I get asked this question quite a bit when doing diet and nutrition consultations so I figured itâ€™s about time to do a post on the subject.
Ahhâ€¦the great â€śegg debate.â€ť One side says you should limit your consumption of eggs, especially egg yolks or youâ€™re opening the door to increased cholesterol levels and cardiovascular risks. The other side says this is complete non-sense.
Take a guess on which side of the fence Iâ€™m on? No surprises Iâ€™m all for eating the whole egg.
Here are the reasons why I believe this and then you can be the judge for yourself.
For starters letâ€™s address this whole notion that since egg yolks contain dietary cholesterol they increase LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and cardiovascular health risks. This has simply not been proven to be true.
Now granted if youâ€™re eating egg yolks in part with poor overall eating habits thereâ€™s an argument here. But the argument is with the diet in general and not one particular component. If youâ€™re eating several whole eggs each morning along with the side of hash browns, bacon, toast, etc, then of course you could see problems with LDL cholesterol levels.
Dietary cholesterol found in foods is not a problem by itself. The issue at stake is whether or not cholesterol clumps up in the walls of blood vessels causing blockages, otherwise known as atherosclerosis. This is largely influenced by insulin resistance, increased levels of cortisol, and other factors associated with internal inflammation.
Inflammation is the REAL culprit in atherosclerosis and heart disease, not dietary cholesterol from foods like whole eggs!
In a body with low levels of inflammation, dietary cholesterol is not much of a problem at all. Itâ€™s only when we combine high levels of dietary cholesterol with all the factors that increase inflammation (insulin resistance, high levels of cortisol, elevated stress, low levels of antioxidants, digestive system imbalances, lack of exercise, and other general markers of poor health).
This is where all the nutritional science gets twisted and misinterpreted. We get a bad report for the doctor that our cholesterol levels are high and proceed to reduce or remove foods that contain dietary cholesterol along with increasing sources of healthy fats like fish oil, olive oil, etc.
The second part is a great idea but far too often the rest of the diet remains the same. Sure youâ€™ve taken out the eggs, red meat, and all the other â€śbad foodsâ€ť but if you continue to consume diet sodas, processed sugars, excess starches and everything else that increases inflammation, youâ€™re going to be at risk for heart problems.
Why is it that individuals who consume primarily whole foods like in a Primal Blueprint diet can eat several whole eggs every day and not see a hint of cholesterol problems?
The answer lies in low levels of inflammation and high levels of antioxidants.
The egg yolk is loaded with antioxidants, nutrients, and naturally occurring substances that actually help to reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. One particular antioxidant, lutein, has been showed to significantly reduce inflammation. Another example is lecithin which is a phospholipid contained in the egg yolk.
Lecithin is required by every single cell in your body. Cell membranes, which handle the flow of nutrients in and out of the cell, are composed largely of lecithin and egg yolks are one of the richest food sources of this nutrient.
Lecithin can inhibit cells from sticking together (platelet aggregation) and also prevent blood coagulation, two major risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
The other main reason you should be eating the whole egg is because the yolk is where the nutrition is!
The egg yolk contains ALL the fat soluble vitamins, essential fatty acids, and a wide spectrum of other vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants.
Take a look at the nutrient comparison of egg yolks versus egg whites.
I think another big reason for the misconception people have with egg whites is their sources of information on diet recommendations.
Bodybuilders have long been a primary resource for information on dietary habits that help with fat loss and muscle development. This isnâ€™t necessarily a bad thing as in general bodybuilders have much cleaner diets than the average individual.
However, this becomes a slippery slope as their nutrition requirements are not going to be the same as that for the non-bodybuilder.
Thereâ€™s no question that bodybuilders are largely responsible for this whole idea of eating nothing but the egg whites. The five or six egg white omelet is a staple in a lot of their diets.
So why are they doing this?
Number one bodybuilders typically follow diets that are very low in fat while being extremely high in protein. In order for them to get in the thirty plus grams of protein they need from their breakfast without the fat, they consume a large amount of egg whites. They simply donâ€™t want the fat.
