Don’t be afraid of eggs! Eggs are a perfect source of protein, providing an array of powerful brain nutrients, easily digested amino acids, and other vitamins that are vital for wellness.
Despite being one of the most nutrient-rich foods on the planet, eggs are often demonized since they are a very misunderstood food. The supposed ill effects of eggs have been equated with cigarette smoking, “the road to hell,” and “one foot in the grave” by uninformed individuals.
Is there any chance eating eggs is truly so dangerous to your health and quality of life?
No. But what we are finding in nutrition and food research is that it’s all about context. Although there is no reason to inherently fear eggs or to banish them from your diet, there is some cause for caution in certain situations.
This article will give five you compelling benefits of eggs and tell you how to avoid possible dangers to eating eggs.
Reasons Why Eggs Are Good For You
#1. Eggs are the perfect body composition food because they contain an amino acid lineup that can aid the development and strength and muscle.
Eggs score highest on four scientific scales for protein quality because they provide a wealth of amino acids that are used by the body to repair muscle tissue. Eggs have the second highest concentration of leucine after milk, which is the most important amino acid for building muscle.
#2. Eggs are rich in nutrients that make you smarter.
Choline is supplied in the egg yolk and is used by the body to make a critical neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which improves cognition. Optimizing the neurotransmitters improves motivation and focus as well.
Choline also helps the liver to detoxify and avoid accumulating fat, which is essential for optimal liver function.
#3. Eggs are beneficial for bone health and prevention of fracture.
The superior amino acid profile that eggs contain aids in the preservation of lean muscle mass, which is a primary promoter of bone health.
In addition, eggs contain two key vitamins involved in bone body building: vitamin D and vitamin K. Because both are fat soluble vitamins, consuming eggs provides a highly bioavailable source that allows for maximal absorption and use by the body.
Along with aiding in bone formation, vitamin K is used for blood coagulation, and you surely know that vitamin D is involved in everything from cancer prevention to preventing body fat gain.
#4. Eggs are an affordable superfood.
Rich in the antioxidants selenium, lutein, and zeaxanthin, eating eggs can reduce inflammation in the body and promote overall health.
For instance, selenium is a crucial nutrient in the body’s antioxidant defenses and it aids in the production of thyroid hormones and reproductive health. Zeaxanthin is thought to prevent cancer, while lutein improves blood sugar balance and lowers insulin, shifting the body into an anti-inflammatory state.
#5. Eggs can be a delicious part of a diet designed for fat loss because they are satiating and reduce hunger.
Studies show that because they are a superior protein source, eating eggs increases fullness and decreases subsequent food intake at later meals. Along with better insulin health, this has been shown to produce a 5 kg reduction in body fat in one 12-week study that had subjects eat 3 eggs a day on a reduced carb diet.
In another study, individuals who ate eggs for breakfast led to greater reduction in waist circumference and fewer sensations of hunger than eating a carbohydrate-based breakfast daily. Researchers caution against eating eggs with foods that normally accompany eggs, such as toast or processed meat like sausage or bacon, etc.
With all this happy news about eggs in mind, let’s look at some of the dangers and misunderstandings that surround eggs:
#1. Possible Danger: Some association studies show ill health effects of eating eggs, such as higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Fear not! These are association studies, which have a very poor reputation in the scientific world. These outcomes can be explained a couple of different ways.
First, large surveys of food intake in the population show that people who eat more eggs tend to have diets that are higher in calories and fat, particularly saturated fat.
But it’s not to say that eggs are the reason these people eat more calories or fat—they’d probably do that whether they ate eggs or not—but they opt for higher calorie, higher fat foods.
And it’s well established that eating high-fat diets with more calories are associated with greater disease risk and higher body fat percentage. Therefore, it’s this tendency rather than the eggs that are thought to be the source of some of the ill health effects observed.
Second, these studies have been criticized as being of extremely poor quality and using statistical analyses that is not appropriate. For example, in one study, researchers looked at the association between egg intake in 34 countries in relation to colon cancer. The data showed that people who reported eating more eggs had a higher rate of cancer.
However, a secondary analysis found that by increasing the number of countries included in the study, the association flip-flopped such that countries in which egg intake was higher had lower rates of cancer. In addition, studies looking at correlation between mortality rates and egg intake show that eggs are protective.
The Bottom Line
Don’t use association studies to plan your diet.
These association studies prove nothing and often suggest correlations that contradict outcomes in randomized control trials. Plus, there’s no end to badly done association studies to support or refute whatever position you’re interested in.
#2. Possible Danger: Eggs are packed with saturated fat and cholesterol and everyone knows that both increase heart disease.
Eggs contain a decent amount of saturated fat (1.6 grams) and cholesterol (200 mg). Both were once thought to be a primary cause of heart disease, but have been vindicated by recent studies.
Simply, eating foods that contain cholesterol doesn’t increase your blood cholesterol levels. In fact, in healthy people, cholesterol is auto-regulated, which means that if you eat more cholesterol one day, then your body produces less, and vice versa.
So, the fear of heart disease and high cholesterol that is related to eating eggs is a throwback to previous times when we had less data and faulty theories about cardiovascular health.
The real danger is a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates and fat. Scientists have recently found that a high-carbohydrate intake in the form of refined starches and sugars are more to blame for plaque development in the arteries than dietary cholesterol.
