The Heart-Healthy, Disease-Preventing Health Benefits of Eggs

Health benefits of eggs - Dr. Axe

We all know eggs are delicious. But did you know they also reduce your risk of a laundry list of diseases, protect your skin and eyes from UV damage, and improve liver and brain function? It’s true, and they’re just some of the amazing health benefits of eggs.

Eggs have been a popular food for most healthy diets for many years, although they occasionally have a bad connotation for their high cholesterol content. Those criticisms are a bit undeserved, however, as the cholesterol in eggs actually helps regulate the two different types of cholesterol in your body!

As a great protein food (with a complete amino acid profile, I might add), eggs help your body keep building more of the best version of you. (1) They’re such a high-quality source of protein that the World Health Organization uses them as the standard for evaluating protein quality in other foods. In my estimation, eggs are one of the least expensive sources of high-quality protein available in the U.S..

With that in mind, here is what you need to know about the eggs you eat, starting with the six biggest health benefits of eggs.


6 Amazing Health Benefits of Eggs

1. Reduce Risk of Heart Disease

Eggs can help keep your heart beating healthier and longer. One of the most exciting health benefits of eggs is their ability to reduce your risk of heart disease and improve cardiovascular function.

A comprehensive study released in 2015 discussed the assumption many people across the world have that the fat content in eggs is actually dangerous to those at risk for heart disease or who have diabetes. However, consuming the right kinds of eggs proved to beneficial across the board, regardless of pre-existing conditions. (2)

One reason (some) eggs are such a heart-healthy food option is due to the presence of omega-3 fatty acids. Free-range eggs (taken from hens raised on a pasture, rather than in battery cages) have double the amount of omega-3s than cage-raised eggs. They also have more of the good stuff and less of the bad stuff than cage-raised eggs, but more on that later. Omega-3 fatty acids, consumed as part of a healthy diet, lower blood triglycerides and help regulate and lower cholesterol. (3)

High triglycerides are considered a serious risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and the reverse is also true. Low blood triglyceride levels equal a smaller risk for developing heart disease. (4)

In addition to lowering blood triglycerides, eggs have been observed in clinical trials to regulate cholesterol absorption and inflammation in the bloodstream, balancing the ratio of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs) to low-density lipoproteins (LDLs). This also helps lower the risk of coronary heart disease. (5)

2. May Help Prevent Disease

Heart disease isn’t the only common illness that an egg-rich diet can hel prevent. Have you ever heard of metabolic syndrome?

It’s a cluster of conditions that all increase your likelihood of several types of disease. Conditions included in metabolic syndrome include increased blood sugar levels, excess body fat (especially around the waist) and abnormal cholesterol levels. Any one of these conditions increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Unfortunately, a guideline for egg consumption has been seen as a very confusing subject for the last several decades. Misinformation and other factors have led to a common recommendation to limit the number of eggs you eat each week to no more than three. The good news? A wealth of current research and rise in general public awareness have contributed to a better understanding of eggs and how they benefit the body.

One study released in early 2016 studied participants over 40 for almost 3.5 years to assess egg consumption as it related to metabolic syndrome. The study suggested that higher egg consumption may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome in all adults over 40 and that it had a positive, significant impact on blood glucose and triglyceride levels in men specifically. (6)

In addition to their effect on metabolic syndrome, eggs also contain naturally occurring carotenoids. People on diets rich in carotenoids have longer life spans and lower mortality from a number of chronic illnesses.

In fact, the carotenoids in eggs are especially beneficial to you if you do consume a lot of leafy greens, because eating cooked eggs alongside raw vegetables actually enhances the absorption of carotenoids from the veggies. (7)

3. Improve Eye Health

Carotenoids aren’t only beneficial for overall health and disease prevention. They also benefit your eye health. Two “oxygenated” carotenoids that are especially important for your eyes are lutein and zeaxanthin.

These two nutrients are found in various places in the body, but they’re the only two of 600 total carotenoids that exist in the eyes — and their concentration is higher there than anywhere else in the body. (8) They function in maintaining eye health by filtering out dangerous high-energy blue spectrums of light and acting as both antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. (9)

The silent blue light filtering that lutein and zeaxanthin perform in your eyes reduces the chances that you’ll develop many common eye diseases, like macular degeneration and glaucoma. (10) All you have to do is feed your body the foods that make it happen, like eggs.

