Are Eggs Healthy?
Eggs are as polarizing as politics.
There are the anti-egg conspiracists claiming eggs raise cholesterol and damage our arteries. The other side swears eggs are nature’s perfect health food.
We want to unscramble the lies and give you hard-boiled scientific evidence. So let’s get cracking!
What Does Science Say About Eggs?
Hysterical, dogmatic media sells. Nobody wants to read an article with the title: study finds stroke victims who were older than comparison subjects had more heart attacks and recalled eating more eggs than control subjects. It doesn’t snap. What they will click on is “Study Finds Eggs Yolks Are Almost As Bad As Smoking.” Most people don’t even read the article associated with the headline let alone the actual research study.
When you actually dig in and read the study, you find researchers backed by the statin industry finding correlations that support the evidence they want to support rather than real science. As it turns out, the subjects who had more strokes were older than the control subjects. O, and they also happened to report eating more eggs in their lifetime. This, my friends, is what we call correlation, not causation.
We must compare this with studies like THIS which showed that adults who ate eggs instead of bagels for breakfast were healthier and lost more weight.
Or this one where egg consumption was linked with LOWER incidence of heart attacks.
Two eggs a day did not reduce blood floor or raise bad cholesterol. Here’s another similar study.
In fact, eating a higher fat diet like we coach at Village (#EatHealthFats) and lower carb (#ControlCarbs) led to reduced weight and no negative impact to blood cholesterol whatsoever.
Dr. Cate, a renowned MD and the author of Deep Nutrition, say eggs DON’T raise cholesterol.
Even if eggs did increase cholesterol, what we are learning is that eating food that naturally contain cholesterol isn’t the problem. The problem is when we eat a diet high in sugar and industrially produced seed oils. These toxic fats and sugars destroy cholesterol molecules and cause them to get stuck in circulation. If you want to understand more about cholesterol, check this out.
We also need to ask ourselves a few important questions. First, what was the egg cooked in and what came along with it? Then, where did the egg come from and what did it eat?
If it was cooked in toxic oils, (more on oils here), it will FOR SURE be more likely to lead to heart disease and other inflammatory problems.
Does Sourcing Matter When It Comes To Eggs?
First and foremost, sourcing matters because it shows what we believe about ourselves and our environment. If we invest in high quality food, it shows we value our health. That invested is returned to us in the form of good health.
Second, sourcing matters because of the critical balance between Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats. Omega 3's are like the brake pedal for the inflammatory response in the human body. Omega 6's are like the brakes. If we want our immune system to work normally, we need to be able to get to our destination with the gas pedal, but we also need the brakes!
Here's Dr. Erik at a staff meeting last year talking about how crucial this balance is.
The average American eats a diet with an average of 25-40:1 ratio of 6:3. This leads to unchecked inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to diseases from cancer and Alzheimer's, to diabetes and heart disease.
Although we had trouble telling the taste difference between eggs of various qualities, the difference in nutrition is real.
To quote Dr. Cate"
"It’s important to realize that factory farms generally treat their hens poorly, and when the animals you eat are poorly cared for, your body tallies these inhumanities in the form of reduced nutritional value–for lack of sunlight and adequate feed–or increased toxic exposure–from antibiotics used to accelerate weight gain in chronically stressed chickens.
There are 4 common raising methods.
Essentially, each represents the amount of space and outdoors the hens have access to.
Check out our Source Responsibly page for more on this.
97% of eggs in our country come from factory farms. Most eggs in our country are raised conventionally. These hens are raised in industrial buildings in extremely tight quarters. They eat, poop, sleep and lay eggs all in the same place! Generally the eggs are washed with chlorine or lie to disinfect them.
Average cost: $.20/egg
What were the hens fed: grains, grains, and more grains. O yeah, and some animal scraps and vegetable oils for good measure.
The life of a cage-free hen is similar to that of a conventional one. They are raised indoors without access to grass or sunlight. The only exception is that they are not in enclosed cages. They have an average of 1 square foot of space per hen. It's not much.
Average cost: $.25/egg
What were the hens fed: Same as conventionally raised hens, they are fed a diet high in corn, soy, and other scraps.
This designation simply means that these chickens had access to the outdoors. This could be a door to the outside like this...
Or it could be true access to pasture and then shelter at night. Like this....
Average cost: $.45/egg
Living conditions: see above
What the hens were fed:
If they are actually given access to pasture, they will have some grass and bugs in their diet. But you really don't know how much pasture-access they will get unless you visit the farm.
Otherwise, they can be fed the same grain and soy diet as a conventional egg.
Pasture-raised is the standard for eggs. These hens live with access to the outdoors. These hens provide superior nutritional value by giving 3X the omega 3's as conventional eggs.
Average cost: $.60/egg
What the hens were fed:
Grass, bugs, and whatever else these hens can find outside.
Interestingly, I found out that MOST hens don't do well without some added corn and or soy to their diet. In fact, they simply WONT lay eggs.