Now consider that traditionally when people eat eggs for breakfast for example, they eat them with foods like toast and jam, pancakes and syrup, bacon or sausage, or potatoes and ketchup—all high-carb foods.
Say the average person eats similar high-fat, high-carb food combinations for their other meals and you have a fairly inflammatory diet. The solution is to avoid refined carbs in favor of whole plant sources, reduce total carb intake in favor of protein and fat, and enjoy eggs when you want them.
The Bottom Line: Eggs are not the deciding factor in elevated triglycerides, high cholesterol, plaque buildup, or heart disease. High-carb, high-fat, refined foods are.
Avoid the whole mess by understanding that eggs are an excellent protein source that can be included in a low-carb, high-protein diet for optimal body composition and health.
#3. Possible Danger: There are certain situations in which the high cholesterol and fat content of eggs will increase inflammation and risk of heart disease. Therefore it’s better to avoid all eggs.
The Truth: There’s some truth to the first part of this statement, but it’s not necessary to eliminate eggs. Here’s the deal: Oxidized cholesterol IS very dangerous and it causes damage to arteries and connective tissue.
Cholesterol gets oxidized when it is cooked at high heat, or for a long period of time, such as when eggs are fried. For example, one study found that compared to boiled or raw eggs, fried eggs contained high levels of oxidized cholesterol.
Another study found that storing eggs at room temperature for 45 days and then boiling or frying them led to much higher levels of oxidized cholesterol, with the highest amounts in the fried eggs. There was also a reduction of the omega-3 fatty acids that the eggs contained due to the long storage time.
The key here is to avoid consuming any animal foods that have been cooked at high temperatures, whether meat or eggs, because both contain cholesterol and fats that are easily oxidized and do present serious health risks.
Additionally, it’s important to know that the human body responds in diverse ways to eating cholesterol. In general, cholesterol absorption decreases with increasing dietary cholesterol and in most people shuts down markedly at a dietary intake of around 400 mg (equal to 2 eggs).
However, type 2 diabetics have reduced absorption of cholesterol that they eat, but their livers produce more cholesterol. Insulin resistance is thought to make them less sensitive to dietary cholesterol, meaning that eating eggs in a diet that is designed to improve insulin sensitivity could be beneficial.
For example, a recent study showed that obese, insulin resistant people eating a lower carb diet with three eggs a day, had lower inflammation and less body fat by the end of the 12 week study. It should not come as a surprise that the most important factor in health is the overall make-up of the diet, not whether eggs are a component.
The Bottom Line
Eggs have been scapegoated as the source of health problems because they are commonly eaten with foods that cause derangements in blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, and overeating.
The fact that the typical western lifestyle is more sedentary than not, and abundant in carbs, fat, and refined foods, exacerbates those issues. The effect is a fat, diabetic population with elevated triglycerides, and increased heart disease risk. It has nothing to do with egg consumption.
#4. Possible Danger: Eggs are often contaminated with salmonella and it’s better to avoid them.
The Truth: The eggs that are most at risk of being contaminated with salmonella are those that come from large industrial farms with poor sanitation. Eggs from caged hens appear to be more likely to be contaminated with salmonella than those that are raised out of a cage.
Caged hens live in groups in cages stacked one on top of the other and have 67 inches of floor space, which is the size of a piece of notebook paper. The cramped quarters allow for the production of a huge volume of eggs (80 billion a year in the U.S.), more chicken manure, and greater risk of bacteria contamination that leads to salmonella.
Statistics show Salmonella is rare with only 1 in 20,000 eggs being contaminated. After a 2010 salmonella outbreak in 10 states in the U.S., the FDA found filthy conditions at some of the largest egg farms in the country, including infestations of flies, maggots, and rodents as well as chicken manure that was piled four to eight feet high below cages.
The Bottom Line
Reduce salmonella risk by avoiding industrial eggs in favor of organic eggs whenever possible.
Store eggs in the refrigerator because temperature fluctuations greatly increases salmonella risk. For even greater safety, avoid eggs at restaurants and large events because these will come from industrial farms unless otherwise specified and are at greater risk of exposure to high temperatures.
#5. Possible Danger: Eggs are allergenic and should be avoided, especially by pregnant women.
The Truth: Egg allergies have increased remarkably over the passed 30 years as have rates of food allergies in general. Some studies suggest that food allergies appear due to a developing infant’s lack of exposure to certain proteins or foods.
For instance, children born in farming environments are more protected from allergies to dairy and egg proteins than those in the city. And infants whose mothers had been exposed to high levels of eggs (1 to 2 a week) during pregnancy had fewer allergic symptoms to eggs than those who had a moderate exposure.
There’s some evidence that food allergies tend to follow a bell curve rather than a linear relationship. Very high intakes of a food or complete avoidance lead to greater tolerance, whereas moderate exposure (in this case, only 1 egg a month) increases allergy risk.
The Bottom Line
Avoiding eggs is not the best strategy to prevent egg allergies. Rather, including them in a well-planned diet is suggested by the research for all populations.
Of course, if you already have an allergy, avoidance is called for. Eating well cooked eggs in small amounts as part of a meal with other foods has been shown to reduce the immune response and repair tolerance.