Enjoyed throughout the year as a breakfast staple or anytime snack, eggs are a mainstay at many Easter celebrations. Though their health benefits are often misunderstood, eggs have remained a popular food, both in the U.S. and abroad.
Health Benefits of Eggs
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods in the world. They have incredible nutritional balance and offer a wide variety of the many nutrients you need.
According to the authoritative Food Data Central database of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a Grade A large chicken egg comes with just over 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat (of which almost 2 grams is healthy monounsaturated, as in olive oil), 72-74 calories, and less than a half gram of carbs.
Just one of these eggs provides such key nutrients as:
- Folate – 9% of the Daily Value (DV) (36 mcg)
- Phosphorus – 7% (92.6 mg)
- Iodine – 16% (24.7 mcg)
- Selenium – 28% (15.6 mcg)
- Vitamin A – 33% (90 mcg)
- Vitamin B2 – 16% (0.211 mg)
- Vitamin B12 – 21% (0.5 mcg)
- Biotin – 26% (7.8 mcg)
- Vitamin D3 – 6% (1.24 mcg)
- Vitamin E – 8% (1.246 mg)
- Smaller amounts of the vitamins B1, B3, B6, and the essential minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and zinc
Though certainly not exhaustive, this list illustrates the diverse array of nutrients found in eggs. Egg protein has practically the best amino acid profile of any food, and qualifies as a…
One of the few proteins classified as a complete protein, egg protein has an impressive total amino acid profile. Egg protein contains all nine essential amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own.
Additionally, egg protein carries the sulfur amino acids cysteine and methionine (crucial for antioxidant protection) and proline (an amino acid important for the body’s collagen and absent from many plant proteins). Also present are the “branched chain” amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are linked to muscle building and to helping conserve muscle mass later in life.
Lean, Clean Choline
Eggs are a particularly rich source of choline. Though not traditionally regarded as a vitamin, choline was recently reclassified as an essential nutrient, which makes it functionally equivalent to a vitamin.
Choline is fundamental to all our cell, tissue, and organ functions, and is crucial for brain function. It plays an important role in the structure and functioning of cell membranes. Choline is also a major dietary source of methyl groups, which make and maintain our DNA, genes, cell membranes, brain neurotransmitters, nerve cell insulation.
Choline is an essential molecular building block for acetylcholine, our most abundant and versatile nerve transmitter. As its name suggests, acetylcholine has choline as part of its molecular structure.
Surveys indicate that as many as 9 out of 10 Americans have intakes well below the recommended daily intake for choline. Choline deficiency is associated with liver fat buildup (“fatty liver”) and risk for ongoing liver damage, as well as higher risk for damage to our DNA and other gene-related functions. One large egg provides about 31% of the U.S. Govt’s Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of choline.
The egg white contains most of the egg’s content of the precious sulfur amino acids, essential for our own antioxidant defense systems and largely absent from plant proteins. It also carries most of the proline for collagen, and the branched chain amino acids for muscle health.
The egg yolk is loaded with phospholipids, nutrients that are the main building blocks for all our cells. These include phosphatidylcholine (PC), which houses most of the egg’s rich choline supply, and phosphatidylserine (PS), which is proven to benefit memory after numerous human clinical trials. Consuming PC in eggs doesn’t raise blood levels of the substance TMAO (trimethylamine N-oxide), which has been linked to adverse cardiovascular effects.
The egg yolk also carries practically all the egg’s vitamin E, a vitamin sorely lacking in most foods.
The Egg and Eye
The egg yolk is a significant food source of carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, which give both the egg yolk and the retinas of our eyes their rich yellow-orange color. They’re essential for eyes and vision and protect the eye against damage from glare.
The brain, like the eyes, seems to actively accumulate these carotenoids, including in the hippocampus, which is linked to memory. Clinical trials indicate they’re also likely involved in the brain’s information processing.
During the height of the panic about dietary cholesterol, people were advised not to eat eggs because the egg yolk contains a small amount of cholesterol. Research has clarified that cholesterol in the diet doesn’t necessarily become cholesterol in the arteries and that the body actually needs cholesterol for good health.