Spend More On Eggs
"I just can't justify spending $8/dozen on eggs." -Well meaning but irrational health conscious person.
Even though getting really good eggs would represent a very small increase to a monthly budget, it's often tough to swallow a seemingly large increase in cost.
Here's a solid justification for you: Pound for pound and nutrient for nutrient, eggs are one of the cheapest ways to get high quality food on a budget. Even at $8/dozen, Raw Farms Pasture Raised eggs are less than $2/serving and pack a strong nutritional punch. We LOVE Raw Farms because they are from California AND they raise their chickens on pasture and only feed them non-gmo, soy-free feed.
We decided to conduct a simple experiment to test out the flavor of the eggs. We took a single egg and a tablespoon of butter and cooked them all at the same time. Then, Nicole and I took turns doing a blind-folded taste test.
What About Taste?
I've always thought I could taste the difference in a well-sourced egg. However, with a blindfold on, both Nicole and I had a hard time tasting the difference between the eggs.
How To Cook Eggs
How you cook your eggs matters. A lot.
Heat can make healthy food toxic. For example, a healthy fat like olive oil when heated past 375 degrees (olive oil’s smoke point), oxidizes and becomes toxic.
Egg yolks, which are packed with healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, are no different. Heat them too much or for too long and you’ll damage the delicate fatty acids and make them unhealthy.
The whites however, contain a potentially problematic protein called Avidin which is rendered harmless once heated.
Scrambling eggs is the absolute WORST way to cook them for health. It exposes the yolk to direct heat for as long as you’re cooking.
Here are cooking methods from best to worst.
Sunny Side Up
Bonus: Eat Eggs Raw
We don't universally recommend eating raw eggs, however eating an egg yolk raw is the surest way to make sure none of the nutrients inside are destroyed or altered.
So in short, heat the white, keep the yolk as uncooked as possible, and don’t mix them together.
Some people will ONLY do scrambled. With good eggs, this is certainly better than eating oatmeal or cereal. Here’s a video we made recently on how to make really good, low heat scrambled eggs.
Is Yolk Color important?
I thought it was really interesting that the eggs from friends were less dark.
A dark yellow or orange yolks tells us one of two things: either the chickens were on pasture and eating a natural diet rich with grass and bugs OR they were given additives with carotenoids in them. Apparently it's quite easy (and cheap) for farmers to pump their hens full of additives to make the eggs orange. So don't assume just because a yolk is orange it means it's healthy.
The color of the yolk depends entirely on what the hens ate. If what they are eating is high in the pigment-altering carotenoids, they will have a darker yolk.
The higher percentage of carotenoids in a hen’s diet, the richer the color of her yolk ― meaning farmers can easily control the color based on what they feed and how they raise their birds.
So how do you know if your eggs were fed on pasture or given additives to enhance color? Ask the farmer.
Let's Answer Some Questions From Facebook
I paid Facebook $50 this week to show this question to thousands of people in our area. I got some great questions. I'll post a screenshot of the question and answer it below.
Donna, as far as the shell, blue egg shells are blue inside and out. The blue color is created by a pigment called "oocyanin". But the yolk color totally depends on what the hens are fed. See above.
Cynthia, I wouldn't say it "ruins" them. But it certainly makes it more likely for the healthy fats to oxidize and become toxic. The less boiled the better.
Mike, one of the proteins inside the eggs white has a sulfurous amino acid. This is turned into putrid smelling gas inside us. Hope this helps your friend :).
Diane, I would ask what they are fed and how much access to pasture they have.
Carol, anytime someone starts talking about medications, I refer them back to their MD. However, research shows that eggs consumption is linked with LOWER incidence of heart attacks and did not reduce blood floor or raise bad cholesterol. Here’s another similar study.
If I were taking Statins and wanted to eat eggs, I would be even more picky about pasture raised and my cooking methods. As we talked about above, cooking temperature and the omega 3:6 balance the eggs were fed plays a HUGE role in the oxidation of toxic fats.
Carlos, some folks are allergic to the white and not the yolk and vice versa. It totally depends on you. I would encourage you to try pasture raised eggs not given soy like the ones from Raw Farms before deciding you can't do eggs at all.
However, it would depend on your goals. You should be eating about 15% of your daily calories from protein. If you're shooting for 2000 cals, that would be 300 calories. Protein has 4 calories/gram. Eggs have 6 grams of protein. So each egg has about 25 protein calories.
I'd recommend getting some diversity in your animal product intake so if a 1/3 of your daily protein (4 eggs) came from eggs, I think you'd still have lots of room for other things like grass fed beef, yogurt, etc.
That's It For Now
As I got into eggs, I realized the rabbit hole I could go down is endlessly deep. But what I've laid out above should get you headed in the right direction with some amazing info backed by science.
Let us know in the comments what questions you have!
-Dr. Matt and the Village team