Saturday, April 4, 2015

Are Eggs Good For Me?

In a word, yes!

I avoided eggs for three weeks of my cleanse, because in The Wahls Protocol, Dr. Terry Wahls recommends doing an elimination test for eggs as they are a common allergen.  I then ate eggs at breakfast and lunch for two days in a row to see if I had any uncomfortable symptoms, and I was fine.  I was reading another book, Primal Body, Primal Mind by NoraGedgaudas, and she recommends eggs as a good source of many nutrients, so I decided to look online to see what others have to say. 

I used the following websites for information.  Remember these are bloggers, too, and I really don't have any idea of how accurate, or not, they are.  I try to read several sites and pick out common information.

I learned that contrary to popular wisdom, the yolks are actually the most nourishing part of the egg, and we actually need the cholesterol we’ve been told to avoid.  Both the whites and yolks of eggs are good sources of protein,  but yolks contain all of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as all the carotenoids, leutine and zeaxanthin, found in an egg.   (I had never heard of zeaxanthin – it is one of the two carotenoids found in the eye – leutine is the other one - and both contribute to eye health.)

Egg yolks also contain fatty acids – both the essential omega-3 fatty acid DHA, necessary for the brain and the proper function of the retina in the eye, and the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid, required for healthy skin and hair, libido, reproduction, growth and response to injury.  They do not contain EPA, which is a different fatty acid that interferes with arachidonic acid.  (I seem to associate the words arachidonic acid with spiders – arachnids – and think it is something bad, but I don’t find any connection in Wikipedia.)

My breakfast this morning

Egg whites contain two anti-nutrients.  One is an inhibitor of trypsin, a digestive enzyme used in the digestion of protein.  The other is avidin, a glycoprotein that binds to the B vitamin biotin and prevents its absorption.  Biotin is necessary for fatty acid synthesis and the maintenance of blood sugar, and is especially important during pregnancy.  Cooking deactivates some, but not all, of these anti-nutrients and some websites warn that eating raw egg whites daily can lead to a biotin deficiency.  (So, no need to throw that raw egg into a protein shake every morning!) Apparently it's the white that causes most egg allergies, and some allergic people find they can eat yolks without symptoms.

Cooking the yolk destroys some of its nutrients, and the more it is cooked, the more are lost.  On the other hand, the protein in eggs is more available when heated.  So, ideally, we cook the whites and leave the yolks runny – a perfect poached, fried or soft-boiled egg in my opinion! Isn’t it sad that for many years we were told to limit eggs, especially yolks, to avoid cholesterol?  I never enjoyed those egg white omelets as much as a nice yellow omelet using whole eggs.

Stan's delicious fruit omelet with berries and a dash of Grand Marnier

My sources all agreed to the importance of buying eggs from free-range chickens.  Chickens who live in factories may have been given hormones or antibiotics and tend to be less healthy.  It doesn't make sense to avoid grains in our diets but eat eggs from chickens who were fed grain.  We get more omega three fats and other nutrients from chickens who eat insects (yum!), seeds, and whatever else they find in the barnyard.

One of my favorites - eggs with cabbage, onion and tomato

I also read, or started to read, several vegan websites about why vegans don't eat eggs.  It made me feel really bad, although I guess not bad enough to stop eating eggs.  I won't burden you with details, but it's hard to be reminded how badly we humans mistreat our fellow creatures of other species.  I guess I excuse myself by thinking that one person's actions won't make a difference... flimsy excuse.  If you're interested in reducing your use of eggs, on one of my favorite blogs the Detoxinista gives instructions for making an egg substitute from either flax seeds or chia seeds - not exactly a tasty breakfast, but could be used in place of eggs for baking. 

 My takeaway from this research is that I’ll enjoy whole eggs in moderation – one or two for breakfast some days, but not every day.  I notice most paleo baking uses quite a few eggs and I love my paleo muffins, so I’ll get some that way, too, though I might try the substitute ideas.  I will be aware that raw or undercooked whites may be less good for me – that would be in meringue and, oh yeah, raw cookie dough.

Hidden-veggie muffins from Against All Grain by Danielle Walker

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