Scrambled Messages

A snow day on Friday, followed by a blissfully not-over-scheduled weekend, allowed for three days in a row of being able to do a little better than cold cereal for breakfast.  Homemade whole grain waffles on Friday, scrambled eggs topped with chili and arugula on Saturday, slowly cooked oatmeal with cinnamon, vanilla, a touch of honey, and a dollop of low-fat vanilla ice cream and fruit garnish on Sunday.  I love the luxury of morning cooking time!

But the whole breakfast thing can be a little confusing, health-wise.  Are eggs “good for you” or “bad for you?”  My ancestors in New Jersey and Philadelphia grew up on eggs.  They’re full of protein.  Good for you.  At some point, the health effects of cholesterol were noted.  Eggs contain cholesterol.  Bad for you.  Researchers later figured out that dietary cholesterol itself didn’t necessarily affect your blood cholesterol level as much as saturated fat.  Eggs only have a gram or two of saturated fat each.  Not really bad for you in moderation.  More research that eggs help raise “good” cholesterol.  Good for you.  Recent study out of Canada that says eggs are second only to smoking in association with heart disease.  Bad for you.

The studies conflict.  But none of the studies are “prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled” studies (the gold standard of science).  There are laboratory studies, and there are correlational observation studies.  The results of lab studies might not hold out in real life.  The correlations observed in real-life observational studies (such as the Canadian study showing higher consumption of egg yolks in people with higher levels of cardiovascular disease) might not be cause-and-effect, but might actually both be effects of a third factor (i.e. an entirely different cause).

So what, pray tell, are we supposed to do?  This type of situation rears its head frequently.  If I took every study to be ultimate truth, I’d end up starving to death in a sea of confusion and fear.  So here’s how I decided to deal with eggs:

I buy a lot of eggs.  My family eats a lot of egg whites, and a few yolks.  There are lots of nutrients in the yolks.  There is cholesterol and saturated fat in the yolks.  The yolks lend a richness to the flavor of egg dishes and baked goods.  The whites are full of protein, have some other nutrients, and are a good binding agent in baked goods.  If I’m making a banana cake that’s going to feed 15 people and the recipe calls for 3 eggs, I go ahead and use whole eggs.  If I’m making scrambled eggs for my family of 5, I’ll use 4 or 5 whole eggs and an additional 12 to 15 whites.  When I make egg salad, I use a similar ratio to what I use in a scramble.  And we’ll have that type of egg meal maybe once or twice a week, and maybe a whole grain waffle or pancake meal (which will use a total of 2 or 3 eggs in the whole batch) once a week.

So we get protein from the whites, some of the nutrients and rich flavor from the yolks, and not a lot of the fat or cholesterol.  If enough research is done to show overwhelming evidence of either the danger or the benefits of consuming egg yolks, I won’t have to feel guilty for either having poisoned my family or having completely deprived them of essential nutrition.  Eggcellent!



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