Eggs are the perfect protein since they contain a perfect balance of amino acids. Eggs are also highly nutritious and contain nearly all of the vitamins (except vitamin C). Eggs are full of essential fatty acids and other micro-nutrients such as selenium, iodine, vitamin K2, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, several B vitamins, and choline.
These nutrients are great for the maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system as well as a balanced endocrine system. Eggs are also a good source of zinc which is important for male health. The fatty-acid ratios are great for for testosterone production and adrenal hormones.
The yolk contains high levels of cholesterol which is the building block of testosterone. All of this with only 71 calories, no carbohydrates and five grams of fat! They are also one of the best sources of protein. Egg protein is easily metabolised and contains all nine essential amino acids necessary for proper metabolism.
Commercial, free range or pastured eggs?
- Commercial eggs: Chickens are fed soy and corn pellets. Factory chickens have been bred to grow twice as fast and twice as big as their counterparts 40 years ago. Chemicals and drugs are given to the chickens via the poultry food (zero cost to administer). They are often called "Battery hens".
- Cage free eggs: The chickens are not kept in individual or group cages. They are instead usually kept in vast overcrowded barns.
- Free range eggs: Chickens are given the "opportunity" to go outside and wander. But you can have the situation where tens of thousands of chickens are housed in vast shed with a few open areas (that most chickens will not venture into). Free range can be good, but it can be just as bad as factory framing.
- Pastured eggs: Pasture could mean a pasture, a meadow or even woods. The result is eggs that have deep yellow/orange yolks from their greens-rich and varied diet. All the birds spend most of their time outside.
The best thing to do is to find a local source of pastured eggs, where you can see the hens running around. The number of people who raise hens at home has soared. You can optimise the hens feed to make "designer eggs". Eat 2 or 3 eggs a day, it should be a critical part of your diet so buy wisely.
Comparing eggs from caged vs pastured chickens, pastured eggs have:
- Twice as much omega-3 fatty acids (Polyunsaturated fats occur naturally in eggs as omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFAs) including the omega-3 derivative DHA)
- Three times more vitamin E.
- Seven times more vitamin A (as beta-carotene).
- A quarter less saturated fat.
- A third less cholesterol.
Free range eggs have up to six times more essential vitamin D than regular supermarket eggs. They have also been shown to have significantly more B vitamins than a factory egg. Egg yolks are also a known source of lutein and zeaxanthin (two important antioxidants for the health of your eyes). They help to protect the delicate macula region of your eye from damaging UV and high-intensity blue light.
Yolks or the whites?
Egg yolks were demonised by sections of the health industry who advocated eating only egg whites. Most of the nutrients are found in the yolk. The egg yolk is in fact the storage area for all the good stuff. Eating raw egg whites can have some serious effects on vitamin B7 (biotin) because the whites contain avidin which is a protein that strongly binds to vitamin B7.
What about cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a building block required by the body, in fact your liver produces around 3000mg of cholesterol per day. An egg contains about 200mg of cholesterol, but it also contains lecithin which has been linked to lowering blood cholesterol.
Eggs are high in cholesterol, but the effect of egg consumption on blood cholesterol is minimal when compared with the effect of trans-fats and micro-nutrient deficiencies. Most healthy people can eat eggs with no increase in their risk of heart disease.
Dr Mercola wrote: "Cholesterol plays a critical role within your cell membranes, but research suggests cholesterol also interacts with proteins inside your cells, adding even more importance. Your body is composed of trillions of cells that need to interact with each other. Cholesterol is one of the molecules that allow for these interactions to take place. For example, cholesterol is the precursor to bile acids, so without sufficient amounts of cholesterol, your digestive system can be adversely affected. It also plays an essential role in your brain, which contains about 25 percent of the cholesterol in your body. It is critical for synapse formation, i.e. the connections between your neurons, which allow you to think, learn new things and form memories".
Choline in eggs
Choline is a B vitamin known for its role in brain development. It's a precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which plays a role in both muscle control and memory. Choline is also important for the health of your cell membranes and has anti-inflammatory properties. In the body, most choline is contained in phosphatidylcholine, a constituent of lecithin, which is found in egg yolks. Without lecithin, liver metabolism is damaged, leading to “fatty liver” and chronic liver failure.
Most people are deficient in choline. Some of the symptoms associated with low levels include memory problems, lethargy and persistent brain fog. Your body can only synthesize small amounts of this nutrient, so you need to get it from your diet. One egg yolk contains nearly 215 mg of choline.
Endurance athletes use choline to build and maintain muscle as well as combat fatigue throughout intensive periods of training. There is no RDA for choline. Instead, an “adequate intake” of 550 milligrams per day for men and 425 for women was set in 1998. Some needed as much as 825 mg of choline daily to prevent or reverse their liver problems.
Lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs
Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids. Zeaxanthin is an antioxidant carotenoid found in your retina which cannot be made by your body. You must get zeaxanthin from your diet. Lutein is found in your macular pigment, which helps protect your central vision and aids in blue light absorption. Both zeaxanthin and lutein are also found in high concentrations in your macula lutea, the small central part of your retina responsible for detailed central vision. The best vegetable sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are green leafy vegetables and other green or yellow vegetables. Among these, spirulina, kale and spinach top the list.
While there's no recommended daily intake for lutein and zeaxanthin, studies have found health benefits for lutein at a dose of 10 mg per day and at 2 mg/day for zeaxanthin. Pasture fed eggs range from 1-3mg of lutetin and 0.7-1.5mg of zeaxanthin (the high values taken from chickens fed specific feeds). Commercial factory eggs score very low. A study in 1999 found that "eggs were ideal carriers of biologically active carotenoids for human consumption".
Don't just eat chicken eggs
Duck eggs are bigger, they offer a bit more protein (around 9g compared to 6g for a large chicken egg). They’re also a better source of the super healthy omega-3s. Ducks are also less intensively farmed, so the duck is likely to of been raised with natural food sources. Duck eggs stay fresher longer because of their thick shells.
Quail eggs are richer in taste (because they have a bigger yolk to white ratio). Quail eggs are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, including Asia, Europe, and North America. The eggs have five times greater content of iron and potassium compared to chicken eggs. quail egg contains Leucine which can help in regulating blood sugar level and maintain the balance level of insulin.
How should you cook eggs for maximum nutritional benefits?
Heat and exposure to light will break down some of the nutrients found in the egg, particularly the delicate caretenoids. But, on the other hand, heat treatment causes the cell walls to break, thereby facilitating the release of health promoting components (which increases bioavailability). Drinking raw eggs is widely practiced by bodybuilders (but you can also have a raw egg in a smoothie, or as eggnog or homemade mayonnaise). Lutein in egg yolk is most affected with reductions of about 23%, 17%, and 19% for boiled, microwaved and fried eggs.
The best way is to cook eggs with the yolk soft.
Pickled eggs are good for you
Anything that is pickled or fermented is really good for your gut health. Pickled eggs go well in salads, adding an extra taste (try them with crispy bacon bits). Use apple cider vinegar as the pickling vinegar for added health benefits. If you want to try and pickle some eggs at home, why not try and add some beetroot to the mixture..... super healthy.