Egg Resources for Health Professionals

ENC serves as a resource for health professionals in need of current nutrition information to share with their patients.

Below are various tools available for professional education and/or to be shared with consumers.

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Free Range, Organic, Conventional and Everything In Between

Some many choices, so little time to research the facts. That’s often the conundrum the average shopper finds themselves in these days. We all want the best for our families, but what does “best” really mean? With respect to eggs, producers offer variety to consumers in the form of organic eggs and cage free eggs, among other choices. But is one type of egg really healthier than another? A quick primer on these issues may help:

To be considered organic, eggs must meet a set of national standards developed by the National Organic Standard Board. Organic eggs are produced by hens given feed without pesticides, herbicides, or commercial fertilizers. The use of hormones or antibiotics is also prohibited in birds that provide organic eggs. The rub is that commercial egg producers do not use hormones or antibiotics routinely anyway. So non-organic eggs are pretty much as “untainted” as their organic cousins. Further, non-organic eggs are every bit as nutritious as organic eggs.

Cage free eggs come from hens living in indoor floor facilities. These hens do not necessarily have access to the outdoors. While some folks prefer eggs produced by cage free birds because they feel these hens live more humanely, the fact of the matter is that modern cages are designed with the bird’s welfare in mind. In the hen house, birds are more readily protected from the elements, from diseases, and from natural and unnatural predators. The diet of the caged bird is also more well controlled, leading to the production of eggs of unmatched nutritional quality. Research has continually shown that the eggs produced by caged hens are at least as nutritious, if not more so, than eggs from birds that eat a less controlled diet. And, it should be pointed out that mortality rates are higher in hens living in cage free environments.

– Mitch

Give Eggs the Company they Deserve

When observing focus groups around the country which included physicians, nurses, dietitians and personal trainers it was interesting to see how these health professionals viewed eggs and dietary cholesterol.  Most health professionals felt eggs were a healthy food choice especially compared to available alternatives. In fact, it was often heard that eggs got a bad rap and they did not feel that the food deserved to be the icon of indulgence. What we heard is that eggs offered many valuable nutrients lacking in their patient’s diets and suggested an egg is a better choice than sweetened cereals, breakfast bars or donuts. What concerned most health professionals were what other foods people choose to eat with eggs. They generally agreed that eggs need to choose new friends and could be considered healthy if they weren’t accompanied by the saturated fat and sodium found in other breakfast foods. This striking misperception is often exemplified in restaurant menus that list egg white omelets accompanied by high fat and high sodium bacon or sausage with white toast as the healthy choice, giving the impression that egg yolks are the unhealthy element.

In fact, scientific research has shown that the egg yolk supplies about 40% of the high quality protein in an egg important for muscle building and retaining muscle especially when aging or losing weight. The yolk is also known as a naturally good source of vitamin D, lutein and choline, all nutrients that are needed for health. What makes eggs especially healthy is that they can be a great vehicle for eating vegetables and whole grains that supply many other important nutrients making an egg breakfast done right a great way to start the day. To me, the recent research that showed eating eggs at breakfast did indeed keep one satisfied for longer than an isocaloric bagel breakfast confirmed that eggs at breakfast is the healthiest choice to make.

~ Marcia

An Egg A Day is OK

Most of you have probably seen or heard some of the highlights of the recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines. With respect to healthy meal patterning, the Guidelines heavily stressed the inclusion of nutrient dense foods in the diets- foods that give you lots of nutrients, and not a lot of calories – foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and eggs. The Guidelines also indicate that we should de-emphasize the use of solid fats (mainly saturated and trans fats), simple sugars, refined grains and sodium. Nothing earth-shattering here, but a good reminder that the “4 S’s” (solid fats; starches; sugars; salt) can wreak havoc on our diet and our health if eaten in excess.

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From an Egg Nutrition Center perspective, we were heartened to see that the Guidelines, for the first time, actually indicate that eating an egg-a-day is OK. No doubt that this was an acknowledgment that eggs are a great source of high quality protein, and a great nutrient dense food.  Likely factoring into this conclusion as well were studies such as those by Qureshi et al (Med Sci Monitor. 2007; 13:CR1-8)   which indicated that regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of stroke or cardiovascular diseases; and Lee et al. (Brit Nutr Found 2006; 31:21-27) which indicate that eating eggs daily does not have significant impact on blood cholesterol or heart disease risk.

Often overlooked by the public, the Dietary Guidelines offer a treasure trove of good information about diet, health and nutrition in easy-to-understand language. If you’re interested, you can access the Guidelines via this link: 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

 It’s worth a look-see.

Eating morning protein keeps you fuller longer

We’re all creatures of habit, and most of us tend to fall into a rut a meal time. Particularly at the breakfast meal. When you’re tired and sleepy it’s easy to go with the patterns you’re familiar with, and if getting up in the morning, pouring a cup of coffee and reaching for the breakfast cereal is your general routine, you’re not alone. But maybe you should take more time to think about your meal choices, particularly if you’re trying to cut calories. Did you know that a recent British Journal of Nutrition study indicated that when subjects were on a lower calorie weight loss diet they tended to eat fewer calories at lunch when they consumed a higher protein breakfast? Or that subjects who drank skim milk in the morning rather than fruit juice ate 200 kcals less at lunch (Am J Clin Nutr 2009)? Or that overweight subjects lost 65% more weight when they habitually ate an egg-centric breakfast than peers who ate a high carbohydrate breakfast of equal calories (Int J Obesity 2008)?

If you know the literature in this area, none of this should be overly surprising in light of the fact that many studies suggest that protein is more satisfying than carbohydrate or fat. So it stands to reason that a higher protein meal in the morning might prompt you to eat less at subsequent meals. But high carb, sugar laden foods (think donuts and Pop Tarts) have been staples of the American diet for some time because they taste good, and they’re convenient. Good reasons to indulge, but poor choices if your waistline and your health are priorities. Something to think about next time you wake up in a fog and you head to the cupboard for the “old standbys.” Sometimes change is good, and changing your breakfast eating habits can yield positive results.

– Mitch

Program helps obese kids keep weight off long-term

Childhood obesity continues to be a major problem that afflicts many children in the US. According to the CDC, over 20% of the kids in America are considered obese, based on BMI. In spite of various high profile weight control programs recently developed to combat the epidemic, the sad fact is that overweight children tend to become overweight adults, and overweight adults are more prone to chronic disease conditions including CHD and Type 2 diabetes.

A recent study conducted at Yale University (MedlinePlus) offers some hope. In this long term project, overweight children participated in an intensive weight control program that included physical activity and frequent nutrition education. Initially, the children met twice per week to perform physical activity and attend classes on proper eating. After six months, they met twice per month. After two years, long after the activity and nutrition classes were curtailed, many of the kids who participated in the program maintained BMI. Control subjects who did not participate in the program continued to gain weight and increase their BMI. The moral of the story- -educational intervention in young, susceptible children may pay dividends. A cure for the epidemic? Hardly. But a step in the right direction. Certainly.

The recent Dietary Guidelines stressed nutrient density, among other things, as a way to eat healthier while consuming fewer calories. Relatively simple advise that by no means is a cure for the obesity epidemic. But it is sound advice. The Yale study is a good reminder that looking for foods and snacks that provide good nutrition without a lot of calories is the right thing to do for our kids. As parents, we’d do anything to protect our children’s health. Seeking nutrient dense food options is a form of health protection that is often overlooked.