When an Egg is not an Egg: What’s on your breakfast plate?
Today let’s talk about eggs. I love them. I eat them almost every day. In many ways they are among nature’s most perfect and complete foods. And yet, an egg is not always an egg. How naked is your morning breakfast? Well that depends on just what kind of eggs you choose.
When it comes to eggs, the most important things to consider are the health and life of the chicken who laid it, and what we do to it before it gets to our breakfast plate.
1. Where did this egg come from?
The most naked is an egg from a pastured chicken who eats grass, pecks at grubs and insects, and is allowed to roam. The egg from this chicken is rich in nutrients, its yolk a deep, dark yellow and packed full of the good stuff. Mother Earth News compared the nutritional profile of these pastured eggs to those from conventionally farmed chickens, and found they had:
- 4 to 6 times the vitamin D content
- 2/3 more vitamin A content
- twice the Omega-3 fatty acid content
- 3 times more vitamin E, and
- 7 times more beta carotene
Wow. That egg packs some punch. This egg is definitely an egg.
At the other end of the spectrum is the egg from a factory farmed chicken. Here we’re talking about chickens kept indoors, not allowed to engage in their natural behaviors, not fed their natural diet, and dosed regularly with antibiotics and hormones. Eggs from these chickens are a pale comparison to their nutrient-dense, pastured counterparts. Not so naked.
Of course there are various stages in between these two extremes. I go into a full explanation in Chapter 6 of my book, Eat Naked, if you’d like the full skinny on the source of your eggs.
2. What happened to my egg?
Regardless of where your egg came from, when it comes to keeping it naked, we want to eat the whole egg. Yes, folks, even the yolk. See that list of vitamins above? Every single one of those is found in the yolk, not the white. It’s the most nutrient dense part of the egg, and the fat in it is essential for your body to access all those nutrients, which are fat soluble. You also need that fat to properly digest the protein in the egg white. A naked egg is a whole egg.
In a misguided attempt to void our diets of fat and cholesterol, the egg yolk was demonized and egg whites were all the rage. Sadly, this trend caught on and still hangs tight in some circles. But what about the cholesterol in the yolk? you ask. Shouldn’t we avoid it as much as possible?
Let me share a few mostly-ignored facts about this maligned nutrient. Cholesterol is vitally important and responsible for many crucial functions in your body, only one of which is to provide repair material for arterial damage. This damage is the result of inflammation, which occurs with diets heavy in sugar and processed foods, not with dietary intake of cholesterol. In fact, your body creates its own cholesterol, so if you eat more your body produces less, or if you eat less your body produces more. So please, eat the whole egg, cholesterol and all. An egg white isn’t whole, and thus isn’t naked.
And now we come to the liquid egg product. Capitalizing on our collective fear of fat and cholesterol and our never-ending desire for things to be quick and easy, several of these products came on the market, shouting loudly from the refrigerated shelves their claims of zero fat, zero cholesterol, and thus the implicit zero guilt. Here, we have taken a beautifully simple and nutrient-rich food, liquefied it, pasteurized it, removed the most important nutrients, added all sorts of preservatives, emulsifiers, colorings and flavors (even sugar!), and then marketed it as a healthier option than the original. This, my friends, is the food industry at its most devious. A truly perfect and naked food disassembled, rearranged, and reassembled into a shadow of what it once was. This egg is absolutely NOT an egg.
And so we go from a natural, whole food to a a far lesser version, guided by misinformed trends or commercial interests hiding in nifty marketing, and we see that an egg is not always an egg. What eggs are you eating?
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