 

Eggs nutrition - Dr. Axe

 

4. Aid in Weight Loss

Many people are familiar with the role of eggs in a protein-rich diet that’s especially significant for athletes and those who work out regularly. Do you know one reason, other than protein, that eggs are a great food for people who want to lose weight?

Interestingly, it’s because of lutein! Although lutein is famous primarily for its role in eye and skin health, a recent study has determined that lutein also may positively impact a person’s physical activity level. (11)

Add to that the fact that their high protein content makes them filling, one of the health benefits of eggs seems to clearly be their aid in weight loss. So if you’re wondering how to lose 20 pounds or so, eggs make a great addition to your diet. You’ll stay fuller for longer, according to the ranking of eggs on the satiety index, a measure of how well foods make you feel full and keep you from eating more calories over the 36 hours following consumption. (12)

5. Maintain Liver Function and Brain Health

Choline is a macronutrient that our bodies produce in very small amounts, but we mostly need to get it from our food. Eggs are a choline-rich food choice, which means they greatly assist in liver function and brain development, among other features.

The liver depends on choline to operate correctly, and one sign of a choline deficiency is poor liver function. Lower than needed choline levels are correlated with fatty liver disease, and there is research to indicate choline deficiency is also linked to some types of cancers. (13)

In proper amounts, choline has also been found to treat some neurological issues, such as depression, and improve memory and cognitive function. (14)

6. Keep Your Skin Healthy

The lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs don’t just protect your eyes by filtering certain light wavelengths. They do the same with your skin. By filtering out the more harmful blue spectrum rays, these carotenoids slow down the oxidative damage light can wreak on your skin, specifically by UV rays. (15)

Eggs contain five of the eight best nutrients that help you to fight and reduce your risk of skin cancer. If you have a risk for skin cancer, eggs can be one of the weapons you use to prevent it happening to you.


Eggs Nutrition Facts

One large, hard-boiled, 50-gram cooked egg contains about: (16)

  • 78 calories
  • 0.6 gram carbohydrates
  • 6.3 grams protein
  • 5.3 grams fat
  • 186 milligrams cholesterol (62 percent DV)
  • 15.4 micrograms selenium (22 percent DV)
  • 0.3 milligram riboflavin (15 percent DV)
  • 44 IU vitamin D (11 percent DV)
  • 0.6 microgram vitamin B12 (9 percent DV)
  • 86 milligrams phosphorus (9 percent DV)
  • 293 IU vitamin A (6 percent DV)
  • 22 micrograms folate (5 percent DV)

All Eggs Are Not Created Equal

The trickiest part about getting the maximum health benefits of eggs in every serving is to get the right kind of egg. It may seem easier sometimes to just pick up the first carton of eggs you come across. However, the conditions in which hens are raised to lay eggs drastically affects not only the nutritional content of the eggs, but also the risk of consuming dangerous bacteria, such as salmonella.

Here’s the lowdown: You can buy eggs laid by free-range hens (allowed to roam, wander, perch and have a good quality of life), or by cage-raised hens (unable to move or engage in normal activity). Caged hens can’t lie down, stand up, groom themselves or flap their wings. They’re held in cages averaging about 67 square inches of space and usually surrounded by manure pits and infestations of maggots, flies and other insects carrying disease.

Time and time again, the differences between cage-raised and free-range eggs have been apparent. Free-range eggs contain:

  • ⅓ less cholesterol
  • ¼ less saturated fat
  • ⅔ more vitamin A
  • 2 times more omega-3
  • 3 times more vitamin E
  • 7 times more beta-carotene

Not only do these eggs clearly win in the nutrition category, but free-range eggs are 98 percent less likely to carry salmonella! It’s no surprise, considering how cage-raised hens are expected to live.

The disgusting reality of cage-raised hens includes frequent cannibalism, molting and plucking one another. Unhappy, unhealthy hens, are exposed to salmonella, antibiotics and fed “slaughterhouse waste” — meaning animals who have died in slaughterhouses due to disease or being crippled. That waste can include anything from meat to blood to fecal matter.

These are serious risks we’re looking at here! If you’re anything like me, none of the things I just mentioned are things you want to expose your family to in food.

Do yourself a favor — commit now to buying only free-range eggs. Your body and your health will be better for it.

