Good eggs come from hens raised in sanitary surroundings with plenty of natural light and outdoor space for exercise and wing flapping. They eat mostly grass, seeds and bugs that is their natural diet, supplemented with grain, preferably organic, free of hormones or antibiotics. The organic label is not a guarantee of superior quality – many large producers have creative ways of interpreting regulations, like access to outdoors (“free range”). Your best bet is to buy at greenmarkets where you can talk to farmers about their methods. Many small producers cannot afford the expensive USDA certification process, but maintain standards far above the minimum required for the “Organic” label.
For years, eggs got a bad rap for contributing to high cholesterol levels in people. However, about 200 studies over the past 25 years, most prominently the Nurses Health Study from Harvard, have found that it’s not cholesterol, but saturated fat that ups the risk of heart disease. Eggs are very low in saturated fat and, though high in cholesterol, it turns out be mostly the good kind, i.e., HDL and not LDL.
The fact is the good egg is one of the best, most balanced and easily digested foods on the planet. After all, it was designed to contain everything necessary to support a new life. An excellent source of protein, it’s low in calories (about 70-80 cal.), high in B vitamins like choline which is important for healthy brain function, reducing inflammation and regulating the cardiovascular system. It contains a type of protein that lowers the risk of blood clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes, as well as lutein and zeaxanthin which protect eyesight. High in sulfur, eggs promote healthy hair, nails and skin. Eggs are one of the few foods which contain a natural form of Vitamin D and have been shown to protect against breast cancer.
Eat the whole egg. A soft-boiled or poached egg is a dietary powerhouse – a great way to start the day. You want the yolk runny, so nutrients are preserved and perfectly balanced; hard-boiled, scrambled or fried destroys antioxidants and other nutrients, and deactivates the lecithin, a fat-emulsifier. More is not better: one or two a day, eaten at different times, seems to be optimum. So take the time to find good eggs. If you can, you’ve got a great healing package, the extent to which is still being discovered. As usual, Nature is way ahead of science!
Once home, your eggs should be refrigerated to help retain freshness. Do not store them in the door, as they will be exposed to heat each time the refrigerator is opened. Store with the pointed end downwards. Keep in their original container to prevent them from absorbing any other food odors or moisture.
Nutritional powerhouse. Truly organic or free-range eggs have higher nutritional value than the typical store-bought, such as far more omega-3 which increases HDL (good) cholesterol while decreasing LDL (bad), helps reduce high blood pressure, etc. Eggs are a very good source of protein, selenium, iodine, Vitamins B2, B5, B12, D, E, iron, molybdenum, phosphorus, sulfur, choline along with a well balanced supply of other trace minerals and vitamins.
Cancer prevention. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress that can damage cells and set the stage for cancer. Raw or runny egg yokes contain twice the amount of antioxidants as an apple, but, if fried or boiled, this is reduced by half and even more if heated in a microwave. Studies at University of Alberta, Canada, found that organically-fed compared to farm factory hens produce superior quality eggs overall, and specifically more amino acids and carotenoids that have more antioxidants.
Breast cancer. Eggs are one of the few foods which contain a natural form of Vitamin D, which is important in breast cancer prevention. One study showed that women who consume an average 6 eggs a week were able to lower their risk of contracting breast cancer by around 44%.
Macular degeneration. Eggs contain more lutein than most green vegetables. Lutein is a carotenoid, a protein, believed to aid in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration. Studies have shown that lutein in eggs is more easily absorbed by our bodies than that in green vegetables. Another egg protein, zeaxanthin, can also assist in lower risk of cataract and overall protection of vision.Brain function. Eggs are the richest dietary source of choline, a B vitamin key to maintaining flexibility and integrity in all cell membranes. Though our bodies can make some choline, it’s not found in adequate supply in most other foods, so deficiency is fairly common. (Other good sources: beef liver, wheat germ, cod, chicken, salmon). Choline is especially important in the brain where two fat-like molecules, phosphatidylcholine and sphingomyelin account for an unusually high percentage of the brain’s total mass.
Nerve health. Choline, abundant in eggs, is also a prime component of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that carries messages from and to nerves. Acetylcholine is the body’s primary chemical means of sending messages between nerves and muscles.
Heart health. Choline helps convert homocysteine, a molecule that can damage blood vessels, into benign substance. Eggs are also a good source of B12 which helps in the conversion. Though yolks are high in cholesterol, studies now confirm little effect on blood cholesterol, especially with a balanced whole food diet with regular consumption of raw, poached or soft-boiled eggs. No significant link was found between eggs and heart disease and latest research suggests that eating whole eggs may improve the ratio of HDL (“good” cholesterol) to LDL (“bad”). Dietary saturated fat, very low in eggs, rather than cholesterol, was found to most significantly risk heart health.
Prevent blood clots. Proteins in egg yolk are potent inhibitors of human platelet aggregation (clot formation), which can cause stroke and heart attack.
Mood enhancer. The breakdown process of choline helps produce “happiness” hormones like serotonin, dopamine, norephinephrine.
Reduces chronic inflammation. Greek scientists reported a study in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition finding that people whose diets supply the highest average intake of choline (as in egg yolk and soybeans) and betaine (in vegetables like beets and spinach) have 20% lower levels of inflammatory markers than subjects with the lowest average intake. Researchers concluded, “If the association between choline and betaine and inflammation can be confirmed in studies of other populations, an interesting new dietary approach may be available for reducing chronic diseases associated with inflammation.”
Hair and skin enhancer. Eggs are high in sulfur, an essential nutrient that assists with everything from Vitamin B absorption to liver function. Sulfur is also necessary for production of collagen and keratin, which help create and maintain shiny hair, strong nails and glowing skin. Many people find their hair growing faster after adding eggs to their diet, especially if they had been deficient in sulfur or B12-containing foods.