Although we have been told by the medical profession for the past half century or more that eating a couple of eggs every morning is a sure route to a heart attack, it turns out that this is generally not the case. Eggs actually are a healthy protein source, considering the nutrients you get from the amount you eat.
The Nutrition in Eggs
A single large egg contains only 70 calories and a mere 1.5 grams of saturated fat, while providing the body with 6 grams of the highest quality protein. Most of the important nutrients are contained in the yolk, which is a good source of vitamin A, iron, B vitamins (such as folate and riboflavin), zinc and a number of other important nutrients.
Eggs provide choline, which is a nutrient in the family of B-vitamins that has been shown to help preserve memory function, and the nutrients zeaxanthin and lutein, which help guard against loss of vision. Egg whites are a good source of riboflavin and selenium. Riboflavin is an antioxidant and plays a role in energy metabolism and selenium is also an antioxidant and promotes a healthy immune system.
Eggs provide the body with a highly digestible form of essential amino acids. They are also a good source of leucine, an amino acid that is important in helping the body to maintain and build muscle while at the same time encouraging lower levels of body fat.
Age-related muscle loss was at first thought to be due to a lack of activity. However, it is now believed that it may be related to a reduction in the amount of protein the body can assimilate as it ages. Researchers believe that increasing the intake of high quality protein such as that in eggs can help guard against losing muscle as we age.
Eggs Do Not Cause Heart Disease
In most relatively healthy people, eggs do not contribute to an increased risk of heart disease. A pivotal Harvard study published in 1999, investigating almost 120,000 people, found no correlation between the consumption of eggs and the risk of heart disease, except in those who had diabetes. Researchers also did not find an association between eating eggs and an increase in strokes.
In fact, a number of studies have shown that dietary cholesterol does not significantly impact levels of blood cholesterol at all, except for a small number of people (about 20 percent of the population) who are unusually sensitive to the effect of dietary cholesterol. For most people, eating one or two eggs per day should not affect their cholesterol levels.
Dietary cholesterol is not the main reason for high cholesterol. The liver itself produces cholesterol in response to signals of inflammation in the body, which is more likely caused by eating caused large amounts of trans-fats, refined sugar and hydrogenated oils. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that "bad" LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are down and "good" HDL cholesterol is up, despite the fact that even the study subjects who had not been taking cholesterol-lowering drugs also showed the same improvement. Researchers believe the drop is due to a reduction in trans-fats in the diet, as the subjects were getting no more physical activity and were eating no less saturated fat than when the study began.
For Those Who Are Cholesterol Sensitive
If you are among the percentage of people for whom dietary cholesterol is a problem, you can eat the white of the egg and still get some excellent vitamins and protein. The egg substitutes that you commonly find at the supermarket are mostly only egg whites; however, some brands also contain ingredients such as cellulose gum as a thickening agent and corn oil to act as a carrier for vitamin A and the other fat-soluble vitamins. If you need to avoid dietary cholesterol then it may be more to your advantage (in addition to being less expensive) to just buy fresh eggs and remove the yolks.
Eggs may be enjoyed in any number of ways, from omelettes to quiches. If you are feeling particularly adventurous you can even try making a soufflé, which is not actually as difficult as it looks. For the price, eggs are among the best sources of nutrition you can get.