I love eggs. Fried, scrambled, in omelets, frittatas, custards, baked goods, mayo, and egg salads. They are wonderfully versatile and delicious, not to mention nutritious. I love them so much, in fact, that I am planning to do an entire week-long series of posts on them, including some delicious eggy recipes. Today is only the first installment, a brief overview of why eggs are so darn good for us.
Eggs are a superb nutrient-dense food that contains six grams of protein, a bit of vitamin B-12, vitamin E, riboflavin, folic acid, calcium, zinc, iron, and essential fatty acids, all in a neat little 75-calorie package. Eggs are also among the few sources of naturally occurring vitamins D and K, which are known for cancer protection and longevity. And what’s more, eggs have the highest quality (most bioavailable) protein of almost any food, second only to human breast milk.
They also contain one of the highest concentrations of dietary choline (125mg/egg), second only to liver. Choline is a B-complex vitamin which is a necessary building block for proper nervous system development and structural integrity of cell membranes; particularly, choline is necessary for brain development in fetuses and infants for lifelong enhancement of memory and attention. It also plays an integral role in the folate cycle and hence the prevention of neural tube defects. Learn more about that here; so basically, the folate in your prenatal multi will do your baby no good without some choline from eggs or offal to complete the cycle.
The teachings of the diet dictocrats (thank you so much, Sally Fallon, for introducing me to that phrase), however, have led many to ask the question: but what about cholesterol levels? In the great majority of the population, the amount of cholesterol in the diet does not affect blood cholesterol, since cholesterol is manufactured in the liver regardless of whether or not you eat it in a food. If you do not eat enough cholesterol, your body simply produces more since cholesterol has dozens of important vital functions in the body. On the other hand, when you eat a food that contains a high amount of dietary cholesterol, such as eggs, your body down-regulates its internal production of cholesterol to balance things out. Factory-made fats, such as the hydrogenated ones, are far greater problems than dietary cholesterol. The other common contributors to heart disease? The neolithic foods that elicit increased inflammation, hyperglycemia and oxidative stress, which in turn increase atherosclerotic build-up and increase the risk for heart attack and stroke, among many other diseases.
Dr Maria-Luz Fernandez and colleagues have been investigating egg nutritional health for more than a decade and have published findings such as these:
“Revisiting Dietary Cholesterol Recommendations: Does the Evidence Support a Limit of 300 mg/d?” Overall, no study has yet shown an association between egg intake and risk for heart disease and there are no compelling epidemiological or clinical trial results that show evidence for limiting cholesterol intake to 300 mg/day or restricting egg consumption.
“Dietary Cholesterol from Eggs Increases Plasma HDL Cholesterol in Overweight Men Consuming a Carbohydrate-Restricted Diet”. Raising HDL (good) cholesterol is often considered impossible, but is necessary to protect against plaque build-up in your arteries (HDL carries it away). This study shows that HDL can easily be increased in overweight men (a population very susceptible to heart disease) by reducing carbohydrate intake and using eggs in the diet regularly.
“Pre-menopausal women, classified as hypo- or hyper-responders, do not alter their LDL/HDL ratio following a high dietary cholesterol challenge”. When 50 pre-menopausal women consumed either an egg a day plus cholesterol from other foods, or a cholesterol-free egg substitute for 30 days, the women in the first group did not experience the development of an “atherogenic lipoprotein profile” regardless if they were hyper or hypo-responders to dietary cholesterol.
To add one more piece of evidence that whole eggs are healthy, I recently investigated a University of Connecticut study that showed that a group of men in the study who ate 3 eggs per day for 12 weeks while on a reduced carbohydrate, higher fat diet increased their HDL (good) cholesterol by 20%, while their LDL bad cholesterol stayed the same during the study. However, the group that ate egg substitutes (egg whites) saw no improvement in good cholesterol (remember that higher HDL levels are associated with lower risk of heart disease) than the whole egg eaters did.
I find them edible and incredible and incredible, and I eat them pretty much every day, for my health and the baby’s. Here is one of my new favorite ways to have eggs. This recipe is only for one, but could easily be multiplied to feed an entire family . . .
The Spinach Parmesan Puff
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (or other hard cheese)
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon heavy cream (or coconut milk, or almond milk, or dairy milk, depending on your preferences – I have been on an animal fat kick lately)
2 oz frozen spinach, thawed and excess water squeezed out (you could alternately use fresh and lightly saute it until wilted)
Oil for greasing your ramekin
Place a ramekin in your oven and preheat it to 450 degrees. While the oven is heating up whisk together your eggs, cream, 1/2 of your cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir the spinach into the egg mixture. When the oven is ready remove the heated ramekin and grease it thoroughly with the oil of your choice (I opted for olive) and pour in your egg mixture (you should hear a nice sizzle). Top with the remaining half of your cheese. Bake until your puff is well, puffed up and golden brown, which should take about 15 to 17 minutes, then remove and enjoy. You can serve right in the ramekin, or pop it out and put it on a plate, as I did. Served along with some berries and (decaf) coffee with heavy cream, it made a delicious and filling breakfast for me.