Huffpost Healthy Living
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

JJ Virgin Headshot

Are Eggs Really Nature's Perfect Food?

Posted: Updated:

Unless you're planning to hit '80s night at your favorite club this weekend, you're not going to wear acid-washed jeans or crimp your hair. So why are you still ordering egg white omelets?

I don't mean you specifically: You're nutritionally savvier. I'm talking about your friend who, despite what the latest science shows, orders an egg-white omelet at brunch and stocks up on liquid egg whites (also known as chemicals in a carton) when her favorite grocery store puts them on sale.

Or maybe you know a fitness-focused guy who makes the gym his second home, has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports nutrition, and yet loads up post-workout on skinless chicken breast and egg whites.

Oh, and let's not even mention that new egg white sandwich a certain fast-food establishment is now pushing. Nope, don't even go there.

You've grown from those catastrophic '80s fashion disasters. If you're not already, it's time to evolve your diet and eat the whole egg.

Rotten Eggs: How A Perfect Food Can Go Bad
I love eggs and used to eat them nearly every morning. You can even find some of my old videos on YouTube where I discuss eggs as part of a perfect breakfast.

I reconsidered when I started using IgG food sensitivity testing and found over 70 percent of my clients tested positive for eggs. When I asked them to eliminate eggs and other highly-reactive foods for three weeks, their symptoms disappeared, they felt and looked better, and they finally shed those last few stubborn pounds.

Of all my food culprits, I get the most criticism about eggs. "I agree with everything JJ says about food intolerances," bloggers and readers sometimes write, "except for eggs."

For the record, I have never been anti-egg. I think they can be a perfectly healthy part of your diet. Trouble begins when you eat eggs every morning or purchase poor-quality eggs.

Several culprits in eggs potentially contribute to food intolerances. Conventional eggs come from poorly-raised chickens injected with vaccines, treated abysmally, and slaughtered prematurely. Low-quality eggs are the sad aftermath.

Eggs are also high in the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid, partly because chickens are fed soy and corn rather than their natural diet. One large conventional egg, to be exact, contains a woefully imbalanced 574 mg of omega-6s and 37 mg of omega-3 fatty acids.

Chronic inflammation contributes to numerous diseases and can make you fat. A study in the journal Gastroenterology, for example, showed inflammation contributes to obesity, insulin resistance, and eventually Type 2 diabetes.

We also over-consume eggs. I'm not singling eggs out: Most people have a very limited repertoire of foods they eat repeatedly, which over time can create gut-related issues.

But because they're a great source of protein for vegetarians and low-carb meat eaters alike, eggs are the go-to protein for many people. That could become a problem if you eat them every morning.

Here's the good news. When people pull eggs for three weeks, their gut issues improve, they feel and look better, and their symptoms disappear. Because they've healed their gut, they find they can then occasionally enjoy eggs when they re-introduce them.

Maybe you believe you don't have egg intolerances, but how would you know unless you pull them for three weeks? What if something innocuous like eggs were creating symptoms like bloating and headaches or holding you back from meeting your fat-loss goals?

Eggs are a Nutrient Powerhouse
Intolerances aside, eggs are a great food. Three large eggs packs about 21 grams of very high-quality protein. While their saturated fat sometimes gets an undeserved bad rep, eggs actually provide a balance of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats.

Yes, the fat is all in the yolk; so are the nutrients. Among its array of nutrients, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports one egg yolk provides:

• 245 IUs of vitamin A
• 37 IUs of vitamin D
• 19 mg potassium
• 25 mcg folate
• 22 mg calcium

According to Dr. Jonny Bowden in his book The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, one large egg yolk also provides 300 mcg of choline, which forms betaine to help lower homocysteine (a risk factor for heart disease). Choline also helps make phosphatidylcholine to benefit your liver, nervous system, and brain.

The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin in egg yolks are powerful antioxidants and particularly valuable to prevent macular degeneration. A study in the journal Optometry showed lutein is a powerful antioxidant to improve vision. Another study in the Journal of Nutrition found men absorb lutein better from egg yolks than spinach or supplements.

Bottom line: When you discard egg yolks, you're also discarding the majority of an egg's nutrients.

What About Cholesterol?
Besides fat, people discard egg yolks because of their cholesterol.

Experts, including Bowden and Dr. Stephen Sinatra in their book The Great Cholesterol Myth, have come out swinging against the rampant anti-cholesterol mania. We now know that dietary cholesterol has almost no impact on blood cholesterol, but some people still fear this crucial molecule that helps make your sex hormones and vitamin D.

Stop it. There are real problems in this world. Cholesterol in egg yolks is not one of them.

Studies verify cholesterol is nothing to fear. One in the journal Food and Function concluded (and this is worth quoting): "We need to acknowledge that diverse healthy populations experience no risk in developing coronary heart disease by increasing their intake of cholesterol but in contrast, they may have multiple beneficial effects by the inclusion of eggs in their regular diet."

Got that? "Multiple beneficial effects" by eating eggs. So stop fearing cholesterol and eat the whole egg.

Solution: Buy The Best Eggs, Cook Them Right and Eat Infrequently
If you've challenged eggs and can tolerate them, you can enjoy them a few times every week. Any more than that and you're risking creating food intolerances.

Besides being packed with nutrients, the yolk will help you better absorb the egg's protein. Take that, egg white zealots!

I also want you to buy barnyard eggs, which have more nutrients than conventional eggs. For instance, a study in Mother Earth News showed barnyard egg yolks have 3-6 times more vitamin D than conventional eggs.

Even better if you can find barnyard raised eggs from chickens fed their natural diet (icky stuff like worms and dirt) rather than soy and corn. Visit your farmers market, talk to vendors, and really learn how they raise and treat their chickens.

Not everyone has access to farm-raised chickens or eggs. Second best would be organic omega-3-enriched store-bought eggs. The essential fatty acids in eggs from chickens fed flax meal will help balance the egg's pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid.

Soft-boiled or poached are the best way to prevent oxidation, a nasty chemical reaction that damages the egg's fats. Never, ever eat those buffet scrambled eggs, which have become oxidation central sitting under a heat lamp for who knows how long.

Are eggs really nature's perfect food? Yes, provided that you don't have egg intolerances and choose the very best quality.

References

Chung HY, et al. Lutein bioavailability is higher from lutein-enriched eggs than from supplements and spinach in men. J Nutr. 2004 Aug;134(8):1887-93.

Fernandez ML. Effects of eggs on plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Food Funct. 2010 Nov;1(2):156-60. doi: 10.1039/c0fo00088d. Epub 2010 Oct 19.

Richer S, et al. Double-masked, placebo-controlled, randomized trial of lutein and antioxidant supplementation in the intervention of atrophic age-related macular degeneration: the Veterans LAST study (Lutein Antioxidant Supplementation Trial). Optometry. 2004 Apr;75(4):216-30.

Shoelson SE, et al. Obesity, inflammation, and insulin resistance. Gastroenterology. 2007 May;132(6):2169-80.

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Relish/Pastured-Eggs-Vitamin-D-Content.aspx

Bowden, J. (2007). The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds.

Bowden, J., Sinatra, S. (2012). The Great Cholesterol Myth. Beverley, MA: Fair Winds.

For more by JJ Virgin, click here.

For more on personal health, click here.

From Our Partners