The Humble Egg

The Humble Egg

Nutrition Nation nutritionist Dilal Ranasinghe debates the dilemma of which came first, the cholesterol or the egg

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Foodie  Foodie  | over 3 years ago


This article originally appeared in the latest April edition of Foodie: A Woman's Place. Read it here!


The truth about ‘the egg’ has been a confusing barrage of information over the years. They have been demonized in the health food industry as causing blood cholesterol levels to skyrocket. The media and health industry have also led many to believe that eggs increase cholesterol and lead to heart problems and other health issues. I am glad to report that recent evidence says this is NOT the case.


The facts

‘Cholesterol’ is often seen as a negative word. When we hear it, we automatically start thinking of medication, heart attacks, health problems and early death. The truth is that cholesterol is a very important part of the body and is also used to make hormones like
testosterone, estrogen and cortisol. Without cholesterol, we wouldn’t even exist! Given how incredibly important cholesterol is, the body has evolved elaborate ways to ensure that we always have enough of it available. As obtaining cholesterol from the diet isn’t always an option, the liver actually produces cholesterol to ensure our bodies are balanced. When we eat a lot of cholesterol rich foods, the liver starts producing less. It is however important to differentiate between ‘good cholesterol’ and ‘bad cholesterol”. One we need to increase in our bodies, the other we need to decrease.


The fact is an egg is a nutritional powerhouse! They are a fantastic
source of lean protein, heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids and also contain a selection of important nutrients. One large egg has roughly 186-210 milligrams of cholesterol — all of which is found in the egg’s yolk. This is coming with around 70-90 calories, 6-7 grams of protein and 5 grams of healthy fats. Eggs also contain various other trace nutrients that are important for health.


So, in an eggshell, eggs are pretty much the perfect food, they contain a little bit of almost every nutrient we need.


The benefits

Eggs are perfectly packed with nutrients. A whole egg contains all the nutrients required to turn a single cell into a baby chicken.


Some of the nutrients of an egg:

Vitamin A: 6% of the RDA.

Folate: 5% of the RDA.

Vitamin B5: 7% of the RDA.

Vitamin B12: 9% of the RDA.

Vitamin B2: 15% of the RDA.

Phosphorus: 9% of the RDA.

Selenium: 22% of the RDA.

*These values are approximate

Eggs also contain decent amounts of Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Calcium and Zinc.


Eggs Raise HDL (The “Good”) cholesterol - People who have higher levels of HDL usually have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and various health issues.


Eggs contain choline – an important nutrient that most people don’t get enough of – choline is used to build cell membranes and has a role in producing signaling molecules in the brain, along with various other functions.


Eggs turn bad cholesterol to good cholesterol reducing the risk of heart disease - Egg consumption appears to change the pattern of LDL particles from small, dense LDL (bad) to large LDL, which is linked to a reduced heart disease risk.


Eggs contain lutein, zeaxanthin and antioxidants that have major benefits for eye health - studies show that consuming adequate amounts of these nutrients can significantly reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, two very common eye disorders.


In the case of omega-3 or pasturised eggs, they lower triglycerides as well - eggs from hens that are raised on pasture and/or fed omega-3 enriched feeds tend to be much higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are known to reduce blood levels of triglycerides, a well-known risk factor for heart disease.


Eggs for pregnant women - Eggs are rich in proteins, which are essential during pregnancy. Every cell of the growing baby is made of protein, so having eggs in limited amounts during pregnancy is good for the fetus.


How many is too many?

This does depend on a number of factors including your current age, lifestyle, diet, medical factors and activity. That said medical research has proven that eating up to 3 eggs per day does not adversely affect the body, blood cholesterol or increase risk of cholesterol related diseases. This doesn’t mean that you can go and start eating over 20 eggs per week!! Always eat foods in moderation, especially eggs as they could be added to a lot of foods that we eat regularly including snacks, noodles, some pasta, bread crumbed foods and lots of baked products. Fundamentally, eating a whole egg every day is a great addition to your diet.


The right eggs

It’s also important to keep in mind that not all eggs are equal. It matters what we eat, however it also matters what the producers of our foods actually eat. In the case of eggs, the diet of the livestock is critical to the optimal nutritional value of the egg. Most eggs at the supermarket are from chickens that are raised in factories and fed grain-based feeds. The healthiest eggs are omega-3 enriched eggs, or eggs from hens that are raised on pasture and given organic feeds. These eggs are much higher in important fat-soluble vitamins. We strongly recommend that your eggs should be free range or organic.


In the end

The humble egg is a power food packed with essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need.



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