Manic Monday: Egg Whites

April 18, 2011

Today’s post will be a bit of a doozy, so I’ll do my best to keep it short. In fact, I’ll pretty much outsource the majority of the post.

Here’s what we’ll be discussing today:

  1. Egg Yolks offer a superb nutritional profile.
  2. Cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease.
  3. If you’re going to ditch half of your hard-earned eggs, make it the white part.

Simon says…Jump!

What makes this subject so manic? The recommendations of low-fat diet promoters like Dr. Oz and Dean Ornish is that egg yolks should be avoided or limited, because they contain cholesterol (which causes heart disease). This leads to the culinary atrocity that is the egg white omelette.

The nutrition profile of one egg, courtesy of FitDay (as % of RDA) (click to enlarge):

First thing of note, in my opinion, is that fat is notably absent from this figure. Just as well, as the RDA for fat is absurdly low. You can see eggs are fully loaded with beneficial nutrients. Check out this post on MDA for more. Too bad all that cholesterol will kill you…or not.

Chris Kresser, of The Healthy Skeptic, started his blog as a result of the alleged cholesterol – heart disease link. He does a wonderful job debunking the theory that cholesterol causes heart disease, which I’ll do my best to summarize succinctly here. (Right after I finished writing this, I came across a great two-video presentation on the topic. Mandatory.)

Dietary intake of cholesterol does not cause an elevation of blood cholesterol. Total blood cholesterol is not a good indicator of heart disease risk. The only blood lipid measures with any correlation to heart disease are HDL, Triglycerides, and small, dense LDL. Low HDL is bad. High Triglycerides and small dense LDL are bad; these are both elevated by consumption of refined carbohydrate.

This is by no means an exhaustive catalogue of the argument exonerating dietary cholesterol of the slanderous claims brought against it, and anyone with any interest in the topic should look at Kresser’s full series.

Looking at eggs specifically, egg consumption actually shifts the LDL particle size favorably, meaning that more of the LDL is large and fluffy. This is actually beneficial in avoiding heart disease.

So we’ve cleared egg yolks for human consumption. Now what’s wrong with the whites?

I am by no means suggesting that one should avoid egg whites (I eat them almost every day), but if one were to have an adverse reaction to egg consumption, it would be due to the whites. In fact, Robb Wolf suggests that those with leaky gut or severe digestive issues minimize egg consumption due to chemicals in the whites.

From Loren Cordain’s Lysozyme from Egg Whites:

Egg white allergy in the general population varies between 1.6 – 3.2% and is the second most common cause of food allergy in children next to milk. … The major allergens in egg white are ovomucoid, ovalbumen, ovotransferrin and lysozyme. So for the vast majority of children and adults (98.4 – 96.8% of the population), egg white allergy is not a problem, and except for anaphylactic shock is not a debilitating or life threatening condition.

The basic idea is that egg whites have antimicrobial properties to protect the potential future chick-to-be from bacteria and fungal growth, but they can present issues for sensitive stomachs. Also, egg whites contain avidin, which can block the absorption of biotin. Avidin is neutralized in the cooking process, so probably best to cook the majority of your eggs.

Now you know that eggs are “a healthy part of a balanced breakfast.” Next time someone tries to steal your yolk, yell “Leggo my eggs!”

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