By Rebecca Abma
Where can you find more than a dozen essential nutrients for less than 100 calories? Look no further than the egg. One large egg contains about 75 calories and 6 grams of protein. For someone on a 2,000-calorie diet, that translates to 10 percent of the daily recommendation of protein for less than 4 percent of calories. What's more, one egg packs a nutritional punch with vitamins A, B6, B12, D and E, along with riboflavin, folate, choline, iron, calcium, phosphorus and zinc. Eggs are one of very few foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D. Most of an egg's nutrients are in the yolk, though more than half the protein is in the white.
In fact, research published in a 2000 issue Journal of the American College of Nutrition found the daily nutrient intake of people who ate eggs was significantly greater for all nutrients (except dietary fiber) than that of people who did not regularly consume eggs. Even more interesting, those who ate more than four eggs a week were found to have lower blood cholesterol levels than those who ate less than one egg a week.
Eggs and your heart
Perhaps the biggest myth about eggs is that they're bad for your heart. Two decades ago, egg's cholesterol content — about 200 milligrams (mg) per egg yolk — put them on the watch-list of artery clogging food. Since then, scientists have found no link between the dietary cholesterol found in eggs and high serum cholesterol levels associated with heart disease risk.
The most recent study found that regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke in healthy adults. Researchers tracked more than 9,500 adults over a 20-year period and found those who consumed more than six eggs a week were no more likely to suffer a stroke or coronary artery disease than those who ate one egg or less a week. However, in people with diabetes, researchers caution further study is needed, because there may be an increased risk among those who consume more than six eggs per week.
There were only 349 people with diabetes in the study, and "the patients with diabetes who ate one to six eggs a week were not at a higher risk, so perhaps that is the tolerated threshold for diabetics," explains study author Adnan Qureshi, M.D., executive director of the Minnesota Stroke Initiative and a professor at the University of Minnesota.
"Eggs offer a good source of high biological value protein that's low in saturated fat and trans fat," explains New Jersey-based dietitian and diabetes educator Beverly Herman-Rivera, R.D., C.D.E. "If you reduce the amount of yolks you eat and more egg whites, why avoid eggs?"
Cholesterol confusion aside, eggs contain nutrients that are essential for heart health, such as the B vitamins choline, folate and B12, which can help reduce homocysteine levels. Studies show high homocysteine levels may increase your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Eating more eggs has also been found to increase HDL, the "good" cholesterol, and even lower blood pressure.
Eggs and your waist
If eggs bring to mind greasy-spoon diners and fattening meals, think again. A 2004 study suggests eggs may be the perfect diet food. In the study, researchers compared the satiety and hunger levels of overweight patients after a breakfast of either eggs or bagels. Though both meals contained the same amount of calories, those who dined on eggs reported greater feelings of satiety before lunch and ate fewer calories than the bagel eaters during the remainder of the day.
A 2007 follow-up study, funded by The American Egg Board, found dieters who consumed eggs for breakfast lost 65 percent more weight and had an 83 percent greater decrease in waist circumference than dieters who ate bagels for breakfast.
An egg breakfast may also be good for your blood sugar. "Including a source of protein in a meal will blunt the curve and elongate the glucose peak following meals, resulting in lower postprandial blood sugar levels," adds Herman-Rivera. "You'll also feel fuller longer than if you ate a breakfast without protein."
1 - Qureshi, Adnan, M. Fareed Suri, Shafiudin Ahmed, Abu Nasar, Afshin Divani, and Jawad Kirmani. 2007. Regular Egg Consumption Does Not Increase the Risk of Stroke and Cardiovascular Diseases. Medical Science Monitor 13, no. 1 (Accessed 12/10/07).
2 - American Egg Board. American Egg Board: Home. (Accessed 12/10/07.)
3 - American Heart Association. Make Healthy Food Choices. (Accessed 12/10/07.)
4 - American Heart Association. What is Homocysteine?. (Accessed 12/11/07.)
5 - Dhurandhar, Nikhil Vinod, Jillon S Vander Wal, Natalie Currier, Pramod Khosla, and Alok K Gupta. 2007. Reviewed by Susan Weiner, R.D., M.S., C.D.E., C.D.N. 3/08
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