Find out why eggs are the gold standard when it comes to protein.

Find out why eggs are the gold standard when it comes to protein. If there’s one food that’s developed an undeserved reputation over the years for being bad for your health, it’s eggs.

Eggs are an excellent, inexpensive source of high-quality protein — so high, in fact, that egg protein is the gold standard nutritionists use to rank all other proteins. What makes the protein in eggs so superior? It contains all of the essential amino acids (the ones your body can’t make on its own) in just the right proportions.

Because they’re all protein and fat, eggs have no impact on your blood sugar, making them a much better breakfast choice than, say, a stack of white-flour pancakes. And like all protein foods, they may help control your appetite by keeping you full longer. One study found that women who ate two eggs with toast at breakfast felt less hungry before lunch and ate significantly fewer calories during the rest of the day than those who ate a bagel and cream cheese that provided the same number of calories.

Now, about eggs and cholesterol. Yes, it’s true, eggs have a lot of it — about 213 milligrams — all in the yolk. It’s also true that if you have diabetes, your heart health should be a top priority. But dozens of studies have found that it’s saturated fat, not cholesterol, that has the greatest effect on blood cholesterol, so eating eggs in moderation is just fine. For people with elevated cholesterol or those who are especially sensitive to the cholesterol in foods (for some people, cholesterol levels do rise after eating a cholesterol-rich meal), experts recommend eating no more than three or four egg yolks a week. Egg whites, which contain no cholesterol, don’t count.

Health Bonus
Egg yolks are one of the few foods naturally rich in vitamin D, a much-needed vitamin that few of us get enough of. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium
and has recently been linked with lower risks of various cancers to boot. Eggs are also a surprisingly good source of bone-building vitamin K. Plus, they’re loaded with lutein (the chickens get it from their feed), which helps protect against macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older folks. Eggs also contain choline, a compound that animal studies suggest could help improve your memory as you age. Some studies found that giving extra choline to pregnant rats created better-functioning brain cells in their babies.

Glycemic Load: Very low

If you have an egg tray in your refrigerator door, ignore it. Eggs stay fresh best if you keep them in their original container, pointed ends down. Don’t buy eggs sold at room temperature at the store. Eggs age more in a single day at room temperature than they do in a week when stored in the fridge.

You know that eating raw or undercooked eggs carries a risk of salmonella poisoning. The risk is lower than you might think (about 1 in 20,000 eggs carries the gut-wrenching bacteria), but it’s not worth taking a chance. You have two options: Eat only thoroughly cooked eggs (that means no eggs “over easy” and no Caesar salad made with raw eggs) or buy pasteurized eggs, which have been warmed enough to kill any salmonella bacteria but not enough to cook the egg.

Menu Magic
Like the chickens they come from, eggs are one of nature’s most versatile foods. And they’re not just for

  • Keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge for a perfect protein-rich snack.
  • For lunch, have an egg salad sandwich (made with low-fat mayonnaise) on whole wheat bread. Add chopped pickles to lower the glycemic effect of the bread. Or sprinkle on some turmeric, another Magic food (also good on scrambled eggs).
  • Serve a frittata for dinner (think of it as Italian egg pie). You can add almost anything to your frittata, such as lean ham, diced tomato, spinach, and goat cheese. Use 1 to 2 cups of filling for every four or five eggs.
  • Prepare deviled eggs with low-fat mayonnaise, chopped pickles, chili powder or paprika, and mustard powder. Grill some French toast for breakfast. Dip whole wheat bread in a mixture of egg, cinnamon (another Magic food), vanilla, and milk, then spray the skillet with oil, add the bread, and cook. The protein and fat in the egg will help blunt the blood sugar impact of the bread.
  • Pickle some eggs in vinegar, another Magic food. You get the benefit of high protein plus the blood sugar–lowering power of vinegar.

Perfect Portion: 1 to 2 eggs
A large egg serves up about 75 calories and 5 grams of fat, less than 2 grams of it saturated. The fat and cholesterol are all in the yolk. You can enjoy a two-egg omelet with a piece of whole grain toast, and your breakfast will still be reasonably low in calories as long as you don’t load it up with butter and cheese. Studies find that even two eggs a day have no effect on cholesterol in most people. Replace one of the eggs with two egg whites if you like.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest