Are Eggs Good for You, or Are They Bad for You?
Are Eggs Good Or Bad?
For decades eggs have had a bad reputation as an unhealthy food – full of saturated fat and cholesterol, and supposedly contributing to heart disease. Yet many people swear by them, saying they are one of the best foods you can eat. So what’s the truth about eggs? Are eggs good for you or are they bad for you?
The Cholesterol Myth
It’s true that eggs are quite high in cholesterol, but dietary cholesterol actually has very little impact on blood cholesterol levels. And this is particularly true of eggs, as they contain a phosholipid called lecithin which reduces the absorption of cholesterol from the intestines.
But cholesterol is vital to human life anyway. It is an essential structural component of every cell of our bodies, and is a precursor to all the steroid hormones as well.
Eggs also contain saturated fat. But it’s only a relatively small amount – less than 2g per large egg. Besides which, a moderate amount of saturated fat in the diet is beneficial. It is a healthy fuel source and has many other functions in the body too.
And as for contributing to heart disease; studies have shown absolutely no link between egg consumption and heart disease. So eggs have got a bad reputation for no reason at all.
A Nutritional Powerhouse
Eggs are in fact one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat. A large egg contains 6g of the highest quality protein, with all 8 essential amino acids. It also contains healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins A, D, E and K, several of the B vitamins, a whole range of minerals, trace elements, and valuable antioxidants too. Almost half of the protein and virtually all of the other nutrients are contained in the yolk of the egg – so this is by far the most nutritious part.
The main antioxidants in eggs are the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. These compounds have numerous health benefits, but are particularly good for eye health.
Eggs are also low in calories, contain virtually zero carbohydrates, and they have a high Satiety Index score, which means they keep you feeling full for a long time. Because of this they are an ideal food for weight loss.
Not all eggs are the same however. Caged hens will lay inferior eggs to free range hens, as their diet and living conditions are not nearly as good.
You can tell a good quality egg, as it will have a deep yellow yolk and a hard shell. Pale yolks and fragile shells indicate a much lower nutritional value.
So always choose good quality free range or organic eggs to get the most benefit.
How many eggs do you normally eat per week?
Raw Or Cooked?
Eggs are a good healthy food when eaten either raw or cooked, but each has its own particular advantages and disadvantages. The protein is more easily digested and absorbed when the egg is cooked (around 95% is absorbed from a cooked egg, as opposed to about 55% from a raw egg). And this is the case with several other nutrients too.
Also raw eggs contain a compound called avidin, which prevents the absorption of biotin – a B vitamin. But avidin is inactivated when the egg is cooked.
However raw eggs will contain active enzymes and you will get better bioavailability of some other nutrients too.
Also it’s not really accurate to say that raw eggs are unsafe to eat, as the concern over Salmonella in eggs is greatly exaggerated. Less than 1 in 10,000 eggs are contaminated with Salmonella, and this figure is much lower still for free range eggs.
On balance however eggs will provide the most benefit when lightly cooked (soft boiled or poached is best), so that the white becomes solid, but the yolk is fully runny.
One final point that should be noted is that some people are allergic to eggs. But this is mostly children, and they usually grow out of it by the age of 6. Only 0.2% of adults are allergic to eggs, but if you are allergic to them you will obviously want to avoid eating eggs.
For everyone else though, the answer to the question “are eggs good for you?” is a definite yes. They really are one of the best foods you could eat – high in protein, packed with nutrients, low in calories and very filling. And there’s no limit on the amount you can eat either. So if you’ve hesitated to eat eggs in the past, you don’t need to worry about it any more.