THE BLOG

Eggs -- What Are You Really Getting for Your Dollar?

03/31/2012 12:23 pm ET | Updated May 31, 2012

My next two columns are all about eggs. And the hens that lay them, of course. Between 170 and 247 eggs were eaten per person between 2008 and 2009. Eggs are clearly a staple of our diet, yet, they still remain an enigma. Most Americans don't fully understand the health benefits of eggs. Further adding to the confusion is the variety of ways eggs are labeled -- cage-free, organic, and grass-fed. What does it all mean? How can we tell a good egg from, well, a bad egg?

Eggs are, in a way, the perfect food. They are full of antioxidants, protein, and nutrients vital to maintaining good health and well-being. A 2011 study in the journal Food Chemistry found that regular egg consumption may be associated with reductions in the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer due to their high content of antioxidants. Additional studies have found that eggs may help reduce blood pressure as well.

In addition to antioxidants, eggs supply a tremendous amount of protein and nutrients in a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, and cheap (about 15 cents per egg) package. They're high in choline, an essential nutrient that may help to reduce overall inflammation in the body, improve memory, and decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome. A 2000 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that choline intake during pregnancy was positively associated with brain development in the fetus. (Pregnant women should buy only pasteurized eggs and make sure to cook them fully without any runny whites or yolks to prevent food-borne illness.) Choline may also help to maintain normal homocysteine levels and may even play a role in reducing your risk for developing Alzheimer's

Eggs can also play a role in weight loss. A small 2005 study in the journal of the American College of Nutrition found that egg consumption was associated with increased satiety and decreased cravings -- two important factors in the battle of the bulge. Further, a 2008 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that having eggs for breakfast could help towards overall weight loss in a calorie-deficient diet.

Despite all these health benefits, eggs are commonly known for one thing: cholesterol. If you're concerned about the cholesterol content in eggs, you can still enjoy many of the benefits of eggs by just eating the egg white. Further, enjoying eggs in moderation (less than four to six per week) may actually be an option for patients with high cholesterol. A study out this month in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care covers several studies that state individuals who consume moderate amounts of eggs are not observed to have increases in cholesterol when compared to individuals that choose to cut eggs out of their diet.

Eggs can be an integral part of a healthy diet. How to choose the best egg for you and your family will be the topic of the next blog post. Stay tuned!

For more by Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, click here.

For more on diet and nutrition, click here.