By Carol Harrison, RD
March is Nutrition Month in Canada, and it’s a great opportunity to remind your fitness clients and class participants about the synergistic effects of eating well and exercising. Don’t be surprised if they have questions – there’s a lot of conflicting and confusing nutrition advice out there.
Keeping up with developments in nutrition science is hard even for a dietitian, so to support you, I’m going to answer your food questions, starting with this article. If you have a question, DM me on Instagram @carolharrison.RD, and I’ll do my best to address it here.
Let’s kick things off with a food that’s been making headlines for decades: eggs! These nutrition powerhouses are packed with protein and 13 essential vitamins and minerals, plus they’re fast and easy to prepare – yet they’re also misunderstood. It’s time to crack a few myths.
Q: How many eggs can I eat in a week?
A: People who love eggs will be happy to know that Canadian health organizations such as the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Diabetes Canada do not recommend that healthy adults limit egg consumption.
In the past, restrictions on eggs were based on faulty understandings about how cholesterol from food affects cholesterol in our blood. The latest science shows that eating eggs has a minimal impact on blood cholesterol and does not increase heart disease risk. The most recent large studies have been based on one egg per day, and the American Heart Association guidelines expand this to two eggs per day for vegetarians and for older adults with normal blood cholesterol levels.
For personalized dietary advice, it’s best to recommend folks consult a registered dietitian.
Q: Is it okay to eat egg yolks?
A: Not only is it okay, but you should make a point of it: the yolk contains most of an egg’s nutrients—including vitamins A, B12, D and E—and half of its protein. Eggs are one of the few natural sources of vitamin D, which we need for immune function and healthy bones. Egg yolks are also among the best sources of choline—a nutrient essential for brain health—as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that have been linked to a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Why did people used to avoid egg yolks? They were concerned about cholesterol, but we now know that eating eggs has limited impact on blood cholesterol, and healthy adults need not limit egg consumption or skip the yolks. Research has also shown that eating whole eggs is better for muscle synthesis than eating egg whites alone, even if you get the same amount of protein. Go ahead, enjoy the whole egg!
Q: The grocery store has so many kinds of eggs. What are the differences?
A: Years ago, shoppers only had to make two decisions when buying eggs: brown or white, and medium or large. Today, you’ll find many more options. What do all the terms mean?
• Brown and white: These are the most common eggs at the grocery store. The eggshell colour depends on the breed of the hen; nutritionally, brown and white eggs are no different.
• Organic: Organic eggs come from hens that are fed certified organic feed and can range freely, with outdoor access.
• Free range: Hens can roam the barn floor and go outside at certain times of year, when weather conditions allow.
• Free run: Hens can move freely around the barn floor but may not have outdoor access.
• Vitamin enhanced: Hens are given feed with higher levels of either omega-3 fatty acids (usually in the source of flax seeds) or vitamin D, so their eggs also have more of these nutrients.
• Enriched colony: These eggs come from hens raised in small group settings with more space, nesting areas, and perches.
Bottom line: all eggs are nutritious, and regular brown and white eggs remain a healthy, convenient and satisfying choice for meals and snacks.
Check back in the upcoming months for more of your nutrition questions answered!