Eggs are healthy. You just can’t say that.
Virtually everyone knows that eggs are nutritious. They are one of the healthiest, nutrient-dense, natural foods that you can find. Eggs are one of the most complete sources of protein available. They boast generous amounts of Omega-3 and contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs to build and repair muscles. They contain lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline. I could go on, seriously. All of that, for a slender 75 calories per egg.
But we can’t say that eggs are healthy. Not legally, not on the package. And we can’t tell people that they are “nutritious” or even “safe.” One of nature’s most perfect foods, and we can’t recommend that people eat it. Additional things that egg producers cannot say about their product include: “good for you,” “part of a healthy diet,” or “healthful.”
They will, however, allow us to say that they taste good. Which is nice.
Why can’t we say eggs are healthy?
If this seems like a triumph of well-intentioned consumer protection efforts over simple common sense, we would agree.
The original reasoning behind this policy goes back to the 1950s. The link between high cholesterol levels in the blood and health problems, like heart disease, was established by the now famous Framingham Heart Study beginning in 1948. But the USDA went further to make an unsupported conclusion that ingesting any food high in cholesterol would, in turn, drive up the levels of cholesterol in the blood, and thus should be avoided.
It turns out not all foods behave the same way in the body. Subsequent reviews of this study, and of numerous, more current studies, have revealed no evidence that egg consumption actually elevates cholesterol within blood levels. Thus, no correlation with increased disease risk can be drawn. You can read more about that here.
The USDA is not the only agency involved of course. The FDA also plays a significant role in the inspection of shelled eggs, as well as issues broad guidelines for all food products as to what can or cannot be labeled “healthy.”
Will they change the rule?
In recognition of the improved science and understanding around eggs, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, co-developed by the USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services, eliminated their opposition to dietary cholesterol. Thus, eggs were no longer identified as a concern for overconsumption.
In fact, Karen DeSalvo, HHS assistant secretary for health, stated this at the time: “Eggs can be part of a healthy eating pattern and people should be thoughtful about including them into a healthy routine.”
That sounds promising. The FDA is currently reviewing their rules for what constitutes a “healthy” nutrient claim on food labeling as well. It seems that the science is catching up to the policy, ever so slowly. Today, eggs remain guilty of “misleading advertising” if they try to promote their considerable nutrition and health benefits, but hopefully soon, that will no longer be the case.
What are your thoughts regarding eggs and health benefits? Let us know in the comments below.
The featured image on this post comes from Reclaiming Yesterday, a member of our ambassador program. Click here to try the recipe.