Are eggs actually healthy?

Eggs don't deserve their bad reputation — they're a great source of protein and full of healthy antioxidants. Find out how to choose the best eggs and why they can be part of a healthy diet.
By Julie Daniluk, R.H.N.
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Despite popular belief, eggs are actually a low-calorie food, with five grams of fat and about 80 calories each. The yolk of an egg contains a considerable amount of cholesterol and lipids, but cholesterol build-up in the arteries actually begins with arterial wall damage. The body's repair of this eventually leads to a waxy build-up — usually due to sugar and saturated fat, not the consumption of cholesterol itself.

Some studies show that eggs may actually benefit those with high cholesterol, due to their omega fats, protein and antioxidants. Eggs also contain high amounts of lecithin, which blocks the cholesterol in the egg and stops intestinal absorption, keeping it out of the bloodstream.

Five egg-cellent facts

1. Eggs can prevent macular degeneration: Eggs contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which prevent free-radical damage to our eyes as we age. These are the same antioxidants that prevent damage to our arteries from the free radicals.

2. Egg yolks have vitamin D: Consuming enough vitamin D during pregnancy could decrease a child’s chances of developing multiple sclerosis as an adult, so make sure you eat the whole egg.

3. Eggs help keep your appetite in check: Eggs are high in the amino acid tryptophan, which is used to synthesize serotonin (feel-good hormone) in the brain and induce the feeling of satiety, leading to lower calorie consumption.


4. Eggs are high in antioxidants: Eggs have a lot of selenium, which is used to create one of our bodies most powerful antioxidants: superoxide dismutase (SOD). Selenium is also fortified into feed to boost the hens' immunity and increase the selenium content of their eggs.

5. Eggs can help reduce inflammation: Eggs are high in choline, a B vitamin shown to help reduce inflammation. In a recent study, subjects with a diet deficient in choline typically had 20-percent higher levels of inflammatory cytokines, meaning that they experienced increased inflammation and pain.

Are all eggs created equal? Here’s the breakdown of what all those labels on your eggs mean.

1. Conventional eggs: These eggs often don't have their harvesting practices labelled, and are usually the least expensive. In conventional systems, four hens are typically housed in each two-square-foot battery cage, in barns containing thousands of birds. This makes them prone to injury and infection, so they receive antibiotics daily, as well as hormones to increase egg production. Their feed is unregulated, so they're often fed leftover animal by-products mixed with grain. Battery cages are banned in the EU and are often the subject of animal-rights debates.

2. Free-run eggs: Free-run hens are not confined to life in a cage, but are allowed to roam the floor of the barn. They are still densely packed into these barns with no required outdoor access. Free-run hens eat the same feed as conventionally raised hens, and are given antibiotics and hormones.


3. Free-range eggs: Free-range hens must have access to the outdoors for the majority of the year, with a roost area for resting. Their feed can't contain antibiotics or hormones, and the roosts must have at least two square feet per hen. The government does not regulate free-range egg farms, so you must trust the farmers. Some farmers call these eggs “antibiotic-free" or "naturally-raised.”

4. Pastured eggs: Pastured hens are kept in cages with at least two square feet per hen. The structure containing the hens is moved to different areas of the grass daily so the hens can forage for at least 20 percent of their food. They are also not allowed to be fed antibiotics or hormones in their supplemental feed.

5. Organic eggs: Hens must be raised from birth on organic feed that contains no hormones, pesticides or genetically modified organisms. They must have outdoor access year-round; when they are kept inside, they must be fed organic sprouted grains. They must also be allocated at least two square feet of floor space per bird.

Is there a nutritional difference between white and brown eggs? No! The colour of the hen determines the colour of the egg. Brown hens with red lobes lay brown eggs, and white feathered hens with white lobes lay white eggs. The American Egg Board says there is no conclusive research that one colour is nutritionally better than the other.

Are eggs actually healthy?


Eggs in the Bunny Hole Just like Peter Rabbit, who loved to dig a hole in the vegetable patch, we are going to dig holes in this vegetable medley and poach our eggs to protect the lipid-rich yolk from oxidation. Three tablespoons of shiitake mushrooms pack more than 90 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin B5. Shiitake mushrooms are also a good source of other B vitamins, selenium and zinc. Egg yolks are a superb source of lecithin, a key element in all cell membranes that's especially important for nervous system function.

Ingredients: 2 tsp (10 mL) extra-virgin olive oil 1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) fresh basil, chopped 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) fresh oregano 1 cup (250 mL) onion, chopped 2/3 cup (185 mL) shiitake mushrooms, chopped 1 cup (250 mL) zucchini, chopped 1 cup (250 mL) cherry tomatoes or ¼ cup (60 mL) sun dried tomatoes 4 large eggs pink rock or grey sea salt, to taste 2 tbsp (30 mL) fresh parsley, chopped 1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable or chicken broth

Directions: 1. Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, basil and oregano. 2. Add the onion and shiitake mushroom. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until tender. 3. Add the zucchini. Cook for about two more minutes. Add tomatoes and warm gently for one minute. 4. Dig four holes into the vegetable mixture. Fill the holes with the broth, break eggs, and pour them into the holes. Cook until eggs reach desired consistency (about three more minutes). Keep in mind that a runny yolk is the healthiest, but egg whites are best when cooked thoroughly. 5. Transfer to dishes. Season to taste with sea salt and sprinkle chopped parsley over top. 6. Serve immediately. Makes 2 Servings

Nutritionist Julie Daniluk hosts Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that looks at the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Her soon-to-be-published first book, Meals That Heal Inflammation, advises on allergy-free foods that both taste great and assist the body in the healing process.

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