So which came first? Egg equals diet friend, or egg equals diet foe?
Poor eggs just can’t get a break (no pun intended). Despite the fact that numerous studies have shown no correlation between eggs and heart disease, there is still a widespread belief that eggs are bad for us.
Eggs are low in saturated fat (1.5 grams per large egg) and high in cholesterol (200 milligrams per large egg), but research has shown that one egg a day is not likely to have a substantial impact on our risk of heart disease or stroke, particularly if we’re already pretty healthy.
The American Dietetic Association says whole eggs are fine, as long as we eat them “in moderation,” and the American Heart Association says we can have one yolk a day, as long as we limit our intake of other cholesterol‑containing foods.
So here’s what I tell my clients: Since it’s primarily saturated fat and trans fats that raise our “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, go ahead and have an egg a day if you’re so inclined.
And when it comes to limiting eggs for cardiovascular purposes, we’re only talking about the yolks of the eggs. The whites are mostly just protein, completely fat free, with only 16 calories each.
As for the yolk, the truth is that it shouldn’t get a bad rap either, as it’s actually packed with nutrients, some of which are hard to get elsewhere. Egg yolks are the best dietary source of choline, for example, a nutrient that’s necessary for healthy cell membranes. Choline is also essential for our brain development and function and plays a critical role in our metabolism of fats.
The yolk of the egg is also a good source of Vitamin B12 (with one yolk providing about 10 percent of the daily value), as well as lutein and xeaxanthin, two antioxidants that may reduce the risk of age‑related macular degeneration.
Eggs are a quick, easy source of protein, with a large egg providing about seven grams of protein (three grams in the yolk; four grams in the white). Plus, they’re cheap and a cinch to prepare.
Any eggs will do, but we also have the option of omega‑3‑fortified eggs. These chickens are fed special diets, resulting in eggs that have more omega‑3 fats, and often more vitamin E and less saturated fat. So why you may be getting extra nutrients, you may also be paying extra at the register. At one local grocery store, these fortified eggs were nearly 50 percent higher than regular eggs. The extra cost may be worth it to you, especially if you eat eggs — yolk included — on a regular basis. If you’re only using the egg whites, however, consider buying regular eggs — or a carton of egg whites — so that you’re not tossing out this pricier yolk.
Organic eggs are another option on shelves. These eggs are from chickens that have been raised according to the USDA’s National Organic Program guidelines regarding the ingredients in their diets, and without being treated with pesticides or antibiotics. (By the way, no chickens are allowed to receive growth hormones, whether organic or not). Organic chickens must be allowed free range of their houses, as well as outdoor access, but the amount of time outside isn’t specified.
And don’t be fooled by eggs labeled as “cage‑free.” This doesn’t mean these eggs are organic, or nutritionally different than regular eggs in any way. Some people choose to buy cage‑free eggs as a means of supporting more humane treatment of chickens. And while cage‑free does indicate that the chickens can move freely within the barn or warehouse, they don’t necessarily have access to the outdoors. Also, there are no guidelines regarding diet, pesticides or antiobiotic use with cage‑free chickens.
Regardless of the type of egg you choose, you can shave calories and fat by using only one whole egg and adding extra egg whites (fresh or carton) for more volume. Adding even just one yolk will help retain the flavor, texture and nutritional benefits, and you may not even notice that your post-Easter egg salad sandwich has been lightened up.
For more details on this topic, read Molly’s full article on Nola.com.