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Fitness Files: An egg a day is healthier than you may realize

April 10, 2014|By Carrie Luger Slayback

It never seemed right, sliding those egg yolks down the disposal. In the back of my mind, I knew it was wrong.

Still, what with the American Heart Assn. saying yolks were full of cholesterol and our family's heart history, I acted against my instincts.

I grew up on egg yolks. My mom prepared a soft-boiled egg for me every single school day along with perfectly toasted bread and a glass of O.J. To my consternation, I ate in front of Tanya Terry, a sixth-grade classmate who insisted upon picking me up for school, intruding on my breakfast and studying my every forkful.

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But this is not about irritating friends of 55 years ago; it's about irritating advice, which just turned around, 180 degrees. It turns out an egg a day with its protein, unsaturated fat, memory-preserving choline and eye-protecting lutein isn't such a bad breakfast choice.

According to Berkeley Wellness, a whole raft of studies came up with one conclusion: An egg a day doesn't elevate cholesterol, and "the B vitamins and other nutrients found in eggs may be beneficial to heart health." One reason is that the carotenoids in eggs are better absorbed than those in supplements or spinach.

Yes, there's lots of cholesterol in egg yolks, but the uptick in bad (HDL) cholesterol from eating eggs is offset by a corresponding elevation in good cholesterol (LDL). About one-third of the population is susceptible to elevated cholesterol count when they eat animal foods, but even if this group ate eggs frequently, their HDL/LDL ratio did not change, "which suggests no major change in coronary risk."

Now for the nuanced egg wisdom from the American Heart Assn. While there's a lot to be said for the nourishing egg, those who want an egg a day should be judicious with other sources of cholesterol. Don't have cream in your coffee or eat a packaged coffee cake or a big steak dinner. Berkeley Wellness tells it this way: The egg's exonerated but not if you fry it in lots of butter or eat it with bacon, sausage, cheese and biscuits.

The egg story is one more lesson in the golden rule of eating: Stick to the real food. Pick eggs, apples, kale and whole grain bread over anything in a box that reads "low fat," or a bag that crinkles when you pick it up. We're into nourishment here, not food-industry marketing.

So, you've got nothing to lose when you breakfast on an egg, whole grain toast, red grapefruit and a banana. Well, maybe you do — a few pounds.

Note to my readers: My goal with these columns is to inform. However, I do not speak from the point of view of a health professional or fitness instructor. I report what I read and what I put into practice, seeking out and identifying sources that I find reputable. Finally, I never preach or judge anybody's health practices. Just ask my husband, son or, especially, my daughter.

Newport Beach resident CARRIE LUGER SLAYBACK is a retired teacher who ran the Los Angeles Marathon at age 70, winning first place in her age group. Her blog is lazyracer@blogspot.com.

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