Eggs can be one of the healthiest foods for people with diabetes to eat. But some people still doubt that fact. And the way many of us prepare them aren’t healthy.
One large fresh, whole, raw egg has just 72 calories. It has a bit more than 6 grams of protein, a bit less than 5 grams of fat, and less than one-third of a gram of carbohydrate, according to the USDA’s National Nutrient Database. No wonder that those of us who follow the low-carb lifestyle usually eat eggs.
Eggs have complete protein with an optimal balance of the nine essential amino acids. The fats are largely monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The carbohydrates don’t include any sucrose or fructose.
Yet some people are still concerned about the amount of cholesterol in eggs. A large one has 186 mg. The standard diet that our doctors have been recommending for decades is to consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day.
However, some of the most advanced medical minds know that the cholesterol we eat has little effect on our blood levels of cholesterol, high levels of which supposedly lead to heart disease. Actually, more than 20 years ago The New England Journal of Medicine reported that an 88-year-old man regularly ate 25 eggs a day and had a normal cholesterol level. Then, the influential Framingham Heart Study found "no relationship between egg intake and coronary heart disease."
Our bodies need cholesterol to synthesize bile acids, which are necessary to digest fat. But our bodies keep losing some of these bile acids. "To make up for this, the liver synthesizes approximately 1,500 to 2,000 mg of new cholesterol a day," according to The Great Cholesterol Myth by Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra, M.D, which I reviewed at "Cholesterol Myths" here. As Drs. Bowden and Sinatra write, "Clearly, the body thinks you need that cholesterol."
But not all eggs are created equal. The best eggs are pasture raised and omega-3 enriched.
I make sure that the eggs I buy are not only cage-free but also pasture raised. "The vast majority of egg-laying hens in the United States are confined in battery cages," according to the Humane Society. On average, each caged laying hen is afforded only 67 square inches of cage space."
When we eat omega-3 enriched eggs, we give a little boost to our ratio of non-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids to inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. I’ve written here many times about these two fats, and perhaps my most useful post about them was "Cutting Back on Omega-6."
But how we prepare the eggs we eat matters just as much. After years of eating fried eggs, I learned this from Dr. Ron Rosedale.
"The yolk of the egg is high in fat and very vulnerable to oxidation," he writes with Carol Colman in The Rosedale Diet. This is "especially so in high-omega-3 eggs, and especially if it is cooked at very high temperatures. Therefore, I do not recommend cooking methods for eggs that produce excess heat (such as frying). Egg yolks should always be cooked under water where the temperature cannot exceed 212 degrees F., and where they are less likely to be exposed to oxygen. Eggs can be poached, soft-boiled, or slightly hard-boiled."
Of these three methods I have always preferred poached eggs. But the traditional way of cooking them – by placing them directly in a pot of boiling or simmering water – doesn’t cut it for me. Too messy with too much of the egg white lost to the pot.
Instead, for my usual daily breakfast of two poached eggs (and four ounces of smoked salmon plus a little kimchi) I have used several types of egg cups that float in the hot water. The type that I like best is a set of two stainless steel poach pods that I bought at my local cookware store. However, Amazon sells the same set.
I cook the eggs in simmering – not boiling – water in a covered pot for about five minutes, although we all have different preferences on how firm we like our eggs. When I initially lubricate the poach pods with a little oil and press down on the sides of the cooked eggs, they come out easily.
The last step before enjoying my breakfast is seasoning the eggs. Many herbs and spices bring out the flavor of eggs, but my current favorites are salt (necessary on a very low-carb diet), curry powder, and Tapatio hot sauce.
Finally, I want to thank a reader who I happened to meet last month at Florida’s Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. She asked me to write about new foods that I have discovered. Since I have already written about my latest discovery, natto, this post is about an old food that I have discovered some new facts about. This one’s for you, Maureen.
David Mendosa is a journalist who learned in 1994 that he has type 2 diabetes, which he now writes about exclusively. He has written thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and publishes the monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, current A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 keep his diabetes in remission without any drugs. He can be found on Twitter @davidmendosa and on Facebook at David Mendosa.