Friday, January 09, 2009
Eggs: A Shell of a Good Health Food!
For the past 40 years, the public has been warned against eating eggs for fear that they cause high cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. There is only one small problem with this warning: it is not supported by scientific research.
Yes, increased blood cholesterol levels raise heart disease risk. And, eggs are high in dietary cholesterol. But, does eating the dietary cholesterol in eggs raise blood cholesterol? This is where the story gets somewhat complicated, so stay with me folks. I'll try to make sense of all of this.
First, the research: Most epidemiological research (the kind of research that studies large populations over time and analyzes their diets and their health) has found no connection between eating eggs and an increased risk for in heart disease. The famous Framingham heart study, which has been following people, their diets and their health for decades, found no difference in the blood cholesterol level of participants -- whether they ate one or seven eggs per week. The Japanese, the biggest egg-eaters in the world (consuming an average of 340 eggs per person per year), have the lowest cholesterol and heart disease levels.
So, what's all the commotion about eggs? It just makes sense that eating cholesterol would raise your cholesterol, right? Well, maybe not! You see, eating saturated fat (mainly found in animal fat) is much more directly related to increasing cholesterol levels.
In fact, during my 20 years of counseling people, I have found that just reducing a client's saturated fat intake to between 4 to 7 percent of their diet can cause their blood cholesterol levels to plummet. And, while eggs are high in cholesterol (250 milligrams), they're relatively low in saturated fat (1.6 grams). Back to the Japanese: They eat a very low saturated fat diet, which (partly) explains why their cholesterol and heart disease risk is so low.
Even the American Heart Association no longer includes limits on the number of egg yolks you can eat a week. They state eggs can be part of a heart health eating pattern.
My recommendation is if you eat a basically healthy diet overall, you can eat an egg a day and still expect superior health. On the other hand, if you eat the typical American high saturated fat diet, devoid of fruits, vegetables and fiber, should you be eating an egg a day? Maybe not! But, will taking eggs out of an unhealthy diet make a positive difference? Probably not!
I can't tell you how many times during my career I've heard people say, "I've cut out all eggs, but my cholesterol is still high!" The impact of a healthy diet cannot be denied here.
So, assuming you're eating a healthy diet (one which includes five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day, along with whole grains, lean meats, fish, poultry, legumes, soy and healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts), how would you benefit by eating an egg a day? Let me count the ways!
Protein: When it comes to protein, eggs are the gold standard. New research shows high-quality protein should be distributed through the day for health and to help maintain lean muscle during weight loss. Eggs are a cheap, low-calorie protein source.
Choline: An essential nutrient found in egg yolk, choline in a mom's diet is essential for brain development in her baby. It may also be important for brain function in human adults.
Lutein: An important beneficial phytochemical found in egg yolk (as well as kale and spinach) helps prevent eye diseases, especially cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (the most common cause of blindness). Lutein may also play a role in preventing breast cancer.
The positive contributions of eggs are numerous, so it's worth changing to a healthier diet -- just so you can enjoy more eggs!
Katherine's Scrambled Eggs with Spinach
There's nothing like a hearty egg breakfast on Sundays. They're great for dinners, too. I love this recipe for its healthy combinations and beautiful color. You can mix in reduced fat cheese for added creaminess. On the side, have some sliced tomatoes, lean sausage and whole grain toast. In fact, try smothering your toast with the scrambled eggs. Delicious!
2 tablespoons. fat-free milk
Olive oil spray
6 ounces raw spinach or 1/2 cup cooked
1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the spinach in a small amount of water until wilted. Squeeze out any excess water and chop. Add 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic. Set aside.
Place medium-sized skillet on medium low. Coat the skillet with the olive oil spray. In a bowl, whisk eggs and milk until mixed thoroughly. Pour egg mixture into skillet, add spinach and garlic. Stir constantly until the eggs are no longer watery -- about ten minutes.
Makes 2 servings. Nutritional values per serving: 162 calories.
Labels: Diet Tips