Unscrambling the Science Behind Eggs

Megan Meyer, PhD
by Megan Meyer, PhD
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Unscrambling the Science Behind Eggs

Eggs have gotten a bit of a bad reputation over the years. First they’re good for you, then they’re cholesterol bombs and now they’re OK again? Many years ago, people began to avoid eggs fearing their dietary cholesterol content (just one egg has more than 70% of the Daily Value of cholesterol), since increased blood cholesterol levels are associated with heart disease.

However, despite this outdated thinking, research has shown dietary cholesterol has nominal effects on blood cholesterol levels. Basically, this means the cholesterol we eat in foods isn’t influencing the kind of cholesterol measured at the doctor’s office. Since public opinion seems to be all over the place, we dig through recent research, take a look at the nutrition content of eggs and offer a few ways to incorporate eggs into your diet.

THE SCIENCE

The science around eggs has changed drastically in the past several decades, mainly due to a better understanding about the relationship between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol levels. Turns out, most of the cholesterol in our body is made in the liver and isn’t really derived from the cholesterol we eat. As such, in 2015, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) removed daily limits on dietary cholesterol intake, so you can breathe a sigh of relief if you eat a couple of eggs a day. In addition, the DGA recommend including eggs as a source of many key macro and micronutrients.

THE NUTRITION

Eggs are sources of key macronutrients like protein and unsaturated fats as well as micronutrients like vitamin A, B vitamins, calcium and iron. Egg protein contains all essential amino acids, meaning it is a complete source of protein. Eggs also contain heart healthy poly and monounsaturated fats. Vitamin A is important for eye health, immunity and metabolism. B vitamins support metabolism, muscle and nerve health. Calcium is key for dental health, nerve health, muscle health and bone health. Iron bolsters heart health and metabolism.

Eggs also contain less familiar nutrients like choline, lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye, brain and nerve health. In addition, some brands of eggs are enriched with other nutrients like omega-3’s and vitamin D.

THE RECIPES

Eggs are a versatile and healthy option for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They can be scrambled, poached, hard boiled, baked, fried or microwaved. One of my favorite ways to enjoy eggs on busy mornings is to scramble two eggs with some sharp cheddar in the microwave, place on top a whole-wheat bagel with some arugula and hot sauce. It’s portable, easy and nutritious.

I also love using eggs in a veggie frittata. Usually by the end of the week, I don’t want to cook anything too complicated and also have a couple of veggies to use in my crisper drawer. That’s where an easy frittata comes in. Whisk together eggs, your favorite veggies, milk and some cheese and then pop into the oven until the eggs set. I usually pair this with a side of roasted potatoes or whole-wheat bread.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Don’t let outdated information cloud your judgment about eggs. Instead, try to incorporate them as part of a healthy eating pattern that includes lean protein, whole grains, healthy fats and plenty of fruits and veggies.

About the Author

Megan Meyer, PhD
Megan Meyer, PhD

Megan is a lover of all things science, food, and fitness. A scientist by training (go Tar Heels!), Dr. Meyer has found that being able to communicate the science is just as important as understanding the science. Dr. Meyer has a BS in Biology from Loyola University Maryland as well as a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a regular contributor to sites like US News & World Report and The Huffington Post. In her spare time, she enjoys whipping up fun recipes in the kitchen, exploring new trails, and spending quality time with loved ones. You can follow her on Twitter.

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