By Rebecca Turner, MS, RD, CSSD, LD
Oh how I love eggs! Let me count the ways: scrambled, over easy, sunny-side up or boiled. Regardless of how you order up your eggs, this versatile food is a dietary staple that’s long on nutrition. But not everyone agrees with me. It’s possible you heard about a study published in the journal Atherosclerosis in 2012 that suggested eggs, especially the yolks, are as bad for you as cigarettes. Despite the bold statement and juicy headline, the research wasn’t without its limitations; primarily, the subjects tested were already at risk for heart disease, there was no mention of their exercise habits, and healthy people were excluded from the sampling. As a registered dietitian, studies like this make me crazy because they leave the public confused and may have misled them into avoiding an affordable nutrient rich food. Let me egg-splain why I believe eggs (the whole thing) is good for you.
The truth is that unless you are at high risk for cardiovascular disease (smoker, sedentary, strong family history, and nutrient-poor diet), incorporating whole eggs into your diet is a smart and healthy idea. In fact, the more recent research concludes that eating a diet high in saturated or trans-fat − not dietary cholesterol − is more responsible for increases in blood cholesterol levels. To everyone’s surprise, the newer studies indicate that eggs do not negatively affect cholesterol levels in most individuals and may actually result in significant improvements in cholesterol. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers evaluated the effects of daily consumption of whole eggs on the ratio of LDL (bad) cholesterol to HDL (good) cholesterol. A month of eating two eggs daily, those who originally were at high-risk shifted to low risk. Again, this study suggests that diets high in hydrogenated oils and saturated fat contribute more to coronary artery disease than cholesterol found in eggs.
An egg a day is OK!
The good news about eggs is that they are common, affordable, and available year round. Within the protective shell lies a whole food. Eggs are a very good source of selenium, iodine, and vitamin B2 and a good source of protein, molybdenum, phosphorus, vitamin B5, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. The incredible nature of their unique nutrient profile makes them an egg-ceptional food for everyday people, active individuals, and athletes.
Egg protein gets a gold star for its high quality, providing all the essential amino acids needed to maintain, repair, and rebuild lean muscle mass. This is important because lean muscle is the furnace in which calories are burned and energy is stored. As a runner, I rely on dietary protein to sustain and rebuild my muscles after a hard workout to improve strength and endurance. There are 6 grams of protein found in each egg. And since the protein is stored in the egg white, where none of the dietary fat is found, you can enjoy extra egg whites to whole egg for more powerful nutrition per meal.
Balancing it all: running, parenthood, and work can cause an all-out energy drain and leave even the fittest, clean eater dead on their feet. If your pace has slowed a bit or you experience afternoon yawns, then don’t toss the yolk! Eggs are a great source of choline, an essential mineral that has been shown to help fight daily fatigue and enhance endurance performance. Research suggests that a low level of choline can contribute to early fatigue. Eating adequate dietary choline may help sustain endurance, prolong fatigue and reduce post exercise inflammation. But don’t go crazy, an egg a day or a few yolks a week will keep your choline at normal levels.
Bottom line, cigarettes really are bad for you, but the faithful egg never deserved the bad press it received. One egg has lots of vitamins and minerals, and high-quality protein, and all for 70 calories. The nutrients in eggs can play a positive role in weight management, muscle strength, athletic performance and more. If you are at risk or diagnosed with heart disease, always talk with your health care provider or registered dietitian before making drastic changes to your daily diet. But for most of us, at less than 15 cents each, eggs are an affordable and delicious dietary option.
EGG Safety Tips
• Always buy eggs from a refrigerated case and choose eggs with clean, uncracked shells.
• Keep eggs refrigerated at 45° F (7° C) or colder at all times.
• Wash hands, cooking utensils and food-preparation surfaces with soap and water after contact with raw eggs.
• Cook eggs until the whites and yolks are firm and eat them promptly.
• Do not keep eggs warm or at room temperature for more than two hours.
• Refrigerate unused or leftover egg-containing foods promptly.
• Avoid eating raw eggs.
• Use pasteurized shell eggs or pasteurized egg mixtures when home recipes call for uncooked eggs.
• Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw or undercooked, unpasteurized eggs. Restaurants should use pasteurized eggs in any recipe (such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing) that calls for raw eggs. Do not hesitate to ask your server how the eggs were prepared.
Mildly Mexican Breakfast Bake
A taste bud egg-citing dish the whole family will enjoy
Try this egg-rich recipe from Holly Clegg’s Eating Well To Fight Arthritis cookbook. It’s an overnight sensation with bright colors and bold flavors that will wake up those morning taste-buds! Makes 8 (1-cup) servings
8 ounces ground breakfast turkey sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 red, green, or yellow bell pepper, cored and chopped
2 cups baby spinach
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chilies
4 eggs, 6 egg whites
2 cups fat-free half-and-half
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 cups reduced-fat shredded Mexican blend cheese
5 (8-inch) 98% fat-free flour tortillas cut into quarters (use corn for Gluten-free option)
1/2 cup chopped green onion
Instructions 1. Coat 13x9x2-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. 2. In large nonstick skillet, cook and crumble sausage until it starts to brown. Add onion and bell pepper, cooking until sausage is done and vegetables tender. Add spinach, garlic and green chilies; cooking until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. 3. In large bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, half-and-half, chili powder, cumin and one-third cheese. 4. Spoon one-third of sausage mixture in baking dish. Top with one-third tortilla quarters and one-third cheese and green onion. Repeat layers, ending with green onion. Pour egg mixture evenly over casserole and refrigerate, covered, at least 6 hours or overnight. 5. Preheat oven to 350°F. If using a glass baking dish, place in cold oven and bake 50-60 minutes or until bubbly, golden brown and knife inserted into custard comes out clean.
Food Facts: Calories 309; Calories from Fat 35%; Fat 12g; Saturated Fat 4g; Cholesterol 151mg; Sodium 751mg; Carbohydrates 29g; Dietary Fiber 3g; Total Sugars 7g; Protein 23g. Dietary Exchanges: 1 starch, 1/2 fat-free milk, 1 vegetable Nutritional Nugget: Be sure to look for omega-3 fortified eggs, for extra anti-inflammatory benefits. www.hollyclegg.com