The first thing that comes to our mind when we think of egg yellow is cholesterol! Growing up in a typical middle class Indian family, I used to listen to things like don’t eat too much ghee, egg white is protein and yellows are fat and are bad, possibly causing heart diseases. And our only saviours were sunflower oils like sundrop and saffola which would give us a healthy heart as per the TV commercials and news paper ads.
But as i started understanding nature better, while practising natural farming, somehow this fad of eating tasteless egg whites just did not seem in line with, what nature intended. So i started doing my research and tried getting to the root of this debate. After a decent research let me burst the biggest diet myth of the last few decades. Egg yolks are are not harmful. In fact they could be nature’s multivitamin if the chicken are raised in a natural way !
The demonisation of the egg can be traced back to what is called as the diet heart hypothesis based on the research of a scientist by the name Ancel Keys. Through his famous seven countries study he proposed a hypothesis that intake of saturated fats led to cardiovascular disease.
The hypothesis gathered momentum and Keys was featured on the cover page of TIME magazine and eventually it culminated in the famous food pyramid released by the USDA in 1992. The pyramid promoted sparing use of fats and oils, and struck a major blow to the consumption of the animal fats and eggs.
However there was a major debate on the diet heart hypothesis in terms of the of the study methodology and also the aberrations within the study results. The major argument was that the study only chose 7 countries while there was data available for 22 countries (anybody who has done a lab experiment would easily relate to this). Secondly there were anomalies like in the case of Greece (one of the 7 countries), the two islands Corfu and Crete ate the same amount of saturated fat, but the heart morality rate was 17 times more higher on Corfu than it was in Crete. One scientist who strongly opposed the diet heart hypothesis of John Yudkin. He presented contrary findings like the West Germans who ate as much fat as people of Finland had one third the heart disease rate of Finland.
Fast forward to the current day, there are some very interesting studies which indicate that the whole cholesterol link to heart disease is a myth. I would like to here introduce the concept of dietary cholesterol and serum or blood cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol is the cholesterol taken in the form of food like eggs and fats. An average egg has around 200mg of cholesterol. Serum or blood cholesterol is the level of cholesterol in the blood. Now what is the relation between the two? Almost insignificant is what the research says. To understand this better we need to understand some basics of cholesterol.
Cholesterol is produced by the liver in the human body as its essential for many bodily functions. If the body gets enough cholesterol through diet it just reduces the production of cholesterol. So it is safe to assume that dietary cholesterol does not result in increase of blood cholesterol unless taken in more than necessary quantities. So much so that the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines scientific report has done away with the 300mg per day limit on cholesterol.
The last nail in the coffin for the cholesterol heart disease theory was a study published by Sachdeva et.al which considered the cholesterol levels in 136905 patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease in the US between 2000 to 2006. The general assumption would be that their cholesterol levels would be well beyond the noral limits. However the result was on the contrary. About 75 percent had normal LDL (bad cholesterol) levels (under 130 mg/dl) and more than 50 percent had “optimal” LDL levels (under 100 mg/dl). Now any sensible person could infer from this that we were just barking up the wrong tree all this while. Having understood the background of demonisation of fats and eggs let us look at what we lost in the process, by throwing away our yolks.
deep orange egg yolk from free range birds at author’s farm
- Egg yolks are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D.
- Egg yolks contain B6 and B12, folic acid (B9), pantothenic acid (B5), and thiamin (B1). The yolks are also rich sources of vitamins A, E, K, and D. So egg yolks are natures’s multivitamins.
- And of course egg yolks have cholesterol which is essential for production of sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
- Eggs yolks are one of the best sources of choline (needed for brain health, cell membrane formation, and detoxification; it also protects against Alzheimer’s disease).
- Egg yolks contain lutein and zeaxanthin (which gives them their yellow color), antioxidants that help prevent premature blindness.
- The yolk contains more calcium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and zinc than the white.
One last word of caution though. When we eat animal products, we eat what they eat. So make sure the eggs come from free range farms that are free of antibiotics.
free range chicken and eggs at the author’s farm