Healthy, healthful, nutritious, safe, and protein rich food. These are words that cannot be used to describe eggs as you will learn about in today’s blog. Eggs have sometimes been touted as the perfect protein and on the contrary could be touted as the perfect combination to increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Let’s take a closer look.
I think the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) sums up startling key facts about eggs in two publications, a YouTube video summary and a blog titled, Studies Link Eggs to Stroke, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Cancer, written by Dr. Neal Barnard. The highlights or low lights of eggs they share include:
- Loaded with 213 mg of cholesterol per egg
- 70% of calories are saturated fat
- Contain zero fiber
- Over 140,000 illnesses are caused by eggs contaminated with Salmonella each year
- Increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes and cancer (specifically colon, prostate and bladder)
Why is there confusion about the healthiness of eating eggs then? There shouldn’t be…it’s pretty clear how unhealthy they are to consume but there continues to be driving forces to promote egg consumption.
Last week a friend of mine asked me, “You don’t eat eggs either?” “No, but there are plenty of healthy alternatives” I responded. I will share some healthy ideas at the end of the blog. This question from my friend prompted me to investigate what’s happening with the confusion on eggs. In addition to finding several non-industry funded science based research like the two I found above, I found gold with a recap from Dr. Michael Greger on nutritionfacts.org. His summary titled, Who Says Eggs Aren’t Healthy or Safe? provides context to some of the issues.
Dr. Greger notes the American Egg Board, who is appointed by the U.S. Government, is a promotional marketing board who’s mission “is to increase demand for egg and egg products on behalf of U.S. egg producers.” If an individual egg company wants to run an advertising campaign they can say whatever they want but if they want to use some of the $10 million advertising budget from the American Egg Board, they cannot lie as they are overseen by the government.
What Dr. Greger found via the Freedom of Information Act were email exchanges from companies and the government on what claims about eggs the companies were attempting to make in advertising campaigns to promote sales. What he uncovered was quite revealing about what you can and can’t say about eggs.
Again, legally you cannot claim something is healthy when it’s not. Here are examples of what companies attempted to claim about eggs (lead bullet) and the response from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on each sub-bullet:
- healthy snacks
- you can’t couch eggs/egg products as being “healthy” or “nutritious”
- “Nutritious” and “healthy” carry certain connotations, and because eggs have the amount cholesterol and not low in fat, the words are problematic
- nutritional powerhouse
- can’t portray eggs as a diet food because of the fat and cholesterol content
- eggs have nearly twice the calories of anything that can be called “low calorie”
- egg-ceptional nutrition
- can’t call eggs nutritious
- low in saturated fat
- eggs don’t meet the definition for low saturated fat
- protein rich food
- rich is a synonym for excellent source, or 20% of the daily value
- great nutritional wallop
- can’t say nutritional
- healthful or healthy
- can’t use because of the amount of cholesterol (risk-increasing nutrient) in eggs
- good for you
- can’t use
- eggs are an important part of a well-balanced, healthy diet
- misleading since eggs contain significant amounts of fat and cholesterol
- all references to safety must be removed
- reference the statistic above on Salmonella
There are several more examples Dr. Greger shares. One of the most amusing is how a company was told they could not say “naturally healthy ingredients” but maybe consider “using recognizable ingredients.” Ouch!
There is hope if you are looking for alternatives. Here are a few:
- When baking you can use this combination via the Minimalist Baker as an egg substitute ingredient – using flaxseed meal and water. It works!
- If you want to make eggs or an egg scramble, using tofu is often a combination to try and like this recipe says, it tastes better than an egg recipe as it doesn’t taste like an egg.
- If I am at a restaurant and I’m not sure, I ask the server if the food has egg in it. If it does I ask for an alternate option.
- Read food labels. In my September 3, 2018 blog titled “How to Read Labels for Healthy Eating,” I state, “at the end of the ingredient list contains the word, “Contains.” Look for foods you may have allergies to and avoid the ones that contain animal products (dairy, eggs and meat).” If it has “eggs” listed I would put it back…
Hopefully this helps clear up some of the misconceptions about eggs and provides ideas for healthy alternatives.
– Add Health to Your Life