Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Eggs...Good or Bad?

I’ve read articles that say that eggs are very healthy and good for you but I have also read articles that say the exact opposite. What's the truth here about eggs? The truth is that both answers are partially correct. This is because they are excellent sources of many nutrients including those that may not be so healthy. Remember that all food have their pros and cons. Eggs are no exception.

Eggs are said to be very healthy because they are great sources of high quality protein. But, what do I mean by high quality? Isn’t all protein good? Protein is definitely good but there are sources of protein that are better than others. Protein is made up of this tiny building blocks called amino acids. To make things simple, imagine these amino acids as being the pieces of a puzzle. Now, amino acids are divided into essential and non-essential. Essential means that your body cannot make them or can make them but not at a significant rate. Therefore, you must get these essential amino acids through the diet. On the other hand, you have the non-essential amino acids which are the ones our body can produce at a significant rate. In total, there are 20 amino acids and our body needs all 20 of them at all times. From these 20, 9 are essential and 11 are non-essential. Now, going back to the subject of eggs. Eggs are a source of high quality protein because they contain all the essential amino acids in the ideal proportions. When we are trying to determine the quality of the protein in a particular food, the protein in eggs is the golden standard. Let’s go back to the puzzle analogy for a second. Assume that the puzzle consists of 20 pieces, 11 pieces are already provided for you (non-essential) and you only need the 9 missing pieces (essential) to complete the puzzle. Your body needs the puzzle to be complete at all times. In order to get the 9 missing pieces and complete the puzzle, you can either get them from just one source like eggs or you can get one by one from multiple sources. Which one would you prefer?

Unfortunately, being a good source of protein comes with a price. Eggs are great sources of cholesterol too. Cholesterol is one of those fats you do not want to eat too much of because it is very hard for your body to eliminate it. Thus, eggs are sometimes said to be unhealthy or bad for you due to their high cholesterol content. Here’s the nutritional analysis of an average whole egg. Take a look at the protein and cholesterol content:

As you can see, for only 75 calories you get 6.25 grams of very high quality protein (all your 9 essential amino acids) but also 213 mg of cholesterol. Just to give you an idea, the recommendation for cholesterol is to have no more than 300 mg a day. So, 213 mg would translate into about 71% of you the recommended intake.

The calories in eggs lead me to the next benefit. One whole egg has only 75 calories! Considering that you can get all your essential amino acids from just one egg instead of from multiple food sources which would increase you caloric intake, 75 calories is not a bad deal.

People who are trying to eat healthy, often have just the egg white. If you’re considering this option let me provide you with this information: one egg white has 17 calories, 3.52 grams of protein and no cholesterol. Eating only egg whites is a good alternative but keep in mind that you are cutting the protein content almost by half when you only have the egg white. Also, there is no vitamin A in egg whites. I am not saying that eating only the egg white is bad but as everything; it has its advantages and disadvantages.

A final thought: don’t let the cholesterol content in eggs scare you. Eating the whole egg will provide you with more vitamins and nutrients as well as much more flavourful meal. Just have foods that are low in cholesterol for the rest of the day whenever you eat eggs. This way, you won't go over the recommended cholesterol intake.

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