All the over 40 crowd will remember this 1990's commercial and likely also the ones telling us to “Get crackin'!” back in the late 1970's. Despite such promotions assuring the public of the many health benefits, few foods have caused as much controversy as eggs. Should we eat them or avoid them? And if we do eat them, how many is safe to consume? Per day or per week? Whole or whites only? Is there a difference between factory farming and the farm down the street? All great questions give that as over the past several decades people have been given (at best) mixed messages and often not all the facts about this breakfast beauty. As a result, many flew the coop on ever again starting their day with the delightful knundrum of, “Poached, scrambled or over easy?”
So let's just start by saying eggs are in fact a good-for-you food. For starters, eggs contain omega 3s (good fats) and all the B vitamins, along with carotenoids and vitamins A, E, D, K. They are also a very good source of selenium and iodine, two minerals that are sometimes difficult to obtain in other foods. Eggs are also a fantastic source for all amino acids, making it a complete protein. And, as the nutrients are split almost equally, with some nutritional components found in the yolk while others reside in the whites, a whole lot of goodness can be had by consuming both parts of these delicious little spheres.
As you can see from the list of nutrients, eggs bring a high level of nutritional value to the table. But can there be such a thing as having too much of a good thing? A few decades ago it was thought that the cholesterol found in eggs was the culprit responsible for the increase in high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and heart attacks. Doctors are now acknowledging that cholesterol in and of itself is not really the problem, nor are the good fats that contain cholesterol. Quite the opposite. In fact, these omega 3 rich fats are key to keeping our mind sharp and help to prevent diminished cognitive function.
Good, nourishing fats found in eggs, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts, nut and seed butters not only assist with brain function, they help provide energy and create balance within the body to keep blood sugar stable. Without fat and it's sidekick protein, our bodies would be in a constant state of elevated blood sugar. When blood sugar is elevated and remains as such for prolonged periods of time, the insulin normally produced to counteract it stops being produced on an as-need basis. Instead, insulin remains turned on all the time in an effort to try and bring the blood sugar down to a manageable level that the body can deal with.
What wrong with this picture you ask? Allowing our bodies to remain in a constant state of elevated blood sugar puts an incredible amount of stress on our internal organs. This stress then triggers the release of cortisol, telling the body to store fat – all the time. This excessive amount of fat and over-production of insulin along with the enormous amount of stress on our organs and many complex systems and then creates internal inflammation. And one thing experts all agree on is that inflammation is the root cause of all disease. For example, it's not the fat or cholesterol causing the heart issues as we learned earlier, it's the inflammation. Inflammation causes rough spots to form within the vascular walls acting almost like velcro. So when the body tries to eliminate cholesterol and plaque deposits, they begin to stick to the “velcro” and eventually a blockage forms. Just an FYI here, these plaque deposits and “velcro” spots are not restricted to blood vessels strictly leading to the heart. They are found in blood vessels in the brain as well which lead to a decline in cognitive function.
So what can we take away from all this? Plain and simple, eggs are not the bad guy. Fats rich in omega 3s are necessary. Conversely, fats containing omega 6s such as vegetable oils (sunflower, safflower, canola, corn – by the way none of which are actually vegetables, corn is a grain), margarines and the like should be avoided as the processing leaves them devoid of any nutritional value and they can become toxic when used under heat and moisture, as in cooking. For years society has been consuming omega 6 fats disproportionately high in comparison to to omega 3 fats and the results are speaking loud and clear.
Both eggs and other omega 3 fats are needed and are essential for brain health, for balancing blood sugar to maintain healthy weight, for absorption of fat-soluable vitamins and many others benefits. So tomorrow for breakfast, why not whip up a veggie omelette or some scrambled eggs and a side of fresh summer berries for you and the family? They'll start the day energized in body and mind. And that's no yolk.
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