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April 4, 2012 at 8:00 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Are Eggs REALLY Unhealthy? Cracking The Top 5 Egg Myths

By Jessica Corwin MPH RDN More Blogs by This Author

Eggs have built up a terrible reputation over recent years and with Easter right around the corner, I wanted to try to set the record straight before too many hard-boiled eggs go to waste.

Myth #1. Eggs cause high cholesterol.

Truth: It has long been the belief that eating foods containing cholesterol will cause high cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol is found in all animal-based foods such as egg yolks, liver, shrimp, as well as meat, poultry, and dairy. However, as all of these foods also contain saturated fat, scientists began to question the evidence. egg heartUltimately, they came to the conclusion that eating foods with cholesterol is not the primary issue, rather it is the saturated fat that has the larger impact on our blood cholesterol. 

Even the American Heart Association has agreed that it is fine to enjoy one egg each day (along with a well-balanced diet). However those who have diabetes or are at risk for cardiovascular disease should limit their intake to only three whole eggs per week. Thankfully, we can all enjoy egg whites without limit as they are comprised primarily of protein and water. The yolk is the heart of the cholesterol. 

The average large egg contains:

  • 175 milligrams of sodium, (over half of the recommended daily limit of 300 milligrams unfortunately)
  • About 1.6 grams of saturated fat.

In comparison, a 6-ounce chicken breast has:

  • 146 milligrams of cholesterol
  • 1.7 grams of saturated fat

More similar than you would have thought? For a standard 2,000 calorie diet the dietary guidelines encourage us to limit saturated fat in our diet to 16-22 grams per day or 7%-10% of our total fat intake. With this bigger picture in mind, it is easier to recognize how easily an egg can be a healthful addition to your day!

Myth #2. Only the whites are healthy.

cracked egg on floorTruth: Yes, it is true that eggs do contain a couple of heart-unfriendly components, but they also come loaded with good-for-you nutrients! Eggs offer plenty of health benefits as they are a complete protein source (and a savory one at that!) and offer heart-healthy fats, lutein, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and choline – nutrients that benefit healthy eye sight, brain development, immunity, and cellular function! As many of us are lacking in vitamin D, eggs provide one of very few dietary sources of this disease fighting and mood boosting micronutrient.

Myth #3. It's the egg white that holds the protein.

Truth: Protein is found in nearly every cell of our body. Helping with cellular function, muscle building, and even making us feel full longer than if we ate carbs alone.

A 150 pound person needs roughly 45-60 grams of protein, an amount easily met by including 1 or 2 ounces of protein at each meal (kids ages 2-8 years old need only about 2-4 ounces meat and beans and 2 cups of dairy per day). As a single egg counts as 1 ounce, it makes for a very easy and very nutritious snack or addition to your meal. But exactly how much protein is in an egg? And isn’t it all found in the white alone?

It may surprise you to know that while the egg white contains an average of 3.5 grams of protein, the yolk itself contains nearly 3 grams alone! Making the 6.5 grams found in the whole egg quite comparable to the 8 grams of protein found in a serving of non-fat yogurt or the average of 5 grams found in a granola bar. What’s nice is that the mere 80 calories in an egg are usually much lower than a granola bar or yogurt container which may range from 90 to 250 calories.

Myth #4. Eggs must sit at room temperature before being hardboiled.

egg carton isolatedTruth: I was recently surprised when someone informed me that the reason her hard-boiled eggs are so perfect is because she allows them to sit at room-temp – OVERNIGHT. I’m happy to report that she was quite open to experimenting with other methods, but it does make me wonder how many people do prepare their eggs this way and makes me less than enthusiastic about enjoying those fabulous deviled eggs at holiday parties. 

The ‘egg-perts’ recommend that we keep our eggs refrigerated at all times. In fact, we are advised to keep our eggs inside of the carton rather than using the designated egg storage found in the door of many refrigerators. The reason for this is because the door often maintains a warmer temperature than the interior, making it a better location for your less fickle condiments, dressings, nut butters, jam, and pickles, which have already been preserved with salt and/or sugar.

It is important to note that hard-boiled eggs are even more sensitive to storage within the temperature danger zone – the range found between 40°F and 140°F where bacteria thrives. Raw eggs have a naturally protective coating lining the shell, providing extra protection against bacteria for the interior egg. With the boiling process this body of armor is melted away, opening the door for bacteria to enter the shell. For this reason, it is very important that hard-boiled eggs be refrigerated within 2 hours of being cooked.

Myth #5. Pasteurized eggs taste different.

purchasing eggs shopping for eggsTruth: As bacteria such as salmonella may be found in and on the egg, whether it is purchased from the supermarket or farmer’s market, pasteurization offers an extra layer of protection against them. In fact, I feel a touch safer when purchasing pasteurized eggs because they have a lower risk of disease causing bacteria and I always opt for the pasteurized form when I am making cookie dough because it is too hard to avoid a little taste-testing of the dough. Despite the fact that the odds of pasteurization are much lower if you are buying your eggs from a local farm, I am always honored to pick up eggs at the local farm stand as I am usually cooking my eggs to a safe temperature whether they are hard-boiled, fried, or whipped into an omelet.

 The cooking techniques we use at home accomplish nearly the same mission as pasteurization does, although rather than cooking the eggs, pasteurization sterilizes them. Pasteurizing eggs is nothing more than heating the eggs to 140°F and keeping them at that temperature for three and a half minutes – just enough to kill any harmful bacteria. This technique makes it safer for us to enjoy eggs over easy or pasta carbonara. And I promise you, I have not been able to detect any notes of differing taste or appearance when it comes to pasteurized vs. non-pasteurized eggs.

If there is a chance you may be serving raw or under-cooked eggs, please go for the pasteurized version as non-pasteurized raw eggs are the leading cause of salmonella foodborne illness in the US. Create a safer kitchen by opting for eggs labeled as being pasteurized or by talking to your local farmer to find out whether they use pasteurization themselves. Put your mind to rest and ease all fears of bacteria simply by cooking your eggs, pasteurized or not, past that ooey-gooey over-easy state until they reach 145°F. I must note, however, that if you are baking with eggs you want to make sure they reach an internal temperature of 160°F to be safe.

Egg-cellent Ideas

All of this talk about eggs has left me jonesing for one right about now! Thankfully one is ready and waiting right in my refrigerator.

Personally, I like to whip up a batch of hard-boiled eggs on Sunday night to have on hand for a quick and satisfying snack throughout the week (hard-boiled eggs, if refrigerated within two hours of making them, are safe for up to one-week).

2 Minute Eggs in a Cup (Click for Recipe)

5 Food Groups Egg Wrap (Click for Recipe)

Sue Dow's Poached Eggs Asparagus Salad (Click for Recipe)

AND

Sue Dow's Tri-Color Frittata (Click for Recipe)

poached egg saladfrittata

These ideas are quick to prepare and take very little prep, making them the perfect go-to meals for those fast and furious weeknights when we are all feeling a little bit scrambled ourselves :)

Hopefully I have helped to ease some of the worries surrounding the infamous edible egg, though you tell me. What myths have you heard about eggs?

Do you include them in your daily or weekly routine?

I would LOVE to hear how you enjoy this delicious and nutritious food. 

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2 Comments

  • I love scrambled eggs, especially for breakfast on the weekends. This article makes me feel better about eating them, since people always seem to debate the health effects of the egg.

  • Happy to hear that, Brad. Scrambled eggs are a very easy way to get in one (or three) of your daily veggie servings through fresh spinach, diced tomatoes, bell peppers, and/or onion. Enjoy!

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