For instance, our cell membranes need cholesterol to function. Also, the skin needs cholesterol as its source substance to make vitamin D.
Though a single egg can contain about 207 mg of cholesterol (recommended daily intake is 300 mg), this doesn’t automatically increase cholesterol in the blood, because the liver regulates our cholesterol balance and will, as needed, produce less cholesterol.
However, some experts still recommend that individuals with cholesterol problems be very careful with their egg consumption. For many of these individuals, consuming six or fewer eggs per week would allow them the benefits of eggs while keeping their dietary cholesterol intake within guidelines.
In a huge 2020 study (published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) of more than 177,000 people in 50 countries on 6 continents, no associations were found between egg consumption and blood cholesterol levels, major cardiovascular events, or premature death. Eggs are finally being recognized as the superfoods they are, due in large part to their remarkable nutritional profiles.
Not All Eggs Are Created Equal
There are six different egg sizes in the U.S. Frequent egg purchasers will know that there are small, medium, large, extra-large, and jumbo eggs. But do you know what they call the smallest eggs?
Weighing in at 1.25 ounces (minimum mass per egg) is the peewee egg.
There are many different natural egg colors, as well. In addition to the standard white eggs, you’ve probably seen brown eggs in your local grocery store. While certainly less common commercially, some chicken breeds lay pinkish/cream, blue, or even green eggs (these are shell colors, not the color of the eggs themselves).
With so many differences to consider, is one type of egg better than another?
How to Buy the Best Eggs
For many consumers, an important consideration is the living conditions of the chickens laying the eggs they’re purchasing. Egg-laying chickens are raised in different environments. Let’s take a closer look at each type.
- Cage Eggs
These eggs come from chickens raised in cages. Typical cages have a sloped wooden floor and contain four to eight birds. These cages restrict the animal’s normal motions, such as flapping their wings and normally don’t have outside access.
- Cage-free Eggs
This environment allows birds to move both horizontally and vertically. Though cage-free structures vary, most afford chickens a little room to roam – to nest, roost, perch, forage, and spread their wings. However, the animals still might not have access to an outside space.
- Free-range Eggs
Free-range birds are granted access to some outside space, but how large the space is and how long they’re allowed to stay outside widely varies. Unfortunately, uniform standards don’t exist to ensure the kind of healthy environment implied by the name of these systems.
Programs like Food Alliance Certified and American Humane Certified have different criteria for the size of outdoor enclosures and the number of hours each day the birds must be kept outside.
- Pasture-raised Eggs
Pasture-raised eggs come from birds that have the freedom to move around in a large yard covered with grass or other vegetation. Again, the size of the open area and number of hours the birds are permitted to roam free can vary, but these criteria tend to be adhered to more strictly in pasture-raised systems. Also, pasture-raised chickens are fed a healthy diet.
- Omega-3 Enriched Eggs
At the top of the egg pecking order is the omega-3 enriched egg. These eggs come from pasture-raised chickens that are given omega-3 enriched feeds. Typically, the birds are fed alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which many of us may not be able to convert to EPA or DHA – the omega-3s our bodies need.
The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA support heart health and help the body regulate blood levels of potentially harmful triglycerides. A study found that eating five omega-3 enriched eggs a week for three weeks helped reduce triglycerides by 16-18%.
Overall Egg-cellent Food
As we’ve seen, pasture-raised or omega-3 enriched eggs are the healthiest for you, as well as the most humanely raised. No matter what size or color you choose, eggs can be a healthy part of your diet. This portable food is loaded with healthy protein, phospholipids, and many of the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients your body needs.
Whether you’re eating them as a side for breakfast or as a healthy snack, eggs really are a perfect food. No yolks about it!
The BrainMD team wishes you and yours a safe, healthy and happy Easter!
At BrainMD, we’re dedicated to providing the highest purity nutrients and standardized herbal ingredients to support your immunity and overall well-being. For more information about our full list of supplements, please visit us at BrainMD.
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