You know what one of my biggest pet peeves is? It’s being hungry. I grew up in the ’80′s which means I was part of the “low-fat” craze – fat is the enemy, avoid at all costs. So for the first half of my life, breakfast was usually a bowl of cereal with skim milk or maybe a plain bagel. Sometimes even the “low-fat” sugar laden bran muffin. Sounded healthy at the time. Of course that meant that I was always hungry, not to mention that I could never lose those last 10 pounds.
Fat, my friends, is not the enemy. In fact, the key to controlling hunger and keeping cravings far far away (which translates to weight loss) is to nourish your body with healthy fats and proteins. This 2009 study, for example, published in the British Journal of Nutrition concluded that eating more protein at breakfast is highly effective in reducing hunger throughout the day.
My top pick for a protein-packed energy sustaining breakfast? Eggs.
I love them boiled, I love them poached, I love them scrambled, I love them fried. Omelets? Yum! Frittata? Yes please! I enjoy eggs for breakfast at least 3-4 times/week. Usually I have two of them; if I’m training and my running volumes are high I sometimes have 3 because I’m that hungry. And remember, I hate being hungry.
Am I worried about the cholesterol? Nope. Am I worried about the calories? A definite nope. Here’s why.
Eggs are an inexpensive easy-to-digest protein that are quick and easy to prepare. The yolks are nature’s richest source of choline, a vital nutrient linked to brain health and optimal nervous system functioning. The yolk is also an excellent source of two powerful carotenoids linked to eye health: lutein and zeaxanthin. The antioxidant powers of these carotenoids offer a protective effect against one of Canada’s leading causes of blindness, macular degeneration. So please, pass on the egg-white omelet and eat the whole egg!
Need more convincing? OK, most concerns around eating eggs centre on the issue of cholesterol. There is much misinformation about the evils of cholesterol and how damaging it is to our bodies. Firstly, you should know that cholesterol serves several important functions and is a necessary component in our bodies. It is an essential building block for all of the following:
- healthy and flexible cell membranes that allow nutrients to flow in and wastes to flow out
- sex, steroid and stress hormones (including estrogen, testosterone, cortisol), all of which are necessary for proper body functioning
- bile acids, which we require to digest fat and fat-soluble vitamins
- natural production of Vitamin D, when it interacts with sunlight on our skin
Our bodies naturally produce cholesterol, because it is required for health. When you eat more cholesterol-containing foods, your body simply produces less.
Concerns about heart health and blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels are real, but pointing the finger at anti-inflammatory anti-oxidant rich foods like eggs doesn’t make sense. The real culprit behind excess LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) is the standard North American diet, a diet that is low in fibre and high in saturated fats, trans fats and refined sugars. The cause of heart disease is not the cholesterol from your eggs, but rather the inflammation that results from other diet and lifestyle choices. It is this inflammation that leads to a narrowing of the arteries and plaque adhesions that reduce blood flow. I’ll say it again: dietary cholesterol does not influence blood cholesterol levels.
If you are serious about controlling your cholesterol levels your focus should be on eliminating excess sugar, reducing saturated fat intake and increasing your fibre intake. By the way 1 egg contains only 1.5 grams of saturated fat, the rest being mono- and poly- unsaturated fats.
Soluble fibre (the kind you get from eating apples, chia and flax seeds, oatmeal, legumes) binds with excess cholesterol in the intestines and flushes it out of the body; so if you don’t consume enough fibre (which most people don’t) this cholesterol will be re-absorbed.
How else do you keep cholesterol in check? Well, be sure to eat a wide variety of colours (aka antioxidants) every day; exercise 4-5 times/week; eat your Omega-3′s (salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts).
And say yes to eggs for breakfast, lunch or anytime snacks.