Today I want to address a question I'm asked often by readers and clients: What is the deal with eggs? Are they healthy or not?
If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably noticed that I love eggs and eat them frequently. I receive a lot of questions about why I eat eggs, because for the most part I do encourage a primarily plant-based diet. I figured I would share with all of you my reasons for including eggs in my diet, the science behind my decision, and some guidelines to keep in mind if you too decide to eat eggs.
Let's begin with the basics. What's the nutritional draw with eggs?
Eggs provide our bodies and brains with high-quality protein and fat. I know there's a lot of fear circulating around fat, but these types of good-for-you essential fatty acids are necessary for brain health, heart health, balanced hormones, stabilized blood sugar levels, glowy skin, elevated mood, proper digestion, nutrient assimilation, and cognitive function. One egg contains over 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat for under 100 calories. I am so not about counting calories - this number tells you virtually nothing about a food's nutritional value - but I mention this because I know weight loss and management is a concern for many of you. Eggs also provide us with a wide array of vitamins and minerals - including vitamins B2, B6, B12, A, D, E, K as well as iron, copper, choline, zinc, and cholesterol.
For me personally, the protein count is a big one.
I'm currently in the long process of rebalancing my once extremely imbalanced hormonal and endocrine system, and recovering from years of untreated adrenal fatigue. These types of issues don't occur overnight, but instead are the cumulation of years of imbalanced living, poor diet, and acute stress, so the recovery process is lengthy. I have my good days and bad days, but increasing my intake of high quality protein has helped immensely.
Protein, as well as fat, takes our bodies' a bit longer to digest, providing us with a slow, steady stream of energy and stabilization of blood sugar levels. Regulating blood sugar levels is absolutely key to regaining hormonal balance and keeping fatigue and anxiety at bay. Some people can get away with only plant-based sources of protein, but my system currently fares much better with a combination of high quality plant and animal sources, such as eggs. For this reason, I usually eat them at 3-5 meals each week.
The link between eggs, cholesterol, and heart disease.
The number one concern I hear when it comes to eggs is the cholesterol level. Heart disease sucks and runs rampant throughout our country, so I absolutely understand the concern. Unfortunately, we've been widely misinformed and misled regarding fat intake, dietary cholesterol, and heart disease. But here are the facts: Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance found in every cell in your body. It helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D, and bile acids that help us to digest fat. Without cholesterol, our bodies cannot produce estrogen, testosterone, cortisone, and a host of other essential hormones. Cholesterol is also critical for neurological function, and works to promote and improve memory and cognitive function.
When your body experiences chronic inflammation, it produces more cholesterol. Cholesterol’s job is to help the body heal and repair. So if you find that your cholesterol levels are high, chances are it's because there's an underlying issue. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) - the United States’ top nutrition advisory panel - has decided to drop its caution about eating high cholesterol foods. After revisiting the initial research and reviewing countless recent studies, it has been determined that there is no causative link between eating foods high in cholesterol and occurrence of high blood cholesterol and/or heart disease. It's time that we reframe the way we look at cholesterol.
With that said, dietary cholesterol (found in foods like eggs) actually has no significant effect on our blood cholesterol levels. Our bodies carefully regulate cholesterol production, so if dietary cholesterol is detected in the blood, our bodies just produce less. At any given moment, we have about 1,100 to 1,700 mg of cholesterol in our bodies, produced primarily in the liver. Eggs contain about 200 mg of cholesterol, so even eating three whole eggs in a day will 1) still be a relatively small amount of cholesterol compared to what our body produces and 2) will be counter-balanced by decreased cholesterol production by the liver.
I'm just barely skimming the surface here, so if you're interested in diving deeper into the subject of cholesterol and heart health, I look forward to connecting with you over a nutritional coaching session.
Stay tuned for Part II of this post highlighting how to choose and prepare healthy eggs, along with the recipe for my favorite savory egg dish.