Eggs are spoken of as both very healthy and nutritious and very bad and full of unhealthy fats, which lead to a number of health issues. Eggs have been consumed by humans as food for a number of years. The most commonly consumed egg, the chicken egg, is what we are concerned with here. The egg is made up of an outer protective hard shell, which may be white or brown in colour, inside this shell is a thin membrane that can be seen while peeling a boiled egg. Within this membrane is enclosed the “white” of the egg which is actually translucent and turns white on cooking. Talking about egg nutrition, egg white is 90% water and 10% pure protein like albumin, mucoproteins and globulins, and its primary role is to protect the yolk and provide nutrition for the growth of the embryo of a fertilised egg. Suspended within this is the yolk enclosed by the vitelline membrane. Its yellow colour depends on the diet of the chicken and can be yellow to almost colourless. The yolk contains all the egg fats and most of its other nutrients.
Nutritionally, an average sized egg (50g approx.) contains:
Egg whites add potassium, niacin, riboflavin, magnesium and sodium to our diet and the yolks provide vitamin A, phosphorus, iron, zinc and vitamin D. In addition, yolk has B6 and B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid and thiamine, phosphorus, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, D, E and K. Some amount of calcium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, selenium and zinc are also present in the yolk. So, while eggs are accepted as a good source of quality proteins, the debate about the egg fats continues – are they healthy, how many should be consumed in a day, will they lead me to a heart attack, etc.
Fats in egg are all present in the yolk. Healthy monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, including omega-3 fats are also a part of the fat profile. These are associated with positive health outcomes in relation to heart health, diabetes and blood pressure (BP).
As far as cholesterol is concerned, the experts have delinked dietary cholesterol from cholesterol levels in the blood. The more dietary risk factors are found in saturated fat and Trans fat. The Indian Recommended dietary intake of cholesterol is 300mg/day. One egg provides around 183mg of the same. So, what is the conclusion?
Some facts about eggs:
- Two studies that followed 40,000 men and 30,000 women found that consumption of one egg daily had no effect as far as an increased risk of heart diseases was concerned.
- Another study stated that dietary cholesterol from eggs tends to increase both LDL and HDL cholesterols. Egg consumption is also associated with large LDL and shifts the LDL pattern from B to A which is of lesser risk to arthrosclerosis.
- The consumption of eggs should be seen as a part of the overall diet of a person. Eggs with bacon, refined flours, high sugar foods, processed food which may have trans fats will obviously cause harm to your overall health and increase your risk of heart diseases and diabetes; but if taken as a part of a healthy meal in combination with whole grains, vegetables, low refined sugar intakes and minimal processed food, it does not pose a danger for healthy individuals.
- A person who has had a coronary episode and/or has high LDL and their total cholesterol needs to be cautious about consuming egg yolks. Restrict to three whole eggs a week but not on the same day.
So what do we do? Well, eggs and its fats are not a risk factor if taken in moderate amounts in combination with a healthy overall diet. I would recommend that you take eggs 3-4 times a week and choose some great breakfast ideas like sprouts, oats, anddaliya of any whole grain. Sports enthusiasts and physically active people need to be cautious when advised to take 4-6 eggs a day for enhancing their protein intakes. While generally this is a smart way to consume eggs you still need to consult a nutritionist to get personalised advice.
Eat your eggs; they are a healthy food choice but there are many healthier foods for you, so take the middle path, which is neither too much nor too less.
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