Eggs are full of good nutrition. They are an excellent source of folate, vitamin B12 and riboflavin. Folate is particularly important since many people, particularly women, lack this nutrient in the diet. Folate helps build healthy red blood cells and may also prevent heart disease. Don’t forget about protein either! Eggs are not only an excellent source of protein, but the protein in eggs is the of highest quality. In fact, egg protein is often used as the gold standard to determine the protein quality of other foods. Eggs are also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin E and niacin. These nutrients, along with others, come conveniently packaged in one egg.
With just 70 calories in a large egg, this food can help you manage your weight. Maintaining a healthy body weight is especially important for people with diabetes. If controlling serving size is an important part of your eating plan, eggs are an easy choice. Mother Nature has conveniently served up a single-serving package – one to two eggs make up one serving according to Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating.
As with any science, the science of nutrition continuously changes as new information is discovered. As a result, the best eating plan for those with diabetes is constantly being revised. Nutrition researchers are discovering more about foods, the nutrients they contain and their links to health. For instance, the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin are found in certain foods such as eggs. They have been found to help prevent problems with eye health, such as cataracts and macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness in people over 65 years). Research on choline, a B vitamin found in some foods including egg yolks, shows it may be involved in brain development and memory retention. Pregnant women and seniors may want to include choline-rich foods in their diet.
Health Canada recommends 65 to 80 grams of fat a day for most adults. With one large egg containing just five grams of fat, eggs can easily be a part of a lower-fat diet. For those with diabetes, including eggs in the diet can help keep blood fat levels in check.
As with many foods, the concern is not the egg itself but rather how it is prepared and served. For instance, hard-cooked, poached or scrambled eggs are lower-fat options. With its pastry crust, the classic Quiche Lorraine is better left for infrequent occasions!
Any lingering doubts about the high cholesterol content of eggs have been put to rest by researchers. Dietary cholesterol has a minimal impact on blood cholesterol. It is much more important for people to focus on their total fat intake and the types of fats that they are eating, says Loretta Tetarenko, a dietitian at the Hypertension and Cholesterol Centre, Calgary Health Region.
A heart-healthy diet is lower in fat. It contains more poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats and less saturated and trans-fats. Eggs fit the bill nicely, as most of the fat in an egg is poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated, with little saturated and no trans fat. Talk to your diabetes educator, registered dietitian or doctor about diet and activity ideas to help you maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels.
A healthy diet is a balanced diet. It should contain a variety of and moderation in all foods. Eggs can add variety to your protein choices – for breakfast, lunch or dinner. When it comes to eggs, what is moderate? More and more research is showing that consumption of up to one egg a day has no detectable effect on heart disease risk in healthy people. Talk to your diabetes management team about what intake of dietary cholesterol is right for you.
The egg case in grocery stores today has more egg choices than ever before. What are they and how do they differ?
White or brown-shelled eggs have differences that are only ‘shell deep’. Brown eggs come from hens with brown feathers while white eggs are from white-feathered hens. Both types have exactly the same nutrition and calorie content.
Omega-3 enhanced eggs are from hens fed a diet that includes, in part, flaxseed. These eggs have more omega-3 fatty acids. This is a type of fat associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Vitamin E can be higher in omega-3 eggs as well. The cholesterol content of omega-3 eggs is very similar to that of regular eggs.
Organic eggs are from hens fed certified-organic grains. The nutritional value is the same as regular eggs. Free-run eggs are from hens that can move about the floor of the barn and have access to nesting boxes and, quite often, to perches as well. Free-range eggs are similar to free-run eggs, but hens also have access to outdoors (weather permitting). Free-run and free-range eggs have the same nutritional value as regular eggs.
Vitamin-enhanced eggs are from hens fed a nutritionally-enhanced diet. This diet contains higher levels of certain nutrients such as vitamin E, folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. As a result, these eggs contain higher levels of these nutrients.
Liquid or frozen eggs (in the egg or frozen food case) are eggs that have been shelled and pasteurized. Sometimes, they have other ingredients added to them. Once a package of these processed eggs is opened, the shelf life is the same as shell eggs that you have broken and refrigerated or frozen.
Just as new discoveries constantly change the science of nutrition, they also change our lives. When we go through personal changes – such as being diagnosed with diabetes – our food choices may change too. Do you need more easy-to-prepare, nutritious and affordable meals? Do you need foods that are easy to chew? Including eggs in your diet – whether for breakfast, lunch, dinner or snacks – can be a healthy protein choice for you.