Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Are Eggs Bad for Cholesterol?

     Eggs are the perfect food.  One egg has every nutrient necessary for life, except Vitamin C.  Egg protein is of the highest quality, surpassed only by mother's milk.  One egg contains than six grams of protein.
     I have a special interest in eggs, because I enjoy keeping chickens.  Eggs produced from home-tended chickens are superior to supermarket eggs.  This is especially true if the chickens have access to fresh grass and insects, as well as a constant supply of fresh water.  Chickens who forage in grass produce eggs with less cholesterol and saturated fat, and more folic acid, biotin, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamins A, D and E, compared with factory-farm eggs.  Eggs are 12% fat and 12% protein--the rest is shell and water.
     As a physician, I never tell patients to avoid eggs.  When they say they have high cholesterol, I inform them that most of the cholesterol in the bloodstream is produced by the liver, and production levels are determined by heredity.  If patients insist on following a low-fat diet, eggs are the last item that should be eliminated.  They are so replete with nutrition that people should continue to eat eggs, even on low-fat diets.  People would do better to eliminate chicken without the skin from their diets, than to stop eating eggs.  Many nutritionists point out that the high content of lecithin in eggs interferes with absorption of cholesterol manufactured by the liver, and therefore makes eggs a useful adjunct in a low-cholesterol diet.  Years of research, as summarized in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, concluded that eating eggs has little relationship to high blood cholesterol or the incidence of heart disease (Damerov: Raising Chickens).
     When I fell sick as a child, my mother would prepare dishes with eggs to help me recuperate.  Thus, until I was well, I ate soft-boiled eggs with buttered toast, egg-drop soup with bits of swiss chard, egg custards sprinkled with nutmeg, frothy, fresh vanilla eggnog, and fluffy egg omelets filled with raspberry jam.   Eggs are so easy to assimilate that they have long been considered the preferred food for convalescence.
     Egg whites may help to prevent wound infections, according to folk medicine.  Gail Damerov reports that eggs contain conalbumin, a substance that binds iron and inhibits growth of bacteria.  The white of the egg may be used as a salve on open skin to prevent infection. The membrane inside the egg may serve as a bandage over a wound.
    Therefore, No--eggs are not bad for you.  On the contrary, they are a superlative food.  When I tend to patients who have wounds that won't heal, or who have dental abscesses, frequent infections, or nutritional deficiencies, I tell them to buy eggs, and eat them.  They're cheap, nutritious, and an excellent source of protein for boosting the immune system and healing wounds.  People who are sick have an increased requirement for protein, since it's an essential component of immunoglobulins, the antibodies produced in response to infection by bacteria, viruses or other foreign invaders.
     In addition, and especially for those who are healthy, eggs are so versatile that, when fresh, they are essential for making some of the most delectable and astonishing--dishes:  tortes, quiches, tarts, ice cream, stratta, frittata, flan, meringues, souffles, crepes, pasta, pancakes, Pavlova, soups, loaves, omelets, pastry, tempura, divinity, floating islands, baked Alaska, and hollandaise.
     Who would agree to give up all this, for the sake of a number on a blood test?

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