Eggs are no longer a nutritional no-no

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In case you’re confused whether eggs are good for us or not, the good news is they’re back and lucky for us they are considered to be a healthy option. It wasn’t that long ago when eggs didn’t have the best dietary reputation thanks to its high cholesterol content.  How many of us in the past cracked open eggs to use only the whites while discarding the yolks?  But thankfully in recent years, eggs have been exonerated and moved into a health-promoting category and no longer are considered to be shunned. 

This dietary mainstay is not only good for breakfast but can also fill in for a quick lunch or dinner. Look no further than your egg carton for this delicious food that can be served in so many ways.  It’s hard to find a food packing as much high quality protein, antioxidants, essential nutrients for eye health, muscle strength, brain function, is affordable and provide only 70 calories and 5 grams of fat. Unless you are allergic to eggs, most people can eat eggs and reap the nutritional benefits they provide.  Let’s “eggs-plore” what this oval wonder all has to offer:

High-quality protein

Most of us know eggs are a good source of protein.  One egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein meaning it has easily digestible protein containing all nine essential amino acids needed for protein synthesis.   Consuming foods containing high-quality protein along with being physically active, helps enhance muscle strength and prevents muscle loss as we age.  In addition, high-quality protein can aid in maintaining a healthy body weight as it makes us feel fuller for a longer period of time. 

Macular degeneration

Does macular degeneration run in your family?  Eggs contain two important nutrients that may help prevent this eye disease that is the leading cause of age-related blindness.  The two nutrients are lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that protect and maintain healthy cells in the eyes.  Although many green leafy vegetables contain these nutrients, research has shown that lutein from eggs is absorbed better than lutein from other food sources. 

Choline

Ever heard of an essential nutrient called choline?  Egg yolks are one of the richest sources of this nutrient, grouped together with the B vitamins, which was recognized by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1998 and is an important part of all body tissue.  We can make a small amount of choline but we also need some from our diet.  One egg will provide 126 mg of choline out of the 425 mg needed by adult women and 550 mg needed by adult men daily.  Choline is also necessary for brain health, nervous system functioning and during pregnancy for proper fetal development of the brain and spinal cord. 

Vitamin D

Egg yolk is one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin necessary for absorbing calcium and promoting bone growth.  Without sufficient vitamin D, children can develop rickets, characterized by narrow rib cages and bowed legs and adults can develop osteomalacia, characterized by loss of minerals from bone, bone pain, muscle aches and an increase in bone fractures.  Egg yolks contain 41 International Units (IU) of vitamin D out of 600 IU recommended daily for people aged 19-70 and 800 IU for people over age 70. 

Other excellent health benefits

Eggs are a naturally good source of certain nutrients that can be hard to find in other foods. Iodine, a mineral used by the thyroid gland to help regulate metabolism and selenium, another mineral vital for proper functioning of the immune system and sperm motility, are found in eggs.  The yolk is a rich stockpile of vitamin B12, helping keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and iron, an important component of hemoglobin which carries oxygen throughout the body helping us feel energized. 

Why eggs have made a comeback

For years we’ve been told to avoid eggs – particularly the yolk. Its true egg yolks do contain cholesterol and fat while eggs whites have none.  But now solid research shows that for most people, cholesterol in food does not affect blood levels of total cholesterol like we once thought.  In fact, research now says moderate egg consumption of up to one egg a day does not increase health disease risk in healthy people. 

Chickens are being fed a higher quality diet feed than what they were in the past so eggs now contain only 186 mg of cholesterol, down from 215 mg, which is a 14 percent decrease.   

Cholesterol is a type of fat that may lead to heart disease. Only the egg yolk contains cholesterol so you can have as many egg whites as you wish.  However, those who find it difficult to control their total and LDL cholesterol should still limit their intake of egg yolks and instead choose foods made with egg whites. 

Eggs - an enduring part of your diet

Eggs certainly are a nutrition powerhouse and it’s no wonder the slogan “The Incredible Edible Egg” has been around for more than 30 years!  Whether you buy eggs from the grocery store, a farmers’ market, or raise chickens in your backyard, eggs can be a nutritious and economical part of your diet. 

Since eggs can be contaminated with bacteria like salmonella, follow these tips found at foodsafety.gov on how to prevent food poisoning.