Shawn Mercer is a sophomore integrated life sciences major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]
In my short time on this earth, I have not encountered a food that has vacillated so frequently between the status of “good for you” and “bad for you” than eggs. I do not believe that a food can hold both of these master statuses in any reasonable world (unless you are allergic to eggs, in which case the eggs are definitely bad for you). The evidence seems to have fallen on the side of the egg being healthful, but this is only obvious once a few myths have been dispelled.
The heart of the “eggs are bad for you” mantra surrounds their cholesterol content. In your standard egg, there is around 180 milligrams of cholesterol. This accounts for more than half of the amount of cholesterol the Department of Agriculture recommends as a daily allowance. With the limit recommendation set at 300 milligrams, just two eggs will exceed this amount. The recommendation that we should eat such a small amount of cholesterol stems from the hypothesis that dietary cholesterol causes heart disease. As we will see, this is an oversimplification.
The truth is that the vast majority of cholesterol absorbed by the gut is made in the body. The liver releases cholesterol into the gut along with bile salts as part of the digestive process, and a certain amount is absorbed by the body. This amount is determined by genetics and the body’s need for cholesterol, not simply the amount of cholesterol in the diet.
We often forget why we absorb cholesterol in the first place: It is a vitally important nutrient. Cholesterol is so important that the majority of the cells in the body are able to produce cholesterol as they need it.
Cholesterol is used to stabilize cell membranes and repair damaged cells. It is vital in the synthesis of vitamin D. Cholesterol is a precursor to the important sex hormones, including progesterone, testosterone and estrogen. The liver uses cholesterol to make bile, which is integral in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Eggs contain other important nutrients. In addition to being a complete protein source, eggs contain choline, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D and E) and a host of minerals, which include calcium, iron, iodine, zinc, phosphorous, manganese and copper.
In addition to being really good for you, eggs are extremely cheap, with a dozen going for only a couple bucks. If you are concerned with the welfare of the hen laying the egg, it is relatively affordable to buy a product from hens that are better treated. It is even feasible to buy locally produced eggs from people whom you can meet and whose hens’ living conditions you can examine.
Overall, eggs are not guilty as charged. They are truly a health food. They contain nutrients and a complete protein, and they can be ethically and locally sourced. There are few foods that can stack up to an egg.