Could Eating Eggs Improve Your Health?
I have a post-holiday secret for you. There’s a food that can help you power through workouts, lose weight while building lean muscle, and provide you with more sustained energy throughout your day. The food? Eggs. If it sounds too good to be true, keep reading. I’m going to let you in on a few secrets about eggs that will help you get back on track this winter.
We’ve all heard conflicting information about eggs. On one hand, they’re “bad for you” because they raise your cholesterol. On the other hand, some tout a Rocky-esque approach and suggest eating a dozen eggs a day during strenuous training. While extreme ideas about eggs make for exciting headlines, the truth lies in the middle.
The Truth About Cholesterol
It’s true that eggs can raise your overall cholesterol, but there’s more to the story. Let’s take a deeper look at how the cholesterol contained in eggs actually affects your body.
There are two components to cholesterol: HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein). An easy way to remember where you want those numbers to go is to think of H for “high” and L for “low.” You want to raise your “good” HDL cholesterol and lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Eggs are a superfood that, when consumed in moderation, have been shown to raise your HDL and lower your LDL cholesterol.1 For the best results, eat the whole egg—yolk and white—to get the full protein and fat nutrient payoff. For more details on how your cholesterol works, click here.
The fat content of a whole egg—specifically the yolk—is important too. Healthy fats help your brain function more efficiently. A big myth is that eating fat will make you fat.That’s simply untrue. In fact, you need a good amount of healthy, monounsaturated fats to help your brain function.2 If your brain isn’t optimally functioning, your energy, immunity, and ability to lose weight will all suffer.
Egg yolks are also packed with important micronutrients. Impressively high concentrations of calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin D make this small caloric investment really worth your while.
Where’d You Get Those Eggs?
Another important factor to keep in mind when consuming eggs is quality. The quality of the egg is directly related to the care of the chicken. Free-range or cage-free eggs are your best bet. I know these labels can be confusing, and they’re certainly not perfectly regulated. An easy way around this is to know your farmer. You could try out going to your local farmers’ market and getting to know the people that grow your food. Then you can just ask the farmer how they raise their chickens. Another perk of buying directly from a farmer is that you know those eggs are fresh—they haven’t been sitting on a truck or in the back of a grocery store for a week or more.
You’ll quickly recognize that chicken eggs from smaller farms, or free-range or cage-free eggs, might have orange yolks instead of yellow. This is a good sign! The color of the yolk comes from what the chicken has been fed. Chickens who eat fresh corn and green plants produce eggs with more orange-colored yolks.
Orange yolks signal the presence of a powerful group of antioxidants called carotenoids. Including beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein, carotenoids help protect against some types of cancer. You can see how important it is to get the real thing as opposed to factory-farmed chickens that are fed yellow dye with their grain to make their yolks look healthier.
Secondly, the treatment of the chicken is important. If they are cooped up in a factory farm, never see the light of day, and are literally on top of each other, those stress hormones are going to be passed on to their eggs. With our busy lives, we don’t need any more cortisol—a stress hormone that, in excess, can be associated with weight gain. A cage-free or free-range chicken is going to be happier and healthier, and produce a better quality egg with significantly increased amounts of vitamin A, vitamin E, and omega-3 essential fatty acids.3
Working Eggs Into Your Diet
So how do you maximize the payoff of eating eggs? The most important part of any eating plan is to remember that you’re an individual. What works for you is most likely not going to work for the next person. The best way to calculate your perfect egg intake is to tune into your body and experiment. How do you feel when you eat one egg versus two? What time of day works best for you? First thing in the morning? Preworkout? Postworkout? Don’t forget to take your activity level into account. Someone whose job requires them to be mostly sitting all day—even if they work out before or after work—is simply going to need a smaller quantity food than, say, a bike messenger.
Another tool you could use is food-combining. The body processes certain foods well together. For the high-protein egg, vegetables are the perfect combination. Omelets and frittatas are a great way to get a huge nutrient boost while using up those extra veggies from dinner last night. When cooking eggs, also think about the quality of oil or butter you’re using. Virgin coconut oil or organic olive oils are best. If you’re cooking with olive oil, remember to use low heat.
Now you know the truth about eggs. The last thing I can tell you is that adding eggs into your diet is a great way to crowd out other foods that aren’t serving your health goals. Eggs are filling and satisfying—they’ll never leave you feeling deprived. Now that you know the truth about eggs, you can enjoy exploring what they can do for you, guilt-free.