Eggs: The Underrated Superfood
As runners we look for the most bang for our buck nutrition-wise when it comes to the food we ingest; not just from a cost perspective but a calorie count perspective. There always seems to be some kind of fad diet or food items that have new and amazing capabilities. Those who try the trends hope they not only provide all they promise but also actually taste good and often that’s not the case. It seems that on occasion real, traditional foods make a comeback in terms of their popularity as a heath food. It usually leaves everyone standing around the grocery store wondering why they haven’t been eating this food for years or why it somehow stopped being dropped into their grocery cart.
It seems like everything from food to your sleeping habits go through the cycle of ups and downs when it comes to its reputation. Foods that once had a horrible wrap for your health will become the new super-food a decade later. And one of those real, traditional foods that has had its ups and downs is the egg. Back in the 80’s people envisioned bright blue spandex clad body builders on Venice Beach drinking raw eggs for protein to fuel their workouts. These days it’s more mainstream to see eggs scrambled with avocado. Anyway you eat it, the egg is a real, whole food that’s cheap, good for you and should be a staple in a healthy runner’s diet.
Most of the nutrients in eggs are found in the yolk, not the egg white. If you are seeking the full health benefits you will want to include both the yolk and the white in your recipe. Eggs also rank very high on something called the satiety index which ranks how satisfied and full you feel after eating something. This is why when equal in calories, you often feel full longer after eating eggs. Eggs are low on the glycemic index and contain vitamins, minerals, protein and healthy fats along with Vitamin B12 (cobalamin), Vitamin B2 (riboflavin), Vitamin A, Vitamin B5 and selenium. They have almost every vitamin and mineral needed by your body, including calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, manganese, Vitamin E and folate all for a measly 75-80 calories in one large egg.
The Egg & the High Cholesterol Saga
Years ago, there was a huge concern that eggs raised your cholesterol. First, we need to understand cholesterol. Cholesterol is something your body needs and produces for itself. Additional cholesterol is gained from food. In most circumstances, dietary cholesterol has little to no impact on blood cholesterol levels.
It’s been shown over and over again that eggs are actually good for your cholesterol. They raise your good cholesterol or HDL. However, some studies do show an increased risk of heart disease in people with diabetes but a correlation should not be drawn for healthy individuals. Eating eggs on a regular basis results in larger LDL cholesterol particles. These larger versions of your “bad” cholesterol are better than the smaller versions that are less likely to cause cardiac trouble. Even more interesting, there is a unique protein found in egg yolks that blocks platelets from clumping together inside blood vessels.
Protein, Protein, Protein
When it comes to protein, eggs are perfect. All sources of protein are measured against the biological value which is the measure of protein quality. The biological values of protein substances are evaluated by comparing them to the biological value of eggs which have a value of 100. Part of the reason an egg is set at the pinnacle is because 1 egg contains all of the essential amino acids your body cannot produce by itself and needs. When your body cannot produce a necessary nutrient, it has to come from your diet. Plus, the egg contains all the amino acids needed to help aid in ensuring absorption into your body.
If you are seeking to get most of your protein from eggs, just like any source of protein, moderation and knowledge is key. Egg whites can be your best friend; they contain roughly half the protein with minimal fat, cholesterol and calories. For example if you mix three egg whites with one whole egg, you are getting roughly 15 g of protein and plus 1 nutrient-dense yolk without going overboard on anything.
How Eggs Fuel Your Run
When we run, a break down in your muscle fiber occurs and then it repairs itself becoming stronger. When your body is repairing it is in an anabolic state. Anabolism requires nutrients to do its job which is why it’s important that you eat nutritious food both before and after runs. Eggs are ideal because they have innumerable nutrients to aid in the repair of your muscles. Eggs also have a ton of choline; almost a third of your daily requirement. Related to your running, choline helps keep the body’s circulatory system free of things that would cause inflammation.
The healthy fats in eggs are beyond super. Omega-3 fatty acids include two essential fatty acids; alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These polyunsaturated fatty acids are pivotal in helping the body reduce levels of inflammation. Some egg brands tout high amounts omega-3 fatty acids in their eggs; however these are often gained by supplementing the hen’s diet with natural additives. Organic or free range chickens that are allowed to go to pasture result in eggs that are naturally high in omega-3 fatty acids from the food selection of the grazing bird; just food for thought when you purchase your eggs.
In addition to the nutritional benefits, the low calories of eggs and their many options for how they can be prepared allow for pre and post workout fuel without wrecking your waist line. This makes them ideal for a high or low mileage day.
Eggs are a super-food that are still trying to shake a bad rep received years ago that has been disproved and retracted by medical associations. They are cheap, easy and best yet, naturally occurring. Finding items to add into your diet that aren’t processed and are easy to find and easy on the wallet is always a win.