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Eggs bad rap now overturned!

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The egg has definitely gotten a bad rap over the past decade or two.  It somehow became the poster child for the evils of cholesterol -- never mind the fact that all food products that come from animal sources contain cholesterol.

But now, thanks to recent testing by the United States Department of Agriculture, the egg's reputation is being somewhat restored.  The USDA regularly has nutrition checks performed on common foods, and the egg has made changes for the better.  Since the last time it was tested in 2002, the amount of cholesterol in a large egg has dropped 14 percent from 215 milligrams to 185 mg.  And the vitamin D it provides has increased 64 percent, going from 25 International Units up to 41 IU.

Have chickens been working out and watching what they eat to so improve the eggs they produce?

No one is actually sure why eggs have become healthier, but the most likely reasons are probably changes in the diets of hens and the manner in which the animals are bred. But however it has happened, it's consistent.  Cartons of large eggs from 12 random locations around the country were sent to an independent laboratory at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg and analyzed to very positive results.

According to the latest USDA guidelines, it's now safe to eat an egg a day.  Their Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends keeping cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day.  With eggs now coming in at 186 mg, it would be well within those boundaries to have a single egg daily, leaving room for other foods containing a little cholesterol as well.

However, if you have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or high LDL cholesterol, the USDA recommends that you limit the amount of cholesterol you consume to less than 200 mg per day.  Although an egg would still fall into that range, it might be tough to continue to eat throughout the rest of the day without consuming any additional cholesterol.

All of that said, more research most definitely needs to be done on the connection between egg consumption and heart disease.  One large study of nearly 10,000 participants that was conducted by scientists at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark could not establish a link between frequent egg intake and cardiovascular problems.  They found that only those with diabetes who ate eggs daily were slightly more likely to have developed heart disease than their counterparts who rarely consumed eggs.

In actuality, saturated and trans-fats and poorly functioning livers have a much greater impact on blood cholesterol levels. 

In contrast, the egg will barely provide a bump in cholesterol numbers for most of us. But what about egg whites? Even if whole eggs don't increase cholesterol levels, is there any reason to eat egg yolks since they're mostly fat and just pack on the calories? Aren't egg whites still a better choice? And the simple answer is no, egg whites are not a better choice. And yes, you still want to eat egg yolks. Other than the protein found in egg whites, all of the nutrition associated with eggs is in the yolk. Yolks contain large amounts of Omega-3s (especially if the chickens are fed a diet that contains seeds high in Omega-3 oils), and protein (yes, the yolk contains significant amounts of protein), not to mention an abundance of fat soluble vitamins such as A, E, D, and K. A single egg yolk can provide 100% of your RDI for each of those vitamins.

Come breakfast time, it looks like you will be much better off skipping the muffin, Danish, and certainly the bacon and serving up a good old egg. But be careful when you cook that egg. Use only moderate heat and for a short period of time. Too much heat will denature the protein in the egg and destroy most of the vitamins.

Beth Levine
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