Benefits of eating the WHOLE EGG
Today we are talking all about eggs! Ever since embarking on my own health journey, I’ve learned so much about the power of nutrition and the impact it has not only on our physical health, but our mental health as well. It’s the reason I love working with certain food and supplement brands, because their products have truly changed my life in every way possible! If you know me, you know I’m a huuuge science nerd and often feel like I can only enforce change and take appropriate action once I understand the logic behind something, and therefore have a strong enough reason to actually go out and do the thing. I used to have sooo many fear foods - egg yolks being one of them - but through learning the facts and gaining an understanding of how specific foods really affect our bodies and minds, I’ve been able to rid myself of these fears and gain a true sense of food freedom!
Because this approach has helped me so much to not only fully recover from an eating disorder, but also thrive in life, I am super excited to start sharing more nutrition content with you. If there’s any specific food or supplement research you’d be interested in learning more about, feel free to send me a DM on instagram @livlabelfree or send me a message through my contact form! There’s nothing I love more than creating content based on YOUR requests and feedback! Today, we’re going to be diving deep into the science behind eggs and more specifically, why to eat the WHOLE egg; not just the egg white. So without further ado, let’s get eggy with it!
Eggs and Diet Culture
I feel like the egg is one of those foods for which health claims have evolved sooo much over the past few decades, that it perfectly illustrates how diet-culture infested our society is, not to mention how obsessed people are with labeling foods as “good” and “bad”! 50 years ago, people were advised to avoid eggs because they were presumed to elevate blood cholesterol, which can lead to increased risk of heart disease. But right now I’m about to unscramble this message, because recent research proves otherwise.
Eggs are undoubtedly higher in cholesterol than other foods, but before making any claims about eggs and their potential link to heart disease, we need to understand the science behind cholesterol.
First of all, the body needs cholesterol; in fact, your own liver produces cholesterol every day! Cholesterol is an essential component of cell membranes, which are the structures that border every cell in the human body. Without cholesterol, your cells would rupture and you wouldn’t be able to exist! Cholesterol is also necessary for the production of specific hormones, and is an essential component in your skin’s ability to produce vitamin D which aids in maintaining bone density.
In order for cholesterol to fulfill all its roles in the body, it travels through the bloodstream; but because cholesterol is a fat and does not dissolve in blood, it can't travel by itself. To get around this problem, the body packages cholesterol and other lipids (fats) into lipoproteins (lipid plus protein), which are tiny protein-covered particles that mix easily with blood. These little packages move cholesterol and other fats throughout the body.
LDL & HDL
There are five main types of lipoproteins, but the two most commonly associated with cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). LDL is nicknamed as “bad” and HDL is nicknamed as “good”, but here’s where we face label danger once again! Both lipoproteins are always circulating your bloodstream; it’s about the ratio - or balance - in which they are present.
If the ratio of LDL to HDL is too high, you can develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels, which can clog your arteries and increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke. This knowledge has led people to conclude that high levels of the cholesterol-containing packages themselves are linked to heart problems, but clearly that’s not the case! The body is so perfectly designed, that along with LDL (transports cholesterol throughout the body) it has gifted us with HDL, which removes cholesterol from circulation - including the artery walls - and returns it to the liver for excretion. Isn’t our body so cool in the way it has its own system of checks and balances?
Cholesterol in Eggs
Now that we know the function of cholesterol, what does this have to do with eggs? As I mentioned earlier, eggs are a relatively high cholesterol food, with all of the cholesterol being concentrated in the yolk. Contrary to the widespread belief that eating egg yolks contributes to high cholesterol, the biology of the human body tells us otherwise. As we just learned, the body needs cholesterol and will obtain it either via production of your liver or from dietary sources such as eggs. If you eat a lot of cholesterol-containing food, your liver will naturally produce less cholesterol. If you aren’t getting enough cholesterol from your diet, your liver will simply produce more! This means that if you are obtaining cholesterol through eating egg yolks, your liver will respond by slowing down cholesterol production. Therefore, eating eggs does not have a significant impact on blood cholesterol levels.
Furthermore, several studies have found that eating eggs can actually improve your cholesterol profile. Remember how we learned that it isn’t necessarily cholesterol itself that can result in heart problems, but rather the concentrations at which it’s present in your blood? Well, eggs have been found to raise HDL levels and change LDL cholesterol to a different lipoprotein that isn’t strongly associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Definitely a different perspective on the subject than what we’ve been taught to believe, eh?
Nutrients in Eggs
Now that we’ve busted the myth about eggs and cholesterol, let’s take a look at the nutrients that are found only in the yolk of an egg. I briefly explained that the body packages cholesterol and other fats into lipoproteins, because fats do not dissolve in blood. This is because blood is hydrophilic (literally means “attracted to water”) and fats are hydrophobic (literally means “afraid of water”). Similarly, almost all of an egg’s nutrients are present in the yolk because the vitamins are fat-soluble and cannot exist in the fat-free environment of the egg white.
Eggs contain almost every vitamin and mineral required by the human body, but are highest in Iron, Vitamin A, E, D, K, and the B-complex vitamins, specifically B2 and B12. I’m not going to go into depth about the role of each specific nutrient because that’s a whole nother topic, but because this is a post centered around optimizing mental health, I want to focus on the nutrient choline, which is often grouped with the B-complex vitamins due to similarities in the way it functions in the body.
Choline in Eggs
So, what is choline? Choline is an essential nutrient that supports various bodily functions, from cellular growth and DNA synthesis to the metabolizing of fats and the regulation of your nervous system. Similar to cholesterol, humans can produce choline in the liver. However, unlike cholesterol, the amount of choline that the body naturally produces is insufficient to meet our needs. This means you must get choline from your diet.
As I just mentioned, choline has various roles in the body. Again, not going to get into every role because that would send me into a rabbit hole, but I do want to share a fact I found most fascinating while researching the nutrition of egg yolks and eventually stumbling across choline; and that is the importance of choline when it comes to brain health.
Choline is required to produce acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in regulating memory, mood, executive function, AND aids in the release of dopamine! As most of my neurodivergent readers know, dopamine is found to be low in individuals with autism and ADHD. This means that increasing the amount of choline you consume could help improve your overall mental health, and isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Besides egg yolks, foods richest in choline are meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products.
Moral of this EGGcellent story:
To bring this post full circle - or should I say full oval, because that’s the shape of an egg - don’t throw away your egg yolks! Or if you’re buying cartons of egg whites, start buying cartons of whole eggs! Sure, you may be getting lean protein by just eating the whites, but you’re missing out on basically every nutritional benefit the entire egg has to offer. If you enjoyed this nutrition-focused post, I would absolutely love it if you could send me a message on Instagram with a suggestion for the next nutrition-based post, because YOUR feedback and YOUR messages are what I am inspired to create content around! Until next time,
How it’s made: Cholesterol production in your body - Harvard Health
Rethinking dietary cholesterol : Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care
Whole egg consumption improves lipoprotein profiles and insulin sensitivity to a greater extent than yolk-free egg substitute in individuals with metabolic syndrome
The Golden Egg: Nutritional Value, Bioactivities, and Emerging Benefits for Human Health - PMC
Choline | The Nutrition Source | Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health
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