Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Egg Beaters or Real Eggs?

Egg Beaters and Cholesterol Confusion

Posted: 19 Aug 2010 05:08 AM PDT

One of the problems with nutrition science is that it changes every once in a while when new research come in, but it takes the public a long time to readjust its mindset. The result is mass confusion regarding what's truly healthy. Eggs were historically considered a nutrient rich food that were an essential part of culinary traditions the world over. But when scientists discovered cholesterol – and the high cholesterol count in eggs – this basic staple was vilified and shunned.

Cholesterol is fatty waxy substance that occurs in all animal tissues, including humans. It is produced in the liver and travels around the body in our blood. Our body needs cholesterol to maintain cell membrane structure, but too much of it can cause heart disease. All of the cholesterol in an egg is in the yolk.

In the past decade or so, science has shown that for most people, blood cholesterol levels are barely influenced by dietary cholesterol (the cholesterol in food), but rather by saturated fats and trans fats in the food. Which means that eggs have been getting a bad rap unnecessarily.

Our body manufacture 3000mg of cholesterol a day. The maximum recommended allowance of cholesterol from food is just one tenth of that – 300 mg. What causes the body to create more cholesterol is the saturated fats we consume, not the cholesterol.

One of the more popular products that were created to combat the high level of cholesterol in eggs, Egg Beaters has been around for almost 40 years. But now that we know what we do, is it still relevant?

Let's diver deeper into the details, and compare an egg to an Egg Beater…

What you need to know:

Egg Beaters, if you're not familiar, are egg whites with a "bonus", in a milk carton, courtesy of Con Agra Foods.

We're going to compare 1 Extra Large Egg to a serving of egg beaters (EB). The serving is actually composed of 2 egg whites. Here are the numbers:

  • Calories: Egg = 71   EB = 30
  • Fat: Egg = 5 grams  EB = 0
  • Saturated Fat: Egg = 2 g  EB = 0  (2 g is 10% of the daily value)
  • Cholesterol: Egg = 211 mg   EB = 0
  • Protein: Egg = 6 g  EB = 6 g as well (egg whites have 3 g of protein, yolks have 3 as well)

The numbers seem definitely in favor of Egg Beaters. Now lets look at the ingredients.

An egg contains one ingredient:


Egg beaters contain 20 ingredients:

Egg Whites, Less than 1%: Natural Flavor, Color (Includes Beta Carotene), Spices, Salt, Onion Powder, Vegetable Gums (Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum), Maltodextrin. Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Sulfate, Iron (Ferric Phosphate), Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol Acetate), Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamine Mononitrate), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin D3

Egg Beaters took the yolk away to remove most of the fat and the cholesterol. But because egg yolks make the egg taste better, the company had to compensate. Hence "Natural Flavor" which is a trade secret (hint: MSG is suspect). Hence spices, unspecified. They also added the gums as thickeners to add body to the egg whites. Ever tried making scrambled eggs with just egg whites? No body or fluff. Why in the world do they add a sweetener (maltodextrin) used for candy?

There are a whole bunch of added vitamins and minerals that try to mimic what was lost with the removal of the egg yolk. For example a single egg yolk contains 13% of the DV for vitamin A. Egg beaters throws in 15%.

The problem with this nutrient specific approach is that science has yet to identify hundreds of other nutrients and their interaction amongst each other when naturally present in a food. Selecting a few nutrients and focusing on them instead of on a whole food is part of a larger problem in the US food food system today.

But what about the saturated fat in an egg? Yes, you'll be paying 10% of your daily value for saturated fat if you eat an egg. But compared to the other sources of saturated fat in many people's diets (snacks, snacks, and more snacks) this is an excellent choice.

What to do at the supermarket:

If you are suffering from very high levels of blood cholesterol, the best thing to do is consult with a health professional, ideally a physician AND a registered dietitian. But if you are like most people, you need to eat a diet with more REAL food. Eggs are real food. And the price you pay in saturated fat per egg is a real bargain compared to all the real nutrients you will be getting.
We're not saying that egg beaters can't be a solution for very specific people, but for the most part an egg a day is a great way to pack in protein and nutrients in a relatively small and low calorie (70!) package. Whichever you choose, don't prepare in a ton of butter or oil!

At the supermarket, choose foods low in saturated fat and without trans-fats. Don't fret too much over the cholesterol levels as their impact is much lower than once thought.

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