Posted by: JanF | February 10, 2011

Egg-cellent news

Today’s post is egg-citing news (with puns!)

This news from the USDA caught me a bit by surprise:

According to new nutrition data from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), eggs are lower in cholesterol than previously thought. The USDA-ARS recently reviewed the nutrient composition of standard large eggs, and results show the average amount of cholesterol in one large egg is 185 mg, 14 percent lower than previously recorded. The analysis also revealed that large eggs now contain 41 IU of vitamin D, an increase of 64 percent.

I guess I would have thought that the cholesterol content of something would be generally unchanged. Speculation is that it has to do with the hen’s diet.

And because I cannot resist a good pun, I am passing on this delightful headline and first sentence.

USDA: Eggs’ cholesterol level better than cracked up to be

Eggs have taken a beating for years because they are high in dietary cholesterol, but a new study shows that eggs today contain a lot less cholesterol than they did a decade ago.

The drop in cholesterol may be because of changes in hens’ diets, the way the animals are bred or other factors, said Mitch Kanter, executive director of the Egg Nutrition Center, the research arm of the American Egg Board, which represents egg farmers.

Okay, off to my Googles. “Egg Nutrition Center”, here I come!

And holy cow (or should that be saintly chicken?) egg-cellent facts about eggs. They call it Egg trivia and have a section called “Egg-cetera” (snort):

• Europe has had domesticated hens since 600 B.C.
•The largest single chicken egg ever laid weighed a pound with a double yolk and double shell.
•The egg shell may have as many as 17,000 tiny pores over its surface. Through them, the egg can absorb flavors and odors. Storing eggs in the carton helps keep them fresh.
•To tell if an egg is raw or hard-cooked, spin it! If the egg spins easily, it is hard-cooked but if it wobbles, it is raw.

The story about the eggs reminded me of a diet discussed in a book titled The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Losing Weight, Being Healthy, and Feeling Younger . I read the book (and it’s sequel) years ago and it changed the way I looked at fat and protein and my own diet.

Dr. Diana Schwarzbein is an endocrinologist who spent time working with insulin-resistant patients with Type II diabetes. She noticed some things about the diabetic diet and found that low-fat diets cause heart attacks, eating fat makes you lose body fat, and it’s important to eat high-cholesterol foods every day.

Dr. Schwarzbein in her intro:

In medical training, I was taught that a low-fat diet high in complex carbohydrates prevented weight gain and disease. I believed what my professors said. Early on, I advocated low-fat diets. But this soon changed. I now teach my patients to balance their meals. Let me tell you how this all came about.[…]

I decided to see what would happen to my patients’ blood-sugar levels if I put them on a “zero”-carbohydrate diet. I asked them to eliminate all obvious carbohydrate foods, such as potatoes, rice, legumes, cereals, breads, fruit, low-fat yogurt, milk and, of course, refined sugar.

Because I did not want my patients to go hungry, I added some protein and fats back to their diet. At the time, I still thought that a low-fat diet was healthier, so I asked them to use low-fat dairy products, and to eat egg substitutes, mostly fish and chicken and small amounts of red meat. I also educated my patients about insulin levels. Eliminating obvious carbohydrates for one week would rapidly lower their insulin levels, and they would have to reduce their diabetes medicines accordingly to avoid low blood-sugar reactions.

One week later, the first group of patients returned for an evaluation. I looked at the blood sugar numbers they had recorded. Their progress was astounding. I said, “This is unbelievable!” Some confessed, “Dr. Schwarzbein, I’ve been cheating. I love red meat and when you said I could have some, I ate it every night for a week.”

The “cheaters” were eating real mayonnaise, real cheese, real eggs and steak every day-foods that had been forbidden for so long they could not resist them. Their blood-sugar numbers had fallen dramatically. In fact, the biggest improvements were seen in the patients who “cheated” the most.

This is the Schwarzbein diet in a nutshell:

Schwarzbein recommends avoiding “man-made carbohydrates”–processed carbs–in favor of those you could “pick, gather or milk.” She instructs patients to eat “as much good fat as their body needs”: eggs, avocados, flaxseed oil, butter, mayonnaise, and olive oil.

And here is what she said when asked about eggs, specifically, “Is it okay to eat eggs every day?”:

Yes. Cholesterol from foods reacts very differently in the body than the cholesterol created in your body does. It is the cholesterol that is created from excessive carbohydrate intake and unused energy sources that is damaging to your body and can increase your risk of heart disease. In addition, eggs are a good source of essential fatty acids, are a complete source of protein and contain almost every vitamin and mineral.

Turns out that it is actually not eating cholesterol that causes more to be produced in your body… the bad kind.

That book and that advice led me to change my diet and I feel I am much healthier than I was before I started re-introducing fats and cholesterol back into my meals.

And the best part? Food that tastes good turned out to be egg-zactly what the doctor ordered.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and I have not stayed at a Holiday Inn lately. Your results may vary.

(A version of this was originally posted on 02/10/2011 at BPI Campus)