Think bacon, fried potatoes, and pancakes with syrup. Questionable on their own, they definitely suffer guilt by association with these traditional sides. Reinvent omelets, casseroles, and other egg dishes.
Replace white bread toast with whole wheat tortillas. Stuff them with scrambled eggs, peppers, and homemade salsa. Serve eggs prepared with beans, veggies, and low-fat cheese for a hearty breakfast before venturing into your day. Try turkey bacon or sausage, which have a lower fat content and usually an extra zing of spice. Add a little sweetness to your morning meal. Enjoy a yogurt smoothie with plain yogurt and fresh fruit. Save syrup for special occasions. You are who you hang around with. Pair those eggs with healthy choices!
Free to Fly
For the organic and green shopper, it helps to clarify the facts on free-range versus cage-free chickens. Cage-free chickens live in a large, open area where they are free to stretch their wings. Free-range lodgings allow them to venture outdoors, should the mood strike.
Buying USDA-certified organic eggs is the only guarantee that your eggs are truly free-range and often cage-free. You are also assured chickens have dined only on organic feed, which is free of antibiotics, hormones, or grain grown with toxic chemicals. If you weren’t buying organic previously, that tidbit probably has you questioning your decision.
The choice to eat eggs seems to follow the old adage, “everything in moderation.” With the facts unscrambled, you can better determine if the benefits outweigh eggs’ negative cholesterol issue. The answer probably lies in your health history, your current cholesterol levels, and whether you’d rather splurge on a fudge brownie.
“Are Chicken Eggs Good or Bad for My Cholesterol?” by Thomas Behrenbeck at www.mayoclinic.com.
“Are Eggs a Good Source of Protein and Can They Be Part of a Healthy Diet?” by Shereen Jegtvig at www.about.com.
“Easy, Healthy Egg Recipes,” at www.fitnessmagazine.com.
“Free-Range vs. Cage-Free Eggs,” by Sara Snow at www.fitnessmagazine.com.
Eggs (introductory photo): www.flickr.com/photos/gottgraphicsdesign/3694187993/
Healthy eggs: www.flickr.com/photos/barbbarbbarb/3031398173/
Unhealthy eggs: www.flickr.com/photos/matthewfugel/4115147157/
Chicken shed: www.flickr.com/photos/fishermansdaughter/5215794622