 

Free-range eggs vs. caged eggs - Dr. Axe

 


The History of Eggs

Eggs have a thorough history, as far back as the ancient Egyptians, who believed one of their gods created them from the sun and the moon. It’s thought that eggs were first used as food thousands of years ago in Southeast Asia and India, expanding to Egypt and Greece and then throughout the world.

In the Middle Ages, eggs were forbidden during Lent because of their richness. Eggs with acidic fruit juices were all the rage in 17th century France. Later on in the 19th century, egg drying was introduced and became especially important during World War II by the U.S. Armed Forces and America’s allies.

One of the most exciting developments in egg history occurred in 1911, when Joseph Coyle, in British Columbia, invented the egg carton in order to solve a dispute about broken eggs.

Today, chicken eggs are the primary eggs consumed in the U.S., although duck, quail, roe and caviar are also commonly eaten. In the U.S. alone, 762 billion eggs a year are sold, with about 70 percent of those sold whole and the other 30 percent used in egg products.


Egg Prep and Egg Recipes

There are many ways to prepare eggs, and many of them are convenient for different reasons. One question many people have is whether or not it’s healthy to eat the yolk of an egg in addition to the egg whites. I personally recommend eating the entire egg, as most research supporting the positive results of egg consumption involves whole eggs.

Whether you like them hard-boiled, scrambled, over easy, poached or anything in between, there are dozens of ways to make eggs interesting. For example, hard-boiled eggs can be prepared at the beginning of a week and packed as snacks or as part of meals throughout the week.

Hard-boiled eggs are also a great addition to many different kinds of salads. One great tip I like to use is to pierce a very small hole in the wide bottom end of the egg before boiling — it helps the egg to boil evenly for a beautiful, fluffy yellow yolk inside.

Fry an egg, use it in a quiche, scramble it into a casserole … or try a couple of these fun recipes!

In love with salads? Try one of my favorite egg recipes, the Egg Tahini Salad. (You’ll especially love this if you’re into sun-dried tomatoes!) Here are a few others:

In fact, I’m such a fan of egg recipes that I compiled 28 of my favorites in my egg recipes article. Among the superstars are the Asian Style Cobb Salad, Cheddar Garlic Grits with Fried Eggs and Farmer’s Market Overnight Breakfast Egg Casserole.


Possible Allergic Reactions and Caution

Unfortunately, eggs are one of the common food allergies in the U.S. Approximately 1 percent to 2 percent of children in the U.S. develop allergies to eggs and egg products. Some research indicates that consuming eggs baked into pastries, such as muffins, can elicit less of an allergic reaction than consuming whole eggs on their own. People allergic to eggs can sometimes become more adjusted to them in this way and eventually move on to eating eggs by themselves.

People at risk for cardiovascular disease, who already have diabetes or who take choline supplements should consult their physicians on the appropriate amounts of eggs to consume on a daily/weekly basis.


So, what’s up with eggs?

Hopefully you’re already convinced — eggs are amazing! Buying free-range, organic eggs and incorporating them into your diet can help prevent a host of diseases, keep your heart strong, and help your liver and brain operate to their highest potential.

They’re truly the incredible, edi-… Well, you know. The egg. So always keep the following in mind:

Eggs have been a popular food for most healthy diets for many years, although they occasionally have a bad connotation for their high cholesterol content. Those criticisms are a bit undeserved, however, as the cholesterol in eggs actually helps regulate the two different types of cholesterol in your body!

They’re such a high-quality source of protein that the World Health Organization uses them as the standard for evaluating protein quality in other foods.

The health benefits of eggs include reducing the risk of heart disease, helping prevent disease, improving eye health, aiding in weight loss, maintaining liver function and brain health, and keeping your skin healthy.

Always consume organic, free-range eggs and avoid caged-raised eggs at all costs. Why? Free-range eggs have a third less cholesterol, a quarter less saturated fat, two-thirds vitamin A, two times more, three times more vitamin E and seven times more beta-carotene. Plus, caged hens are raised in horrific conditions that are much more prone to disease.

Read Next: 28 Delicious Egg Recipes

Josh Axe

Dr. Josh Axe is on a mission to provide you and your family with the highest quality nutrition tips and healthy recipes in the world...Sign up to get VIP access to his eBooks and valuable weekly health tips for FREE!

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