Your Brain On Eggs

This post first appeared on May 21, 2016.  With more research coming out about the benefits of Omega-3, which the egg provides as one of the best sources, I thought it was worth re-posting.  There are other sources of Omega-3, of course, and I will write more on current research on those sources in the future.

 

Your brain on eggs

Eating a balanced diet is important at any age. My mother used to hand me words of wisdom like, “you are what you eat” and “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” I guess that’s why I was never one to skip breakfast. One of the worst habits at any age, but even worse as we get older, is skipping breakfast. A cup of coffee won’t give you what you need. After all, breakfast is short for breaking the overnight fast.

For years and years I started my day eating eggs. However, after learning about my skyrocketing cholesterol numbers, I changed my eating habits to limit my egg consumption. Because they are believed to raise cholesterol in the body, eggs got a bad rap for many years. At one time, I totally gave up eggs for breakfast for an entire six months. Instead I ate oat based cereals. Anticipating a lower cholesterol number, I was shocked when my doctor told me my number dropped only one teeny-tiny point over my previous six month blood test. I’m no scientist or nutritionist, but that piece of information made me wonder if all the hoopla over eggs was — well, just hoopla.

Despite my questioning, I continued to eschew eggs at breakfast. Instead, I ate cereal or an energy bar. I didn’t feel more energetic. In fact, by 11 a.m. my stomach started sending signals of hunger. I felt depleted, even tired.

Now, along comes a book I’m reading, Rewire Your Brain by John B. Arden, Ph.D. It’s not a new book. The copyright is 2010. It’s been sitting in my to-be-read stack since 2015. While the book has a lot of technical information on how our brains work, Arden also offers up a chapter on “Fueling Your Brain”. Guess who is the breakfast heroine in this chapter — yup, you got it — the egg. There are lots of other foods we need and should eat to fuel our brains, but the morning egg, breaking the fast, carries a lot of weight.

Speaking of weight I, like many people, think about what I eat in terms of feeding my entire body and keeping my weight in check. Until reading Arden’s book I never really gave the specifics for fueling my brain a lot of thought (no pun intended). According to Arden, “A bad diet can have a major impact on the brain’s ability to function properly, making you less apt to think clearly, pay attention, and cultivate neuroplasticity.” As we know, all of these abilities are really, really important for aging well.

Memory is also important for aging well. Arden goes on to say, “One of the neurotransmitters you need for processing memory is called acetylcholine. Your body needs an amino acid called choline in order to manufacture acetylcholine. One source of choline is eggs.” While there are other sources of choline, the egg is the one for getting your brain off to a good start for the day. Remember, it’s been fasting all night long with the rest of your body.

As we age we also lose muscle. Protein builds muscle. Eggs are a good source of protein. Eggs are also a rich source of vitamins, including B vitamins like B12, essential for energy. Other vitamins are A, E and K plus riboflavin and folic acid. Eggs also contain Omega-3 that good for your brain and heart component. Exercise and a balanced diet can help keep our muscles, including our heart muscle, in good working order.

 

After reading all of this, I decided to try Arden’s suggestion of eating an egg (sans saturated or trans fats), a piece of whole wheat toast (sans butter), and a glass of orange juice for breakfast. It took about a week for me to start feeling more energy. I noticed I can go until noon or later without feeling hungry. Since mornings are when I write, I realized I was mentally sharper. And, I sleep more soundly. This is my brain on eggs.

What about the cholesterol? According to the Mayo Clinic, “Most healthy people can eat up to seven eggs a week with no increase in their risk of heart disease. Some studies have shown that this level of egg consumption may actually prevent some types of strokes.” They go on to say, the risk of heart disease is more closely tied to the saturated and trans fats used to cook the eggs than the eggs themselves. As always, you should check with your doctor about your egg consumption as, according to the Mayo Clinic, it is not recommended if you have certain diseases, such as diabetes.

Whether or not an egg a day is good for you is up to you to determine. For me, I’m continuing my breakfast egg routine. Regardless of what you eat in the morning, make sure you do eat to break the fast and fuel your brain and body. That’s essential for living well and aging dynamically.

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8 comments on “Your Brain On Eggs

  1. I used to always eat two eggs mixed with wheat germ and bran and fried up in a little olive oil. I did this when I was leaving for work at 6:30 am. It seemed healthy and tasted fine and above all held me most of the time till lunch. When the snack cart started coming around at 10:00 I’d add a bran muffin to that morning routine. Was all good and I stayed thin as a bean.

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  2. I’m glad eggs are off of the “bad list”. I never really bought into the idea that they raise cholesterol. Weekday mornings are rushed for me as I leave for school at 6:30am. I boil 5 eggs on the weekend and have them M-F. I even peel them – no time for a stubborn one. Yay for breakfast!!! Wish all our students (more likely the parents) would join the “eat breakfast” club. 🍳 Interesting post.

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  3. I eat one egg most every day as we have chickens. So I’m interested in the sans trans fat?? I cook in a little butter and have butter on my toast. Is that what you mean to NOT have the butter? thanks

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    • Actually it’s margarine that has the trans fats. Butter may have a smidgen, but it’s also one of those foods, in my opinion, that gets a bad rap. I eat butter, but try to limit my fats to ‘good fat’ like olive oil, which is plant based. Brushing a non-stick pan with a little olive oil is what I do (don’t let it get so hot it smokes). And I eat the toast dry dipping it into the egg yolk. From what I have read our bodies need some fat. My big downfall is really high quality ice cream!!! K

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  4. I agree with you. Many years ago when I was taking bionutrition, my professor spoke of eggs as a protein that was 100% utilized by the body, was inexpensive to buy and could be eaten in many ways. She called it a perfect food. Then we got into the “Eggs are bad for you” dad, but our family continued to eat eggs, with no cholesterol problem. I’m glad the research has changed again. Nice article.

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  5. Alas, I’ve never eaten breakfast as an adult and doubt that I’ll start now at 80 Y/O. I’ve heard all the pro-health arguments, and I don’t challenge their validity–except that breakfast just doesn’t work for me. (I emphasize that this is just me, NOT anyone else.)
    I was overweight in my youth but lost about 70 lbs. when I was 22 and have kept it off. I have normal glucose and BP (except for when I visit the doctor’s office, where I develop white-coat hypertension). I think I have an “appetstat switch” that turns ON whenever I eat. If I eat breakfast, I’m absolutely ravenous for the entire day and end up eating everything in sight. For obvious reasons this isn’t a good strategy.
    Against most health cautions, I currently have one meal a day in the early evening: usually a medium-size veggie salad topped with a hard-boiled egg or a bit of chicken, whole wheat toast with a little butter and generally fruit for dessert. I’m small boned, 5’1-1/2″ and 95 lbs.–so I only need about 1200 calories/day, and it’s amazing how fast that total is reached. If I tried to divide it into 3 meals, I’d be in a state of constant hunger. I still walk for exercise most days, but it would take a lot of walking to burn off an extra 5-600 calories a day!

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