Unscrambling Eggs

My Egg Story.

For most of my life I had a weak stomach. I could be driving, at a movie, out for dinner, or on a date and suddenly for no apparent reason my intestines were in knots and I had to find a bathroom urgently. I just accepted this as a normal part of life. Many of my friends experienced similar issues from time to time. I did not even consider that this was far from normal.

That all changed in 2009. My amazing naturopathic doctor helped me figure out the cause of all my stomach woes. I had a food sensitivity test done which can help to identify foods that might be problematic. One food in particular showed up as highly sensitive for me: eggs. I was pretty bummed out as eggs were a staple in my diet. Why couldn’t I be sensitive to beets, turnip, or some other vegetable that I wouldn’t miss in my diet?

I went ahead and cut eggs out of my diet. Brunch was no longer enjoyable for me. Within about 2 weeks I noticed something miraculous: my stomach and intestines felt better than I ever remember in my whole life. Simply amazing!

For 6 months I managed to avoid eggs completely and I never had any stomach pain. 30-odd years of suffering gone just like that! I then decided to try having some eggs at brunch one day. Within hours I was writhing in agony. Back to avoiding eggs. I tried the same test again in 6 months with the same disastrous results.

Fast forward 2 more years. I was egg-free and stomach-pain free. Life was great. But I still missed eggs. I was at a farmers market and saw some beautiful farm fresh pasture-raised organic eggs. I felt a pull inside me to try them. I decided to buy a dozen and take a chance. These were the most amazing eggs I’d ever seen with their bright orange yolks, far different from the supermarket omega-3 eggs I ate in years past. I cooked up an omelette with my farm fresh eggs and devoured it. I stayed home that day, waiting for the pain to start. Nothing happened. I felt great.

I continued to eat farm fresh pastured eggs regularly with no problems. Life was grand.

One day last year, I was out for brunch with some friends. I ordered a nice goat cheese omelette. It was delicious. But, a few hours later my gut was in severe pain. I had forgotten that most restaurants use conventional eggs.

How could my body react so differently to conventional eggs compared to pastured eggs? Well, it turns out they are drastically different. I consider them a different food. More on this in a bit.

After reading my story, you might be asking yourself are eggs even healthy? Why am I so concerned with eating eggs? After all there have been so many reports in the media about the dangers of eating too much cholesterol and saturated fat.

Egg Myths and Facts.

Myth 1: Eggs are not healthy.

Fact: For most people, eggs are a very healthy part of their diet (assuming you’re eating the right type of eggs–more on this later in the article.) Eggs are a very good source of a variety of nutrients including protein, healthy fats, vitamins A, B2, B12, beta-carotene, and the minerals iodine and selenium. Eggs in particular support increased energy, healthy brain function, and good eyesight.

Myth 2: Eggs will raise my cholesterol.

Fact: For the majority of us (around 70%), this is not true. Our bodies make about 85% of the cholesterol we need (notice the word “need” — our body needs cholesterol, more on this shortly). The other 15% comes from our diet. Most of us automatically balance our total cholesterol by reducing how much our body makes based on how much is consumed from food. For people that aren’t able to self-regulate cholesterol production, they may need to consume fewer cholesterol-rich foods.

Note that cholesterol plays an essential role in maintaining good health. It is required for key bodily functions such as creating steroid hormones, creating healthy cell membranes, creating bile for digesting fats, and is essential for the production of vitamin D from sunshine.

Myth 3: Eggs contain saturated fat which is bad.

Fact: Eggs do contain some saturated fat, but only about 1-2 grams per egg. Saturated fat from healthy sources (think coconut oil, grass-fed butter, grass-fed beef, etc.) is very healthy in moderate amounts. The saturated fat in eggs is fairly easily digested and makes for a great source of energy. Not to mention that your brain is about 70% fat and a healthy brain requires a variety of saturated fats. I consider eggs brain food.

Eggs do contain a variety of other fats such as omega-3, omega-6, and oleic (the same fat found in olive oil.) These fats also play an important role in maintaining good health.

Myth 4: It is healthier to eat egg whites.

Fact: Egg whites are mainly protein along with small amounts of vitamins and minerals. The yolk contains all the good stuff: fats, vitamins, and minerals. Consume whole eggs to get the most health benefits.

Eggs come in all different shape, sizes, and colours.

Eggs come in all different shapes, sizes, and colours.

Types of Eggs.

There are many different types of eggs available, but they don’t all contain the same nutrients. Here is a list of a few of the major variety of chicken eggs:

  1. Organic Pastured (Free-range) Eggs: These come from chickens that roam free in the nice weather and eat whatever they naturally find such as bugs, grass, clover, and alfalfa. The plants have not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides.  These chicken are not given antibiotics or hormones and they are humanely raised. These are the healthiest eggs to eat. You can find them at farmers markets, health food stores, and some grocery stores. You can also get them directly from a farm.
  2. Organic Eggs: The chickens may not have had access to the outdoors regularly during their lifetime. These chickens are typically fed organic grains, but may get to spend limited time eating from a pasture. These are a good choice if organic pastured eggs aren’t an option for you.
  3. Conventional (Factory Farmed) Eggs: These chicken are often raised indoors in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions (meaning a higher risk of salmonella). They may have no access to the outdoors during their lifetime. They are fed practically anything from non-organic corn and soybeans to animal products. These eggs can contain traces of pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals. Avoid these eggs.
  4. Omega 3 Eggs (organic or non-organic): These eggs come with health claims of higher omega-3 fat content. While this may true, the source of the omega-3 fats may not be healthy. They are fed anything, but a source of omega-3 fats such as flax meal makes up a high percentage of the feed. The flax or other feed may have been poorly handled and processed, resulting in rancid omega-3 fats in these eggs. Rancid fats are a major factor in poor health. Avoid these eggs.

Enjoy eggs as a regular part of a healthy diet. Poached, over easy, and scrambled are my favourite cooking methods. Just be sure to buy the best quality eggs you can find or afford.