Are Eggs a Near-Perfect Food?

Easy to prepare and digest, eggs are a dietary staple, but are they good for you? The incredible, edible egg is just loaded with nutrients, according to Shore Medical Center Registered Dietitian Mackenzie McCune who is a member of the Shore Outpatient Nutrition Counseling team. One large egg contains roughly 13 essential vitamins, minerals and high quality protein packed into just 70 calories.  

“Eggs are a great source of a complete protein,” according to McCune. “That means one egg contains six grams of protein and all the essential amino acids your body needs. Your body is able to absorb all these essential amino acids which in turn help to lower blood pressure, optimize bone health and increase muscle mass.” 

How Eggs Effect Cholesterol
McCune said for years eggs have gotten a bad reputation because they contain roughly 200 mg. of cholesterol, which is more than half of the recommended daily amount of approximately 300 mg. /day. “What we know now is that most of the cholesterol that is circulated in our bodies is from cholesterol in foods but rather from our liver making cholesterol in response to a high intake of saturated and trans fat from foods such as red meat, pastries/pies, frozen pies etc. Therefore unless you consume an excessive amount of eggs per week, they will not have a significant effect on your total cholesterol levels.”

Will Including Eggs Daily Help Weight Loss?
According to McCune, consuming the recommended amount of eggs, just under an average of one egg per day, can help with weight loss as eggs are very low in calories (70) and high in protein. “The protein is what keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time and prevents you from overeating during that meal,” said McCune. 

Is it Safe to Eat Eggs Every Day?
Most experts agree that it is fine to have just under one egg per day. McCune said with that thought in mind, a three-egg omelet twice a week with a single fried egg once a week would be within the recommended range. She suggested on the other days to supplement with other healthy breakfast options like Greek yogurt. 

Is There Any Nutritional Difference Between White and Brown Eggs?
While some will reach past the white eggs to grab a dozen brown eggs or vice versa, thinking one is better for them than the other, McCune said there is really no difference. If the chickens are raised in conventional housing systems, the only difference is that brown eggs come from brown chickens. 

Should I Eat Omega-3 Enriched Eggs?
Omega-3’s are a type of polyunsaturated fat, which is the healthy fat and is known to protect your heart. Omega-3’s are essential for good health and our body does not naturally produce them. McCune said for that reason, we need to get our Omega-3’s from our food sources such as salmon.

What Does the Label Mean?
There are so many varieties of eggs in the grocers case such as cage free, pasture raised, free range, USDA organic and Omega-3 enriched. Is one better than the other? McCune said the different types of eggs in the market indicate how they were raised. 

Cage-free eggs mean that the chickens are not confined to a cage but typically do not have access to the outdoors and may be raised in a barn. 

Free-range means the chickens are given access to the outdoors, even if the access is small or may be screened or caged. 

Pasture-raised mean the chickens are allowed to roam around a large indoor space and forage their food on top of some supplemental feedings from the farmer. McCune suggested the pasture-raised eggs may have a higher vitamin E content and healthy Omega-3’s than other conventionally raised chickens. Typically the pasture raised chickens lay eggs that have a deep orange yolk. 

USDA Organic means the hens consumed only organic non-genetically modified feed and have received no hormones or antibiotics. 

Omega-3 enriched means the chicken’s diet is enriched with flax seeds for natural sources of healthy fat. 

Is There a Best Way to Prepare Eggs to Get the Maximum Nutrition Values? 
Soft boiled or poached eggs would be the best way to consume eggs, according to McCune, because cooking them at high temperatures can eliminate some of the nutrients. Another suggestion would be to pair the eggs with a leafy vegetable. “The vitamin D in the eggs will be absorbed better with the paring of the calcium in the vegetables. Pairing your eggs with avocado can also help absorb nutrients as fat will help absorb the vitamin K,” McCune added. “When it comes to pairing an egg with whole grains, combining a protein and a carb helps to regulate blood sugar. For example, if you had whole grain bread, eggs, spinach and avocado sandwich, this would meet all of those needs.”

Is it Safe to Drop a Raw Egg in My Protein Shake?
Salmonella, a bacteria that may infect your digestive tract, is a risk from eating a raw egg, even if it is in a very healthy protein shake. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using pasteurized eggs for your holiday egg nog or any food that requires raw eggs because they are treated to kill most of the bacteria in the egg. 

Making Eggs a Part of the Meal Plan
McCune said multiple studies from the National Institute of Health and the Nurses Health Study indicate egg consumption of one egg per day, on average, is not associated with cardiovascular disease risk overall. “However, each meal plan I create for patients is individualized and depends on the person’s medical history etc. That is where I always recommend a person seek out a registered dietitian for personalized recommendations.”

Make That Meal Better Eggs-actly  
While the bacon or sausage and egg on a bagel looks delicious, it is loaded with fats. McCune has some better options to enjoy eggs without all the fat. She suggests to add vegetables to an omelet or make a vegetable frittata. Sautee green leafy vegetables like spinach and mix it into a scrambled eggs. A great on-the-go breakfast is a veggie-filled egg muffin that can be frozen and then popped in the microwave. Top a salad with hard boiled eggs or make egg salad with light mayo and enjoy it with whole grain bread, lettuce and tomato.  

For help getting started with your individual nutrition plan, schedule an appointment with a member of the Shore Medical Center Outpatient Nutrition Counseling Team by calling 609-653-4600.