Saturday, June 25, 2011

What Eggsactly is Going on Here?

One egg a week, one a day, egg whites only, brown eggs only, pasture-raised, vegetarian fed... enough choices to crack open your brain, aren't they? OK, I'll lay off the puns. (oops) Starting now. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how many eggs you should eat and what kind of eggs to buy, from the makers of Eggland's Best to the urban chicken owner.

It's another Bountiful Bite conundrum. So I decided to see if I could unscramble (dang, sorry) the differences between one egg and another, and to figure out how many eggs we should feel comfortable eating in say, a week.

How Many eggs per week?

Eggs are often shunned by dieters hoping to avoid a doctor's report of high cholesterol. Eggs do contain about 70% of the USDA's recommended daily 300 grams of cholesterol. A large chicken egg also contains 6 grams of protein (more than your average breakfast bar). The USDA used to recommend no more than three eggs a week, but has since withdrawn that, and replaced it with advice to consume no more than 300 grams of cholesterol per day. Translate to my breakfast plate, please?

Yes, eggs top the cholesterol list. But butter, cream, cheese, sausage, shrimp, and organ meats (like liver) are all high in cholesterol. A Harvard University study of almost 120,000 health professionals (mostly nurses) who ate one to four eggs per week showed no increase in their likelihood of getting heart disease. Not the folks who ate one, or the folks who ate four. Of course, they had to factor in all the other reasons these subjects might get heart disease and then compare.

So lets lay it on the breakfast table. Let's say, every Tuesday and Sunday "Carter" sits down in front of a 2-egg cheese omelet cooked in lots of margarine, with a side of bacon, and his girl "Tamra" opts for one hard-boiled egg sliced and topped with salsa. Who's playing heart-disease roulette, Carter, Tamra, both or neither? Nutritionists might never have the answer to the chicken or egg question, but they may be able to answer that one.

Until recently, I believed in a myth. I thought when you eat an egg, all that cholesterol goes straight to your bloodstream and then into your arteries. Wrong city, says Harvard Medical School. I thought saturated fat and cholesterol were just two names for the same thing. Wrong again.

"For most people, only a small amount of the cholesterol in food passes into the blood.
Saturated and trans fats have much bigger effects on blood cholesterol levels.
So you see, it's likely that Tamra's twice-weekly breakfast would be Harvard approved but Carter's would come with a side of Caution.
Reminder: a lot of baked goods contain eggs.

Bon Apetit!

Next up: Eggsactly, part II. Free-range eggs or what?

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