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EGGS: AN EGGSELLENT SOURCE OF PROTEIN, OR TOO RICH TO BE HEALTHY?

Eggs

When it comes to keeping your diet healthy, these days it’s hard to find one food that everyone agrees is healthy. One website will say one thing, one magazine another. Someone at your work will swear by one thing, someone down the gym will tell you to avoid it. And if you’re looking to change your diet or fitness regime with a goal in mind—like losing weight, or building muscle—reading up on what’s actually good and bad for you can get even more confusing.

Confused and Happy Eggs

One food that’s often caught up in the middle of all this is eggs. One of the most affordable, basic and versatile kitchen staples, on the one hand eggs are touted as super-healthy, vitamin-rich shots of protein, whereas on the other they’re talked down as fat-laden, calorie-rich cholesterol boosters. So which side is right?

THE GOOD NEWS

Let’s start with the good news: not only are eggs cheap and versatile, but nutritionally at least they’re super healthy. Eggs are a great source of a host of vitamins, including A, B2, B12, and D (which can be difficult to track down outside of notoriously unpopular foods like green veg and liver). They’re also packed full of important nutrients like selenium (an antioxidant that can help keep your heart healthy) and lutein (another antioxidant that’s supposed to prevent against eye degeneration).

And, of course, they’re protein rich: one large (50g) egg contains around 6g of protein, so gram for gram eggs contain more protein than a glass of milk. Not only is protein useful in building and repairing muscle, but a boost of protein in the morning can help keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the rest of the day, and avoid that slump of mid-afternoon tiredness so many people have.

Eggs Fitness

THE BAD NEWS

If all that sounds too good to be true, it kind of is. Look at the stats on the back of a box of eggs and you’ll see that for those 6g of protein in each 50g egg, you’re looking at adding around 5g of fat to your diet, along with around 180mg of dietary cholesterol. These two stats alone are the reason eggs so often get such bad press. For years government health advice warned people to limit the number of eggs they ate each week, because eating too many was linked to conditions like high blood pressure and heart disease. But nowadays, that advice is beginning to change.

GOOD vs. BAD

Yes, gram for gram eggs contain a relatively high level of fat. But only around 2g of the fat in an egg is “bad” saturated fat. The majority is actually “good” fat—mono and polyunsaturated fats, which can help keep blood sugar levels steady and can even help to keep the heart healthy in the long term. And yes, eggs might be relatively high in cholesterol gram for gram. But we now know that eating foods that are high in saturated fats has more of a negative effect on our cholesterol levels than eating foods that actually contain high levels of cholesterol. That’s because, as many people don’t realise, our bodies need a healthy level of cholesterol to do everything from repairs cells to manufacturing hormones, and if you have cholesterol in your diet you body responds by not producing as much of it itself. So, so long as you’re sensible, the cholesterol in the scrambled eggs you had for breakfast shouldn’t be as big an issue as you think.

 

Healthy Heart Eggs

So on balance, it seems that eggs are a healthy choice and that their nutritional benefits massively outweigh any potential negatives. So why do so many health websites and nutrition guides still tell you to be wary of them?

Well, one reason is that a lot of health and weight loss advice these days is geared only around reducing the fat and calorie content of your diet. Those kinds of diets ignore the fact that there are “good” and “bad” fats, as well as the fact that your body needs a healthy level of fat to function effectively. Remember, if you’re training regularly then cutting your calorie count too low might end up doing more harm than good.

Another reason is that there’s so much information available these days, it’s easy to end up following advice that isn’t exactly right for you. So if all you’re looking to do is lose weight, tone up or just keep yourself fit and healthy, there’s no point in taking your dietary advice from a website intended for professional sportsmen or competitive bodybuilders. Unless you’re genuinely worried that the slightest change in body fat percentage might ruin your chances at your next competition, then there’s no need to worry about taking those fat-rich yolks out of your eggs…

KEEP THINGS BALANCED

With all that in mind, remember eggs are only a healthy choice if you choose to keep them healthy. One reason health and fitness blogs aren’t sometimes keen to recommend eating eggs is that there’s a big difference between having two poached eggs on wholemeal toast in the morning, and taking your local burger joint up on their offer and adding a fried egg to your meal. How you cook your eggs and what you have with them is a major part of keeping them and your diet healthy. So try switching to poached eggs rather than fried. Try microwaving your scrambled eggs rather than cooking them in butter or oil.

There’s a lot more to eggs than just scrambling, boiling and poaching!

Recipe: Baked Egg Muffins

 

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