To yolk or not to yolk
Back in August 2012 the NHS published a news story which declared that eating egg yolks is ‘ as bad as smoking’. This followed a Canadian study which questioned people with risk factors for heart disease about their smoking habits and the length of time they had been eating egg yolks. This article did question the conclusions made by the study i.e. that egg yolk consumption could be linked to high cholesterol levels and build-up of fat in the arteries. Having said that, it does seem to be a popular consensus that egg yolks are bad for us.
An egg is a great source of protein with few calories; around 5.5g of protein for 68 calories and is also a source of a number of vitamins and minerals. Eggs are also a major source of choline which is an essential micronutrient for brain function and, along with folic acid can prevent neural tube defects in developing babies. A recent study by CODING (Complex Diseases in the Newfoundland population: Environment and Genetics) suggests that choline (along with betaine) could improve insulin resistance, especially in women. Since the body can’t produce this nutrient it is important that your diet provides enough of it to maintain a healthy metabolism and liver.
It is true that the yolk contains all of the cholesterol and fat, particularly saturated fat of the egg. It also contains the majority of the calories; around ¾ of the total amount so can you get all the benefits of the whole egg without eating the cholesterol-filled yolk? In a word, no! If you were to focus on only the protein and fat content of the white versus the yolk the white would win hands down since it has over ½ of the protein and 1% of the fat. When you take into account the micronutrients in the yolk the numbers tell a very different tale. The yolk contains 100% of vitamin A, E, D and K and over 95% of the vitamin B6 in the whole egg. It also contains over 90% of the calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamine, folate and vitamin B12. It also contains over 99% of the choline.
Despite the yolk containing so much of the fat, only a small amount is saturated and much of it is omega-3 fatty acids which are ‘good fats’. Of course the amount of fat you eat with your eggs might depend on cooking methods or what you are eating with them. For example, by frying your egg you increase the fat by an additional 2g and the calories by around 13.
The concern about the cholesterol content of eggs is that it would increase your risk of heart disease. Since the recommended amount of cholesterol intake is less than 300mg per day and the average egg contains between 190 and 215 mg you could easily eat an egg every day as long as you limited other sources of cholesterol. However, a number of studies published by NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) over a few years have found that LDL (or bad cholesterol) generally stays the same or only increases slightly while HDL (good cholesterol) tends to increase.
In general, eating the whole egg as part of a healthy balanced diet can promote weight loss since the protein in them can keep you feeling full and increase your metabolic rate. There are studies (also published by NCBI) which have found that eggs may reduce inflammation which has been linked to diabetes, obesity, fatty liver disease and some cancers. So, as the 1950’s TV adverts used to say “Go to work on an egg”. One egg per day won’t necessarily do you any harm.
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