Over the past few decades, yolk-free recipes have become increasingly popular and even synonymous with ‘healthy’ to many people who want to improve their way of eating. In fact, the egg yolk has become the very food item that distinguishes the newbies from the advanced devotees to a healthy diet. When the majority of the health-conscious population eliminated the yolks out of the equation, they actually tossed out the most nutritious part of the egg. Because lo and behold, the egg yolk is not the boogeyman in the world of nutrition – it’s exactly what you need to enhance your health, cognition and stimulate muscle growth! Read this article to learn how you can use yolks to your best advantage.
The vilification of egg yolks
As you might guess, egg yolks have been unfairly demonized for decades now because they contain cholesterol and saturated fat, which were considered to be the root of all evil in the modern diet. However, thanks to the advancements in science and nutritional knowledge, we now know that these dietary items are not to be avoided, but are in fact extremely beneficial for human health in certain variants and doses. Research in recent years has shed light on the health benefits of whole eggs and pretty much turned this discussion upside down.
By now, you’ve probably learned that we have two kinds of cholesterol in our blood – the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol and the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol. In general, decreasing your total cholesterol levels is less important for optimizing your health than improving the ratio of HDL to LDL. So we should try to increase the HDL levels and decrease the LDL levels, and egg yolks can actually help us with that task. Cholesterol actually plays many essential roles in the body, such as being absolutely crucial for the production of testosterone, which is especially important for the avid gym-goer looking to improve his gains. The dangers of a high cholesterol diet have been greatly exaggerated in the media and this is supported by the fact that certain studies have shown that people who maintain a low cholesterol diet can have elevated cholesterol levels. Not to mention that when you don’t get enough cholesterol from your diet, the body produces it on its own.
But what happened to the health dangers lurking in the saturated fat present in egg yolks? Once upon a time, health agencies and scientists strongly suggested that it’s best to avoid saturated fat at all costs because it’s a major contributor to increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Saturated fat was perceived as nothing more but an artery-clogging poison that’s to be blamed for the growing epidemic of heart problems among Americans. People started ‘improving’ their diets by purging it from all dietary fat, instead of only trans fats, which lead to an obsession with low-fat, fat-free products that actually contained much worse ingredients and additives. And naturally, the egg yolk was first on the list of evil foods. So, what changed?
First of all, we now know more about saturated fat than we once did. It’s important to note that there are various types of saturated fats with different effects on the body. Some of them, such as stearic acid, get easily converted to monounsaturated fat by the liver and don’t impact cholesterol levels in a negative way. One 2010 meta-analysis of 21 studies found that saturated fat did not have a significant association with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, and many other studies have confirmed these findings. That being said, a 2015 systematic review of the issue published in the British Medical Journal concluded that saturated fats are not associated with all-cause mortality, coronary heart disease or type 2 diabetes.
Furthermore, saturated fat has been shown to have numerous positive effects on health, such as improving liver health by encouraging the liver cells to get rid of their fat cells, improving the immune system’s response by helping white blood cells to recognize and destroy invaders more effectively, enabling the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins by acting as their carriers, as well as improving hormonal activity by providing the building blocks for a variety of hormones that are essential to human health. However, as it is with many other nutrients, more isn’t better when it comes to saturated fat – fat is pretty high in calories, so over-consuming it can lead to weight gain. It’s true that some studies have shown that saturated fat raises blood cholesterol levels, but most of these studies are short-term, lasting only a few weeks, while all of the long-term studies examining the link between saturated fat and cholesterol don’t show a significant association between the two. Even further, studies on high-fat diets show that increased consumption of saturated fat has beneficial impacts on cardiovascular disease risk markers, including decreasing the level of triglycerides, fasting glucose, blood pressure, as well as increasing HDL cholesterol blood levels. All in all, it’s rather safe to conclude that our total cholesterol levels are not what causes heart disease – instead, it’s their combination with a sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary choices, smoking and stress.
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