Eggs aren’t merely a great food for a low-carb diet. They’re nearly the perfect food. You’ve got a whole potential chicken in that little spheroid, so an egg is jam-packed with the building blocks of life. Like most people, I’ve always eaten eggs, either as a main dish or inside of recipes, but for 30-plus years I limited my consumption to two or three eggs a week. Maybe four in a really wild week. Why did I do such a thing? Why did I foolishly limit this nearly perfect food?
You know why. I was being a good boy, a sensible citizen. I was following the dietary advice of the American Heart Association, the U.S. government, and various other nutrition know-it-alls who turned out not to know much of anything where eggs are concerned. These dietary do-gooders assumed that the high cholesterol content of eggs would raise the blood cholesterol levels of humans who consumed eggs. In turn, they believed that elevated cholesterol levels would result in an increased risk of heart disease. Until 2013, the AHA guidelines called for people to consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol per day. That’s about one-and-a-half large egg’s worth. The meager 300 mg limit was echoed in the official Dietary Guidelines for the United States (due to be revised in 2015).
Then, after a few decades of assuming, somebody got the bright idea to look at the accumulated scientific research on the relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol in humans. And when they looked, they saw . . . no relationship. So, in 2013, the AHA finally admitted that the evidence was lacking to link dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. This year, the new Dietary Guidelines are expected to follow suit and remove the dietary cholesterol recommendation. (See this AHA blog post, and also this one.)
Cholesterol aside, are eggs good or bad for you? A meta-analysis of 17 research studies on the egg consumption and cardiovascular disease found no link for those who were otherwise healthy. However, for diabetics, a positive association was found between heart disease risk and egg consumption. Ah, ha! A clear-cut finding. Except that the opposite was found for stroke risk and egg consumption in that same diabetic population.
The question is, do any of these associations mean anything? Or is it just more correlation without causation? Since I don’t have diabetes, I’m not pondering these questions too closely. I’m viewing eggs as good for me.
An egg is full of vitamins, nutrients, and anti-oxidants (“10 Proven Health Benefits of Eggs” — Authority Nutrition). It’s difficult to understand why an egg would be harmful to us. The article “Eggs and your health” on the Harvard Medical School website says that an average of an egg a day can be part of an overall healthy lifestyle. (I’d have more confidence in the statement, though, if one of the professors quoted didn’t follow it up with “as long as it’s not accompanied by bacon, hash browns, muffins, and the like.” What exactly do hash browns and muffins have in common with bacon? What is it that would be “like” all three? To those not educated at Harvard, it is a puzzler.)
In terms of ethics, some people have a problem with how most eggs are produced in the United States — by caged birds on giant factory farms. But if that concerns you, it is possible to buy organic eggs from free-range chickens; these cost more but may be worth it — both for peace of mind and nutrition. (If you object to eating all animal-based food, you are not the audience for this post or this blog. But thanks for visiting!)
As far as nutrition goes, my problem with the egg is that it contains more protein than fat — about 6g to 5g for a typical large egg. There’s only a trace of carbs, though.
A fattier egg would be nice. But unless you’re boiling them, it is easy to add fat to eggs in the cooking process. I typically cook my eggs in coconut oil or butter. A tablespoon of either turns the fat/protein ration right around.
Since going low-carb in 2011, I’ve increased my egg consumption three or four fold. I eat at least the seven eggs per week that the experts at Harvard would permit. Most weeks, I eat a few more than that, probably totaling a dozen on average. Eggs are now a major source of protein for me. I eat them as a main dish for breakfast — fried, scrambled or in an omelet. Anita and I often keep some hard-boiled eggs on hand for lunch or snacks, or as a salad topper. We’ve had eggs for dinner in a frittata or crust-less quiche. I’ve also made Eggs Florentine (which Anita, with her aversion to spinach, wouldn’t touch).
Eggs are a key ingredient in my no-filler salmon patties.
One thing I have yet to try is drinking raw eggs “Rocky” style. Dr. Jonny Bowden (PhD, CNS), in his excellent Living Low Carb: Controlled-Carbohydrate Eating for Long-Term Weight Loss (Amazon link), says that he drinks two raw eggs from a glass “just about every day” (p. 311). He views the very small risk of salmonella as worth it for the extra nutritional benefits of downing uncooked eggs, noting that heating the egg changes its protein and could contribute to allergies.
With all due respect to Dr. Bowden, I’ll try drinking eggs when I get the urge to punch out sides of beef in a meat locker.