If you were to ever come over to my apartment and raid my refrigerator Gillian McKeith style (if you don’t know who she is – click here, she is the God of nutrition in the UK and will totally cut you, fillet you and use your skin as a pashmina if she finds anything processed in your fridge – LOVE her), you would find that I always have it stocked with three staples: Spinach, cottage cheese, and liquid egg whites. I prefer buying the liquid egg whites because I can’t be bothered sitting there cracking each egg and separating the white from the yolks, and I have better things to do like watching that addictive mess that is The Real Housewives of New Jersey and hitting replay to watch Danielle get her weave pulled out in slow motion over and over again. I use egg whites because I like a large breakfast and like most people don’t want the fat and calories contained in the yolk. Well it turns out I may have been doing my body a disservice. You see some people, maybe even you reading this, avoid egg yolks because you have been told they are high in cholesterol, saturated fat, and will cause your backside to balloon to Kardashian proportions. But it turns out not only are eggs good for you, but they can actually help reduce cholesterol, as well as help you build those biceps and shrink those thunder thighs.
Back in the 70’s, information started coming out about cholesterol, how it can clog up your arteries, cause cardiovascular disease, and leave you sitting in a hospital bed hooked up to an IV while you await to have triple bypass surgery. This sent the medical community into a tail spin and professionals started advising people to avoid foods that contain dietary cholesterol like shrimp and egg yolks. But we have come a long way over the last 40 years and now know there are different types of cholesterol, one is good and one is bad, and the cholesterol found in foods doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in the cholesterol that clogs you up. Lets take a look at the difference between the two…
LDL (Low Density Lipoproteins) otherwise known as the "bad cholesterol" is produced by your liver and transported to other parts of your body such as heart, muscles, and other organs. This is the one you need to keep low because it will clog up your arteries and cause numerous health concerns such as heart disease. If you have a high LDL, it indicates that you have too much cholesterol floating around in your blood stream.
HDL (High Density Lipoproteins) yep you guessed it, the "good cholesterol", is also produced by your liver, but it’s role is to go through your body and grab the bad cholesterol and other fats and bring them back to your liver so that they can be destroyed or processed into something your body can use.
So it would make sense that you want more HDL and less LDL. One large egg contains roughly 213 mg of cholesterol, so back in the 70’s when people started becoming aware of cardio vascular disease, they made the assumption that the cholesterol in eggs, and other food items, would automatically cause an increase in the bad LDL cholesterol. Recent research now shows us that this is not true, and in fact consuming eggs can actually cause an increase in HDL, the good cholesterol. A study in Thailand where test subjects were given one whole egg to eat each day for three months, with no other changes to diet or exercise, saw that their HDL levels increased, and other studies has shown that even eating up to 6 eggs a day saw no increase on the bad cholesterol.
What are some of the other foods that have been known to increase good cholesterol and lower the bad? Berries, kale juice, unsweetened cranberry juice, and cocoa.
So there you have it, we have dispelled the myth that eggs yolks increase bad cholesterol, and in fact have learnt that they can decrease our bad cholesterol by increasing the good. But cholesterol isn’t the only benefit chowing down on some of those little yellow pockets of goodness, in fact the mighty egg has plenty. Lets take a look.
Did you know that different types of protein have different biological values with in the body? Essentially that means that the protein from a piece of chicken is absorbed and utilized to a different degree than a piece of beef or glass of milk. The way they measure this is via the Biological Value Scale, and guess which food tops this list for most absorbable protein in the body? You guessed it, eggs! And as it turns out because eggs have the highest, they use it’s protein as a bench mark to scale the rest of the foods against. Take a look at the list below;
Food Protein Rating
Egg Whites 88
Chicken / Turkey 79
Lean Beef 69
Cow’s Milk 60
Further to this, it turns out that if you are one of those people that are throwing your yolks away, you may not be benefiting from the protein that’s contained with the whites. Egg whites only have around 3 grams of protein per egg, while the yolk contains the majority of the amino acid complex and without the two combined, your body may not be absorbing the protein from the whites effectively.
Vitamins and Minerals
Did you know that the yolk is the part that contains the majority (around 90%) of the vitamins and minerals of the egg? Along with large amounts of Vitamin A and various B Vitamins, the egg yolk also contains:
Lutein: Good for your eyes and heart
Folate: Helps the body produce new cells
Zinc: Promotes enzyme activity and testosterone production
Calcium: Strengthens teeth and bones
Iron: Creates blood cells
But what about all those calories contained within in the yolk? Well one whole large egg contains 70 calories, 4.5 grams of fat (the majority of that unsaturated) and 6 grams of protein total. When you consume high quality protein and unsaturated fats such as those contained in the egg, it keeps you fuller for longer, leaving you to eat less later on during the day. The point to note is that monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats contained within the yolk, have actually shown to help increase testosterone levels, meaning an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in body fat.
So how many eggs should you eat per day? Well Doctors and Nutritionists recommend that you eat two eggs per day, but if you workout, want to gain some muscle, or want to shed some pounds, you should consider eating more than that. Most bodybuilders and fitness experts eat more than two per day.
But please, please, please buy free range, cage free eggs and where possible, organic eggs. If you have ever watched the amazing documentary Food, Inc. you will know what terrible living conditions caged chickens live in, not to mention the antibiotics and hormones they are fed. Unfortunately, the words "cage free" and "free range" are not regulated by the USDA here in the States, so it may only mean that the chickens are let out for only a short time each day and then crammed back into holding pens. Look for "Certified Organic" which means the chickens are care free, have ample space to move around, have access to outdoor spaces, and are not fed antibiotics or hormones.
So hopefully this post has unscrambled a few of the misconceptions out there about whether egg yolks are healthy or not. I know that I am going to be adding a couple of them to my breakfast now each morning. So if you want to build some muscle, burn some fat, and work on your overall health and wellness, it turns out, all you have to do is crack a few eggs.