If youâ€™re not a bodybuilder and donâ€™t have the same goals, exercise routines, body type, etc, then youâ€™re going to benefit from the fat with eating 2-3 whole eggs. Itâ€™s going to help keep you feeling full longer and provide necessary energy throughout the morning.
Try eating just egg whites and some fruit for breakfast and trust me youâ€™re going to be starving in a hour or so.
The bottom line is thereâ€™s not many reasons for the average individual to be avoiding the egg yolk, and plenty of good reasons to be eating it.
Eggs are one of the best sources of protein on the planet. Theyâ€™re easy to digest and assimilate, provide a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and do NOT lead to cholesterol problems in an otherwise healthy diet.
If you think youâ€™re really doing whatâ€™s best to lower cholesterol levels by removing eggs from your diet and just eating that bowl of Cheerios in the morning, you could be disappointed.
This whole dogma with eating more whole grains and pulling out all the so called â€śbadâ€ť natural foods that contain even a tad bit of dietary cholesterol is completely twisted. The USDA has been pushing this screwed up food pyramid for decades and how well is it really working?
Sure a little bit of whole grains can be a good thing but this whole idea of eating 6-11 servings from the bread, cereal, rice & pasta group is certainly questionable. I’ve found it to be a recipe for further frustration and disappointment with the average individual walking around with an extra 20-30 pounds of body fat and insulin imbalances.
Personally, Iâ€™ve seen MUCH better results with reducing whole grains and increasing fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, eggs, nuts, seeds, and other foods in a Primal Blueprint type diet.
So if youâ€™ve gotten a bad report from the doc about high cholesterol levels my recommendation is to think twice about that glass of orange juice and bowl of Cheerios for breakfast.
A bowl of fruit and a couple of eggs would be a much better combination to help you fix insulin resistance problems and reduce inflammationâ€¦two overlooked areas with reducing cholesterol.
Iâ€™ve gotten a little side-tracked on the issue of eggs. One last thing before I wrap this up.
When you look to buy eggs, for heavenâ€™s sake donâ€™t go cheap. Buy the best eggs you can get your hands on. Trust me itâ€™s worth the couple of extra bucks.
It kills me when some people complain about the extra couple dollars they have to spend on free range eggs but they donâ€™t blink an eye about dishing out 3-4 bucks for a Frappaccino at Starbucks. I guess itâ€™s all about priorities.
Anyways, hereâ€™s why you should buy the best eggs you can get. The normal supermarket eggs coming from mass factory farming just don’t compare nutritionally with organic free range eggs from healthy chickens that are allowed to roam freely and eat a more natural diet.
Your typical cheap grocery store eggs will have lower nutrient levels and a higher omega-6 and lower omega-3 levels.
On the other hand, the cage-free organic eggs from healthier chickens allowed to eat more natural feed and roam freelyÂ will have much higher vitamin and mineral levels and a more balanced healthier omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio.
Compare the cheap eggs at the supermarket with free range eggs or that from a local farm and youâ€™ll see and taste a big difference.
The cheap eggs from the grocery store will have pale yellow yolks and thin weak shells. On the other hand, the healthier free range eggs from the local farmÂ will have strong thick shells and deep orange colored yolks indicating much higher nutrition levels.
This is due to the fact that a free-roaming hen allowed to eat their natural diet will transfer MUCH higher levels of nutrients to the eggs compared to an unhealthy hen that is trapped inside a dark factory farm hen house and fed nothing but piles of corn and soy. Itâ€™s pretty evident why the end product will be different.
Ok, I think Iâ€™ve spoken my peace on this subject. Eggs may or may not be for you and thatâ€™s fine. Far be it from me to tell you what you have to eat. Just donâ€™t leave them out of your diet due to the misguided fear that theyâ€™ll lead to cholesterol problems.
Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides fitness consulting in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation. You can receive a no-obligations consultation and trial to experience the difference for yourself.