Ode to the Egg

By June Rousso
June Rousso
June Rousso
I am a New York State licensed psychologist and a nutritional consultant with an M.S. degree in holistic nutrition. My interests have expanded over the years to the field of nutrition, which I often integrate in my work as a psychologist. I love to write and educate people about nutrition so that they can make more informed choices about their health. I believe that dietary and lifestyle changes are so important in our lives to support a healthy lifestyle.
October 2, 2014 Updated: October 2, 2014

The egg – we all have consumed it in some shape, manner, or form, only to ask, “Are eggs really good for you?” The reply often has been, “Oh, no, eggs are high in cholesterol. Make that an egg white omelet, please.” Back in the day, my father was convinced that eggs, which he loved, had clogged his arteries with cholesterol and contributed to heart disease. Based upon more recent studies, I am not totally convinced. We have come a long way in our understanding of food, and its impact on the body and mind.

First, a few basic facts about eggs. Just to get the record straight, brown eggs come from a special breed of chicken and are not more nutrient-rich than white eggs. I am sure that we all thought at one time of the superiority of brown over white eggs. The difference in nutrition comes from what the chickens are fed. We reap the benefits of eggs from chickens consuming a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed or fishmeal. Unfortunately, most chickens feed on genetically-modified corn. Eggs high in omega-3 fatty acids are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and protein. Egg yolks also contain lutein, which helps to prevent macular degeneration.

George Mateljan, in his book, The World’s Healthiest Foods: Essential Guide for the Healthiest Way of Eating, points out that certified organic eggs from pasture-raised chickens consuming a high omega-3 are much less likely to be contaminated with heavy metals and pesticides. The whites of eggs tend to absorb the heavy metals while yolks are more likely to absorb pesticides.

In terms of preparation, it is best not to cook eggs in oils at high temperatures, which can damage the oil and tissues in our bodies through free radical production. Another word of caution- avoid powdered eggs as they contain oxidized cholesterol, which is the type of dietary cholesterol that can cause inflammation in the body. Oxidized cholesterol also is contained in fried foods and processed vegetable oils as compared to unrefined oils. Liquid egg products are processed as well and not to be substituted for fresh eggs.

Now the big question- “What about the cholesterol in eggs?” To date, many studies have found that eating fresh eggs does not significantly increase cholesterol levels or the risk of heart disease. But the key is to consume eggs high in omega-3 fatty acids. The richness in color of the yoke alone and the exceptional taste is so appealing for egg-lovers. For those of us allergic to eggs or any other foods, some people report that eating the organic version free of chemicals and pesticides does not cause allergic reactions. This is not true for everyone.

When we get skittish about eating eggs, we lose track of its many benefits to the body. Our brain contains large amounts of cholesterol used to make sex hormones. Cholesterol actually is used by the body to form scar tissue in our arteries or lungs. It also is a major component of our cell membranes, helping to keep them fluid, and an anti-oxidant as well.

Cholesterol in eggs is especially helpful as we grow older and may become forgetful. The lecithin contained in eggs actually works to enhance memory. Sally Fallon, in her book, “Nourishing Traditions”, cites a study comparing men who were alert with those who were senile, and found that the only difference in their dietary habits was that the alert group consumed at least one egg a day. In another study cited by Sally Fallon and sponsored by the American Cancer Society, non-egg users had a higher death rate from heart attacks and strokes than egg users. The study involved over 800,000 subjects.

For people who worry about consuming too much cholesterol from any food, remember that the body has its own cholesterol regulation mechanism. If cholesterol levels are too high, the body produces less of it. When levels are low, our body increases the production of cholesterol. The most recent nutrition studies actually suggest that sugar and junk foods are more apt to increase cholesterol and inflammation in the body. It appears that inflammation is the real culprit when it comes to heart disease, let alone many other diseases.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Hippocrates