This Monday Health Basics post centers on one of my favourite foods: EGGS. These nourishing morsels of goodness have been unjustly disparaged in recent years. Today's blog post aims to get you on board the egg train.
Eggs are one of my favourite foods, for so many reasons.
My favourite: they're pretty affordable! It must be said that not all eggs are created equal, however. Lisa Leake, the author behind the brilliant cutting-out-processed-foods book 100 Days of Real Food (and the blog of the same name) gives a complete rundown in both her book and her blog on what to look for in terms of words on the label. Go on over to get the rundown on what means what.
Eggs are my faves because they're usually quite easy to prepare, in good time. Eggs are a perfect busy-night kind of anchor to your meal. Toss veg in your hot pan with a good fat, add some flavours, and toss an egg on top and pop under the broiler for 10 minutes or so. Voila! Dinner is served.
Not sure which kind of eggs to buy for your family? I like to advise my clients to purchase the eggs they can best afford. With eggs, it really is a question of you get what you pay for. It's one of those foods that you really should budget to include the better kind on your grocery run. I myself tend to ask questions of the staff at my grocery store, wondering which kind they best recommend in terms of nutrition and bang-for-your-buck. You can also ask questions of folks working the stalls at the Farmer's Market too, they will be able to provide you with those important factors that will help you make your best informed decision on which eggs to purchase.
As for me, I have lucked in to two egg co-ops in town where we purchase the eggs from the farmers directly. I feel confident in supporting these smaller producers, knowing the product I am getting is from chickens that have safe access to the outdoors (free-range, pastured), with a nutrient-dense feed that best supports their lives as well. After all, you are what you eat eats. As Joel Salatin says, we must allow the chicken “to express its chickenness”. In so doing, we allow the animal to live as it should, which means it will produce nutrient-dense eggs as it should.
An animal that lives under stressful or unnatural conditions will produce far inferior eggs, lacking in those nutrients our bodies require to do the work of being and staying well.
I include eggs in our every day here at the house for nutrient density reasons. They are a wonderful source of complete protein, readily offering up those building blocks necessary for our body's building and repair work. The entire egg, both the whites and yolks contain protein, but it is interesting to note that the whites are mostly strictly protein. Protein is one of those important macronutrients you want to aim to include in every meal in order to help balance blood sugars, a key component to keeping inflammation at bay and supporting your adrenals.
The yolks are my favourite part of the egg, however. Do not toss those out! They contain those all-important fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. These vitamins play important roles in the maintaining the integrity of your intestinal lining which goes miles in keeping systemic and chronic inflammation at bay; they are key players in mental health and brain health. They are also key to healthy bone and teeth building, density and maintenance. These vitamins keep your skin healthy, and your heart and cardiovascular system pumping like a champ.
Lots of water-soluble vitamins are also found in the egg yolks. Look for B12, the vitamin linked to energy. Choline is also plentiful in pastured eggs – a crucial vitamin in the B family that we need to build cell membranes, keeping our cells as safe as Fort Knox. Choline is a key player in mental and nervous system health, as it is the precursor to important neurotransmitters, playing important roles in muscle control and memory.
Your eyesight benefits from regular consumption of eggs: they contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These beta-carotene powerhouses have been studied and show that they have protective effects for the eyes, reducing your risk of developing things like macular degeneration and cataracts.
Eggs are a fabulous source of cholesterol. This word is one that can ignite people, either for or against. I have two feet firmly planted in the pro-cholesterol-in-foods camp. The negative rap given to cholesterol (and saturated fats, of which there are loads in eggs!) was based on a research paper published by Ancel Keys in the 1950s that has since been disproven. It is a hot button topic, and one that may be a bit too big for a Monday Health Basics post. For a concise article outlining the health benefits of cholesterol, I invite you to read this article by Dr. Mercola, in order to get the goods. Suffice it to say, in conclusion, the cholesterol we eat does not have a big impact on the cholesterol levels in our blood.
Cholesterol is an integral component to all cell walls, keeping them rigid and strong. Cholesterol is an integral component to all hormones, as well as a part of every bile acid your body produces. Without adequate cholesterol, your ability to digest may suffer. And if that isn't enough, 60% of your brain is made of cholesterol. You need this cholesterol to form and retain memories, and to learn new tricks. Ergo, eggs are a BRAIN SUPERFOOD!
Speaking of brain food, if you are buying your eggs from a good pastured source, you can also count on those nuggets to contain the all-important Essential Fatty Acids! (EFAs). These are the fats we need to keep inflammation at bay, and our brain running like the well oiled machine it is. EFAs also contribute to healthy skin, improved digestion + elimination, heart health and eyeball health too. And liver health. Oh geez, those EFAs.
In case this needs mentioning again, healthy sources of fat like those found in eggs help mitigate the negative effects of blood sugar spikes, keeping all things level. This means then that including good fats in one's diet will go miles in supporting adrenals, and in keeping low-grade chronic inflammation at bay. Yay fat!
Lest we forget, eggs offer us a gamut of essential minerals in our diet, especially those that may be a bit tricky to find. They offer us a good source of selenium, an essential antioxidant that also plays a key role in our thyroid health. Iodine is also provided here, supporting the thyroid and helping protect against certain cancers, especially breast cancer. Iron is another important mineral readily available in eggs, helping replenish the iron stores for women during their monthly cycle, and a mineral essential to energy. As if that wasn't enough, you'll also get a good hit of zinc in your meal if you are having eggs, an important antioxidant integral to immune health and digestive wellbeing.
How to know if your eggs are top shelf?
You want to make sure your egg yolk is closer to orange in colour as opposed to yellow. Hens that have access to the bugs and grass outside will have a richer complement of nutrients, which will translate to a more orange-hued yolk.
Have a question about white egg vs. brown egg? The colour of the shell has nothing to do with the nutrients found within. Rather, it has to do with different breeds of chickens; some produce brown eggs, others white, and yet another kind will give you a greener hued egg. Or pinky. Really, it's all the same. As long as you are sourcing eggs from hens that have been able to have safe access to the outside world, and given a protein-rich feed, you are good to go.
How best to prepare your eggs:
You want your yolk to be as runny as you can take it. Allowing it to stay runny means it will be closer in nutrient content to the raw yolk, which is the most nutrient-dense way to consume eggs. Cooking the yolk alters the content of the yolk, but it is still good! Just aim to be on the runnier side when making your eggs tomorrow morning, and you will be well served. (We call them eggs with yellow sauce at our house. Yum.)
I have had the chance to lead a group of Junior High students in a weekly cooking class for the last two years. Our first class is always about the humble egg; I must tell you we always start with Russian Custard, a raw yolk and honey delight. So far, no one has refused to try it! And they have all enjoyed the rich and satisfying taste of this easy peasy snack, save for one student. My caveat here, if you are consuming raw egg yolks, is to make sure it is from eggs that have been allowed out on pasture; conventionally-raised eggs carry a higher risk of salmonella poisoning.
I used to work with a fellow who was well versed in food and nutrition things. He said he thinks of his eggs as his source of multi vitamins; he aims to have at least two a day, in order to best supply his body with those nutrients necessary to optimal health. On the GAPS protocol, a gut-supportive protocol that profoundly affects my practice as a Holistic Nutritionist, the author Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends daily consumption of eggs once the initial Intro stages are done. She recommends one can consume up to 8 eggs a day, once you are able to safely digest them.
Eggs. Nutrient density at its finest.
How do you prepare your eggs?