Good Eggs

At this time of year, many of us have a couple dozen eggs on hand, and whether you’re going to boil them for coloring or not, there’s lots of nutritional good to be had from an egg.

Protein in a Handy Package

You may already know that eggs are a good source of high-quality protein. A large egg provides 6 grams of protein—so your two-egg scramble in the morning would deliver about the same amount of protein as a single-serve container of Greek yogurt. And although the cost of eggs has risen lately, they are still substantially less expensive than other protein sources like beef, chicken, or even that Greek yogurt.

Yolks: Concentrated Nutrition

Eggs are packed with nutrients, including 13 vitamins and minerals, and most of it is contained in the yolk. Of course, most of the roughly 70 calories and 5 grams of fat in an egg are also found in the yolk. Nevertheless, when you toss out the yolk, you’re tossing out an important source of natural vitamin D (there are very few natural sources of this important vitamin) and choline (a vitamin-like essential nutrient). Choline is needed by all the body’s cells and acts as a neurotransmitter as well as being a crucial component in healthy membranes and fat transport in the body. It’s also important for muscle function and healthy brain development. Our bodies make some choline, but not enough, so we do need it in our diets. And many of us are familiar with vitamin D, which is needed for bone growth and mineralization, and to help our bodies absorb calcium.  Other nutrients contained in the egg yolk: lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that are thought to boost eye health by helping to reduce the effects of age on our eyes.

About That Cholesterol

Remember when eggs were considered health enemy #1 because of their cholesterol content? It wasn’t that long ago really, but these days health authorities have lightened up a bit on the egg-bashing. Even the new US Dietary Guidelines doesn’t single out eggs and cholesterol as being an issue anymore. Why the switch? Well, there never was any real data that showed that people who ate more eggs had a higher risk of heart attacks. In fact, it’s now known that for most people, cholesterol obtained from the diet doesn’t impact blood cholesterols all that much, although saturated fats and trans fats from foods do.

That being said: those who already have heart disease, type 2 diabetes or high blood cholesterol levels, or those with a family history of coronary artery disease might want to keep their egg consumption low to minimize additional risk. In addition, it pays to consider how you prepare your eggs—pairing them with fatty bacon or swimming in butter isn’t heart-smart. An American College of Cardiology report suggests that consumers would be wise to not become over-focused on the cholesterol content of foods, that overall improving “cardioprotective eating habits” overall would likely be most effective in achieving healthy blood cholesterol levels.  Meanwhile, for those in good health and with healthy cholesterol levels, having a couple eggs a couple times a week is probably nothing to get cracked up about (sorry, I couldn’t resist).