One very common nutrition myth is that eggs are bad for you or they contain too much cholesterol. A recent review of the scientific literature published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care clearly indicates that egg consumption has no discernible impact on blood cholesterol levels in 70% of the population. In the other 30% of the population (termed “hyper-responders”), eggs do increase both circulating LDL and HDL cholesterol.
You’ve probably been conditioned to believe that anything that raises LDL cholesterol (so-called “bad” cholesterol) should be avoided like the plague. But recent research suggests that it’s not the amount of cholesterol in an LDL particle (a.k.a. LDL cholesterol, or LDL-C) that drives heart disease risk, but instead the number of LDL particles in the bloodstream.
If anything, egg consumption is likely to protect against heart disease because it increases the proportion of large, buoyant LDL particles. Larger LDL particles can carry more cholesterol, which means fewer particles are needed overall. In other words, egg consumption may decrease LDL particle concentration, which is the most significant risk factor for heart disease.
The egg yolk is comprised of 20% protein and 75% fat. It contains the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K along with folate, biotin, selenium, and choline (a great brain nutrient). The egg white is 90% protein and 3% fat. It contains collagen, riboflavin and no fat soluble vitamins. Eggs are also rich in B vitamins, iodine, for making thyroid hormones, and phosphorus, essential for healthy bones and teeth.
I’d like to define the categories that you see in the grocery stores or farmer’s market to help you source the best quality eggs. This list is in descending order of quality.
1. Pasture-Raised – Chickens are outdoors and allowed to forage and roam. They get exercise, fresh air and sunshine, with at least 108 square feet per bird. These eggs are rich in Vitamin K2.
2. Free-Range – These birds have outdoor access, but may not go outside. They have a conventional grain diet most times and get about 2 sq. feet per bird.
3. Cage-Free – Outdoor access is not required and many are kept indoors with 1 sq. foot per bird. They may also eat a conventional grain diet.
4. Organic eggs – These birds have an organic grain diet and may have outdoor access. They’re usually very crowded. If grass is not a part of their diet, they will lack Vitamin K2.
5. Vegetarian-Fed – These birds are fed a conventional diet with GMO corn and soy. This is not their natural diet. Chickens are omnivores.
6. Conventional eggs – These birds are always indoors with a small cage no larger than a sheet of paper eating a conventional grain diet.
As you can see, quality matters and pasture-raised eggs are far superior to any other. Studies show that commercially-raised eggs are up to 19 times higher in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. You can find pasture-raised eggs at farmer’s markets, local farms or perhaps a neighbor with a bit of land and some backyard chickens. Northern VA is full of farms with pasture-raised eggs.
Some folks do have true food allergies to eggs and I like to use these substitutes for recipes calling for eggs.
Egg Replacer Ideas for Baking
These options will replace 1 egg in a recipe.
• 1/4 cup almond butter
• 1 T chia seed + ¼ cup water (let sit 15 minutes)
• 1 T ground flaxseed + ¼ cup water (let sit 15 minutes)
• 1 T grass-fed gelatin + ¼ cup water (let sit 15 minutes)
• ¼ cup Unsweetened applesauce.
• 1/4 cup ripe banana