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Good Egg or Bad Egg?

brown egg and chicken isolated on a white backgroundWhich came first, the chicken or the egg? In this article, the egg comes first, since it’s been in the spotlight lately. The de­cades-old debate about whether eggs deserve a spot in a heart-healthy diet was reignited recently when a large study sug­gested eggs might increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The recent report was a meta-analysis of six prospective studies involving about 30,000 participants who were followed for 17 years. It found that for each additional 300 milligrams of cholesterol (the amount in two egg yolks) consumed daily, the risk of car­diovascular disease rose about 18%, and premature death also increased. To start with, the investigators unfairly singled out eggs as high-cholesterol foods - what about sausages, prime rib, and butter - all high-cholesterol foods that are much worse for you than eggs.
This information hasn’t changed our eating habits. Joan loves eggs and about three days per week she makes eggs for breakfast, along with a sliced tomato, dill pickles, sauerkraut and coffee. Joan says, “The egg is a unique source of a wide variety of nutrients, some of which are difficult to find in other foods.” It’s Mother Nature’s ver­sion of a complete multivitamin.
Think about it ... inside a fertil­ized egg, are the genetic code and nutrients necessary to form a baby chick, including its brain, eyes, heart, bones, blood and skin. Talk about a superfood!
Eggs are indeed a won­derful source of complete high-quality protein, with only 68 calories for one whole egg. And while egg yolks carry all the cholesterol and saturated fat, yolks also are loaded with many valuable nutrients.
For example, eggs are rich in cho­line, a nutrient that is gener­ally scarce in the standard American diet. Choline is crucial for preventing fatty liver - an epidemic condition that now affects about one in four U.S. adults, and increases risk of coronary disease, liver failure and need for liver transplant.
You’ll get 6 grams of protein and only 24 calories per egg white, so if you’re hungry for a wholesome protein food but you want to avoid consuming too much cholesterol, just eat mostly egg whites.
When I make myself an omelet, I use three egg whites and only one yolk. I feed the other two yolks raw to my dogs - because they’re carnivores they can eat all the cholesterol they want without ever getting plaques in their coronary arteries.
The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 did not limit the intake of cholesterol; and stud­ies have shown that moderate egg consumption does not adversely affect your overall lipid profile. Even so, the dietary cholesterol issue can be confusing and controversial, and this new study suggests that eating high-cholesterol foods could increase the risk for cardiovascular disease is not the final word in the great egg debate.
The truly toxic nutritional villains in the American diet are not contained within eggshells - though some of them are cheaper by the dozen - like doughnuts and bagels with cream cheese. These kinds of refined carbo­hydrates loaded with sugar and white flour, unlike eggs, have NO redeeming values. They are addictive, fattening, cause heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. And Americans love their carbs.
So, the next time you’re in the local grocery store, rather than frantically jockeying to get into the shortest checkout line, settle into a longer line and spend a couple of minutes scruti­nizing what your fellow shoppers have piled into their carts. Then watch as they dump their bread, cookies, crack­ers, candy, packaged snacks foods and sweet drinks onto the moving belt.
Take note of the proportion of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, berries, beans, water and fish you see getting scanned in. Then ask yourself, “Are eggs likely to be the main culprit behind Americans’ expanding waist­lines and shortening life expectan­cies?”
By the way, when Joan goes to our neighborhood supermarket she is amused by how her friends and neighbors tend to run with their carts the opposite direction when they see her. And then the checkout clerks roll their eyes as she unloads her cart full of foods without a barcode, requiring them to weigh and manually enter a code for each bag of avocados, carrots, onions, etc.
We typically go to the store three or four times a week to restock on fresh produce. Like our ancient hunters-gatherers, eating fresh whole foods re­quires a lot of day-to-day investment of effort - but consider it an adventure that will revolutionize your life. It’s a guaranteed solution for improving your mental and physical well-being, and your longevity.
Bottom line: eggs are a delicious and nutritious source of vitamins, min­erals and protein, though you should probably limit your intake to not more than six yolks per week. So get scram­bling, and enjoy!
In Good Health,
James O'Keefe, MD and Joan O'Keefe, RD