The Egg Rethought with Dr. Beth Ricanati


            I am getting asked much more frequently if it’s ok to eat eggs, and if so, what kind of eggs? Yes! It’s ok to eat eggs, and when possible, pasture-raised organic is the way to go.  I eat eggs every single week.

            Big eggs, small eggs, brown eggs, white eggs, cage-free eggs, organic eggs?  I haven’t always given them much thought.  I just grabbed whatever eggs were at hand.  Then we moved across the country to southern California. I quickly discovered that not all eggs are created equal.  Once I got over my childhood memory to not eat too many eggs (too much cholesterol, or so I was told then, by non-doctor well-meaning family members), I had to get serious about what eggs to purchase.  I love eggs; I love them scrambled, in omelets, hard-boiled and soft-boiled (oh I could rhapsodize about the egg cups alone for a while).  Given a choice, I want brown eggs.  They seem more real to me, more authentic.  I want cage-free, organic brown eggs.

            I started to go to the farmer’s market weekly in my new home state, a state that I have come to learn provides much of our nations’ food. I hadn’t often thought about where our food actually came from.  I had been lulled into believing that lettuce came in a pre-sealed bag on a cooled shelf at the grocery store, that carrots naturally grew in to those tiny little bite-size pieces, that cucumbers had no taste, just a crunch-y sensation. It’s one thing to purchase these foods in a grocery store.  It’s quite another to be able to purchase them at a farmer’s market, fresh, in season.  Local.  Sometimes organic.  Maybe even from the farmer herself.  And these farmers-market eggs certainly taste different to me.  They alter the foods they are added to. 

            Buying these eggs directly, face-to-face, makes me feel like part of a community.  And in a new community, far away from my ‘roots’, I appreciate this.  I have always liked feeling part of a community.  I liked living in an apartment building in New York City; I liked seeing the different doormen everyday, or catching a glimpse of the beautiful family down the hall with children and dogs and the detritus of life spilling out their front door.  I liked dashing through the hospital corridors, recognizing so many people that I knew: the respiratory therapists and anesthesiologists and patient transporters and senior attending physicians and everyone in between.                   

            I like it when this egg farmer says, “See you next week.”  And she and I both know that she will.  I can’t always make it to the farmer’s market though; sometimes I have to settle for eggs from the grocery store.  Luckily, we have an abundance of organic, cage-free, sustainably raised-chicken eggs available to us.  My current fave even comes with a note tucked inside the carton.  Seriously.        

            Now that I know the health benefits of eggs, I want them all the time: nutrients like choline and protein and vitamin B12.  In fact, eggs contain every single B vitamin and a full complement of protein building blocks.  I care because this full-on protein helps me build muscle, and I plan on dancing at my children’s weddings so I need this muscle! And they are a low calorie food, with no carbs or sugars. All in all, almost a perfect food.

A complex relationship exists between cholesterol and eggs, but research is changing this: heart disease risk has now been shown to be related more to saturated and trans fats than to cholesterol.  We know that eggs fit into heart-healthy diet depending on health, age, individual genetics. So what to do: follow my favorite dictum – everything in moderation.  It’s not the egg; it’s often the other foods that we eat with it.  Take note, the Japanese eat the most eggs world wide and have the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease because their overall diet low in saturated fat.  You can lower your saturated and trans fat by reducing your meat and dairy consumption and avoiding – or at least limiting – fried foods and heavy sauces.