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The Low Down on Eggs

The team at Rushcutters Health place a great deal of importance on having a first meal that is moderately high in protein and fat, while limiting or totally eliminating carbs. One of the simplest foods to have in your first meal is of course eggs. There is a great deal of misinformation regarding eggs and it’s hard to know if they’re healthy or not… Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. Fact. Think of it this way, a whole egg contains all the nutrients needed to turn a single cell into an entire chicken.

Where eggs have gotten their bad reputation from is because the yolks are high in cholesterol. A single medium sized egg contains around 180mg of cholesterol which is over 50% of your daily recommended intake. We used to be told that if you ate cholesterol, that it would raise cholesterol in the blood and contribute to heart disease. But it turns out that it isn’t quite so simple. In fact, the more cholesterol that you eat, the less your body produces, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The first thing we need to discuss is the fact that cholesterol isn’t actually a bad thing. Unfortunately, when we hear it, we automatically start thinking of medication, heart attacks and early death. The truth is that cholesterol is a very important part of the body. It is a molecule that is an essential part of the structure of every single cell membrane. In men, it is also used to make the hormones testosterone, oestrogen and cortisol, all of which we need for optimal health.

Without cholesterol, we would die. Given how incredibly important cholesterol is, the body has evolved elaborate ways to ensure that we always have enough of it available. Because getting cholesterol from the diet isn’t always possible, the liver can produce cholesterol. But when we eat cholesterol rich foods, the liver starts producing less. So, the total amount of cholesterol in the body changes only very little (if at all), it is just coming from the diet instead of from the liver.

For a long time, people have been advised to limit their consumption of eggs, or at least the yolks as the white is mostly protein and is low in cholesterol. Common recommendations include a maximum of 2-6 yolks per week. However, there really isn’t much scientific support for these recommendations

Luckily, there are several good studies that show that eating up to 3 eggs a day has no negative health effects. In these studies, people are split into two groups – one group eats 3 whole eggs per day, the other group eats something else, like egg substitutes instead. Then the researchers follow the people for several weeks/months.

 

These studies show that –

  • In almost all cases, HDL (the “good”) cholesterol goes up
  • Total and LDL cholesterol levels usually don’t change
  • Eating Omega-3 enriched eggs can lower blood triglycerides, another important risk factor for heart disease

 

The science is clear that up to 3 whole eggs per day are perfectly safe for healthy people who are trying to stay healthy.

Eggs are loaded with other nutrients too so it’s important to look at these and not just the cholesterol.

 

Some of the many benefits of eggs are –

  • They’re high in Lutein and Zeaxanthin, antioxidants that reduce your risk of eye diseases like Macular Degeneration and Cataracts.
  • They’re very high in choline, a brain nutrient that over 90% of people are lacking.
  • They’re high in quality animal protein, which has many benefits – including increased muscle mass and better bone health.
  • Studies show that eggs increase satiety and help you lose weight.

Eggs also taste amazing and are incredibly easy to prepare. So, even if eggs were to have mild adverse effects on blood cholesterol, which the research shows they don’t, the benefits of consuming them would still far outweigh the negatives.

 

So How Much is Too Much?

Unfortunately, there is no research done on subjects that eat more than 3 eggs a day. It is possible, although unlikely, that eating even more than that could have a detrimental effect on health, but that hasn’t been looked at in the research.

It’s interesting to look at one case study in which there was an 88-year-old man that lived off 25 eggs a day. He had normal cholesterol levels and was in very good health. Of course, a study of one doesn’t prove anything, but it’s interesting nonetheless. It is probably fair to assume that moderate egg consumption, say, 2-3 a day won’t cause any negative health effects if you are in good health generally.

It’s also important to keep in mind that not all eggs are created equal. 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. These eggs are much higher in Omega-3s and important fat-soluble vitamins.

Overall, eating eggs is perfectly safe, even if you’re eating up to 3 whole eggs per day. Given the incredible range of nutrients and powerful health benefits, quality eggs may just be the healthiest food on the planet.