Eggs – Friend or Foe?
In February 2015, the humble egg was finally vindicated. After years of being maligned because the yolk contains about 185 mg of cholesterol, and mounting scientific evidence that the amount of cholesterol consumed in the diet had no effect on the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream, eggs have been given a clean bill of health in the US Federal Government’s 2015 dietary guidelines.
The 2015 guidelines removed and recommended restriction on the consumption of eggs, noting that cholesterol was not “a nutrient of concern for overconsumption”.
How Did Eggs Get A Bad Name?
Eggs, or more particularly, egg yolks, were frowned upon in the past because they contain a significant amount of cholesterol. A single medium-sized egg contained 62% of the recommended daily intake of cholesterol.
Two eggs per day, and you were already eating “too much” cholesterol.
Enter, Stage Left, the “egg white omelette”, and many other dietary contortions designed to help people avoid eating the dangerously cholesterol-laden egg yolks.
But Actually …
In truth, the “recommended daily intake” of cholesterol was based on a complete misunderstanding about how the human body works.
Early dietary guidelines made the simple assumption that the more cholesterol you consume, the more cholesterol you will have in your blood stream. It is a simple assumption, but decades or
Cholesterol is a very important part of the body. It is an essential part of every cell membrane. t is also used to make steroid hormones like testosterone, oestrogen and cortisol.
Because cholesterol is so vital, the body has many elaborate pathways to ensure that we always have enough of it available.
Getting cholesterol from the diet isn’t always an option, so the liver can produce cholesterol. If there is plenty of cholesterol in the diet, the liver doesn’t need to make much, but if our dietary intake is low, the liver simply makes more.
If you eat lots of eggs, you are lightening the load on your liver and letting it use more of its resources for other bodily processes.
Nutrients In Eggs
And then there is the matter of nutrition. Most of the nutrients in eggs are in the yolks, so all the folk scoffing their egg white omelettes were depriving themselves of a powerhouse of nutritional value.
One large egg contains Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): 9% of RDA, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 15% of RDA, Vitamin A: 6% of RDA, Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): 7% of RDA and selenium: 22% of RDA. Selenium is a vital nutrient for converting thyroxine (the thyroid hormone, known as T4) into its more active metabolite, T3, which carries the glucose into the cells of your body so they can do their jobs effectively.
There are four essential amino acids which the body can’t make internally, and therefore we need to consume on a regular basis. Low levels of any of these amino acids can lead directly to low levels of brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins – which means symptoms of depression. All four of these amino acids are found in eggs, which is why they have been referred to as “the perfect protein”.
Eggs also contain small amounts of almost every vitamin and mineral required by the human body… including calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, manganese, Vitamin E, folate and many more.
For vegetarians, eggs can be the lifeline that makes their diet sustainable. Vegans, who don’t eat milk or dairy products, need to educate themselves and work quite hard to ensure that they get all the nutrients they need, particularly the amino acids, from plant sources.
There have been no studies done on the effects of eating more than three eggs per day. At the level of three eggs per day, there were absolutely no ill effects from eating eggs, so you are completely safe to indulge in eggs every day, even two or three eggs every day, without fear or concern.
That is not to say that there will be health issues if you eat more than three eggs per day – it is just that no large scale scientific studies have been done. Individuals have been studied who ate anything up to 25 eggs per day, and were in perfect health well into their 80s, but these were case studies, not epidemiological studies, so we can’t say for certain that if you ate the same way, you would enjoy the same radiant good health.
However, most of us would be content with two or three eggs per day anyway, and we now know that you can enjoy eggs in this way without any concerns at all for your health.