Posts Tagged ‘HDL’

In my opinion, the egg is one of the most wonderful foods from omelets, scrambled eggs, over-easy, quiche, casseroles, deviled, soufflé, and my everyday favorite, the hard-boiled egg. There isn’t an egg I don’t enjoy. And just to clarify, I am talking about eggs from chickens, not ostriches, not alligators, not parrots, not snakes, chickens and more specifically, hens. I have purchased quail eggs to my dismay, just really tiny and a lot of work, but they were very delicious none the less.
Eggs have been eaten since the beginning of time. In many cultures, eggs have much symbolism. Some view eggs as a sign of life, resurrection (think Easter), fertility, spring, rebirth, and even immortality. Americans, the excellent consumers that we are, eat a lot of eggs. About 240 million hens produce50 billion eggs each year. White shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and ear lobes. Brown shelled eggs are produced by hens with red feathers and red ear lobes.
Ah, but there is much controversy surrounding the egg. Much like Humpty Dumpty, he’s been king, and then has fallen, and I am here to put him back together again. You may refer to me today as “The Egg Defendant.”
So, why the controversy you may ask? Well, eggs, since they are an animal product, do contain cholesterol, 213mg per egg to be exact, most of which is found in the delicious yellow yolk. Many experts suggest limiting dietary cholesterol to 300mg per day for someone without high cholesterol levels and 200mg per day for someone with elevated cholesterol levels. So, this must mean that eggs are bad, right? They must raise our cholesterol levels; they are loaded with it, right? From the mouth of Dwight Schrute: “False.”
Now, the physiology behind this is pretty involved, so I am going to try to make it as simple as possible. Our liver produces cholesterol, which is necessary for the daily operations of all the cells in the body. However, for most people, if more dietary cholesterol is consumed, the liver will produce less, and vice versa. For various reasons, not all humans function at 100% capacity. So, for some, eating more dietary cholesterol can increase blood cholesterol levels that can start to wreak havoc on the artery walls. But, should we be blaming this on 1 specific food, the egg? I think not.
Let’s talk about all the positive aspects of the egg. Eggs contain roughly 70 calories, about 7 grams protein, and 5 grams of fat, most of which is found in the egg yolk. OMG, fat, NO! Yes, that is why there are “egg beaters” out there, egg whites with yellow food coloring. Ah, but some fat is good for us and can help raise those HDL cholesterol levels, which some call the “good cholesterol.” I like to say “healthy” cholesterol ‘cause it goes with the “H” and patients remember it better that way. And, the yolk contains Vitamin D, one of the only food sources of Vitamin D, as it is a fat-soluble vitamin. Also, eggs are a cheap source of protein, which can be great for those with low incomes.
With all that said, eggs are not created equal. This is where the hens’ diet matters. The natural diet of hens includes grass, plants, worms, bugs, and other things found in pastures. With a natural diet, the eggs of hens will be full of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can help raise that healthy type of cholesterol, HDL. Unfortunately, the money-making machine that is human has altered the diet of these hens in order to produce more eggs and thus, make more money. Obviously, producing more eggs won’t make you the most money. If you could house them and thus, go lean on land, and feed them cheap corn and soybean meal, the money could just roll in. Well, I guess that is correct, but with some consequences. These corn fed hens produce eggs that don’t have much omega-3 fatty acids or Vitamin D. Also, they are housed in such close proximity, so they require hormones and antibiotics to prevent illness. I could go on about this, but this post is getting rather long now so that can be addressed at another time. For simplicity, what the hen eats or has injected into them is passed on to the consumer through meat and eggs.
In my assessment, eggs are an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin d, but, only if they come from eggs that are free-range or cage-free. Better yet, purchase eggs from a local farmer. They will even let you visit to see where the hens feed. I belong to an egg co-op through Brown Family Farms (www.brownfamilyfarm.com) and have the option of getting 1 or 2 dozen eggs every other week. These are delicious eggs and the yolks are so golden, nothing like I have ever seen from super market eggs. They may be a bit more expensive, but so worth it.

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