A box without hinges, key or lid, Yet golden treasure inside is hid. — Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit
When J.R.R. Tolkien first added that riddle to his classic novel, The Hobbit, eggs were considered part of a complete breakfast. But, in the 1970s, eggs started acquiring a bad reputation for being very unhealthy. One study from 2012 even claimed that eating eggs is almost as bad for you as smoking! Recent studies have contradicted this belief to the extent that many are rethinking the value of eggs in the average diet. That’s right — eggs may actually be the golden treasure Tolkien’s riddle claimed they were all along!
The Reason Why People Think Eggs Are Bad for You
First and foremost, let’s look at the cause behind the dietary fear of eggs. Largely, it boils down to the panic in the 1970s that labeled fat the main culprit of weight gain. Unfortunately for eggs, they have a lot of fat and are insanely high in cholesterol, which put them squarely in the spotlight at that time. Two eggs (100 grams) have around 422 milligrams of cholesterol. The same amount of 30-percent-fat ground beef (100 grams) has only 88 milligrams of cholesterol.
There’s been growing research that has flipped our understanding of dietary cholesterol, though.
When you see that amount of cholesterol, it’s reasonable to have some concerns. There’s been growing research that has flipped our understanding of dietary cholesterol, though. Specifically, researchers have found that dietary cholesterol doesn’t necessarily raise the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
Additionally, there are studies that show there’s no real link between egg consumption and poor health, specifically heart health and stroke. When you add this to the growing understanding that fat isn’t as bad for you as we previously thought, eggs don’t look nearly as bad as before.
Rich in Nutrients
Now that we’ve covered past concerns about eggs, let’s take a look at their health benefits. Chief among these is eggs provide a lot of nutrients. A large egg contains six grams of protein, which is around 10 to 13 percent of the average daily suggested amount for sedentary men and women. Eggs are also good sources of Vitamins A and B12, as well as folate, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, choline, and lesser known nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin. You can also find a healthy amount of minerals, like calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium, in eggs.
Eggs have compounds that can fight disease, improve your brain health, help you lose weight, benefit your eyes, and provide antioxidants.
Among all these nutrients, you have compounds that can fight disease, improve your brain health, help you lose weight, benefit your eyes, and provide antioxidants. Considering that’s all for around 72 calories per egg, or 3.6 percent of the suggested 2,000 calorie diet, that’s pretty nutrient-efficient. The health benefits of eggs become even more apparent if you eat “designer eggs” — like free-range, omega-3-enriched, or pasteurized eggs.
Are Eggs Good for You?
So, does this mean you should eat five eggs with each meal, drink nothing but eggnog, and finish with a custard for dessert? Absolutely not. First of all, variety is the spice of life. But more to the point, eggs can be unhealthy when eaten in excess, especially when paired with other fattening foods.
In a great review of recent egg-related studies published by NPR, Dr. Wahida Karmally, director of nutrition at the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at Columbia University, is quoted as noting the “danger in generalizing study results to the entire population.” This sentiment echoes what we noted in our post “New Study Asks: Can Cheese Prevent Death?”
The best diet isn’t one that tries to hack your body or uses some secret you read online.
The best diet isn’t one that tries to hack your body or uses some secret you read online. It should be a lifestyle choice that includes eating healthier foods, cutting back on unhealthy ones, and monitoring portion sizes. A healthy diet is also a deeply personal thing, since all our bodies are different. It’s not glamorous or viral answer, but it’s the truth. Just be sure to tweak your diet occasionally to match health experts’ understandings of what’s healthy and what’s not.
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Ultimately, what this means for you is that, while many health professionals now believe that eggs can be part of a healthy diet, moderation is key. Even healthy superfoods can be fattening if you overindulge. Eggs have many health benefits hidden within those shells, but consuming too much egg can still have adverse effects. With that in mind, you can start enjoying Tolkien’s golden treasure again!
Harvard Health Publishing — Are eggs risky for heart health?