Eggs are such a cornerstone of the American diet, a high-protein breakfast option that's quick and easy and in seemingly everything from scrambles to baked goods. It's so synonymous with the American breakfast that when folks eliminate animal products from their diet, they're often not quite sure what to eat in the morning. Which begs the question...are eggs healthy? And should they be included in your plant-based diet?
Need a quick and easy breakfast to replace your morning eggs? Try the MamaSezz Breakfast Scramble topped with salsa, avocado, green onion, or even plain!
You've no doubt heard that eggs contain high levels of cholesterol, but how much is too much? And why is high cholesterol risky?
One egg is already over 60 percent of your max limit of cholesterol, and about 94 percent of the “heart healthy” 200 mg limit. This means if you’re trying to eat a heart healthy diet (by Standard American Diet terms), after just one egg you’re done with animal products for the day.
Cutting down on cholesterol would not only reduce you risk of cardiovascular disease, but also may cut your risk of cancer.
Cancers that may be impacted by too much cholesterol in the diet include: stomach cancer, colon cancer, rectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and a type of bone marrow cancer called non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
How risky is it to eat eggs, then? Just half an egg a day (on average) can increase your risk by 14 percent of advanced and fatal prostate cancer. And the more eggs you consume weekly, the more chance of disease.
Of a large group of people that suffered from prostate cancer, and had to have their entire prostate removed, nearly all of them ate on average one egg a day.
This breakfast food can be risky for women as well, since the consumption of eggs is associated with risk of ovarian cancer, especially when fried.
Even just a few eggs a week was associated with 19 percent greater risk of colorectal cancer, and if you add more, let’s say five eggs a week, the chances skyrocket to 71 percent increased risk.
Too much cholesterol in blood is also a primary risk for Alzheimer's disease, which is becoming more and more common.
This information isn't to scare you! It's to help you assess whether eggs are healthy and right for your diet.
We get it. People eat eggs in the morning because they are inexpensive, tasty, easy to make, and contain nutrients like protein, B12 and Omega-3s. They've also got a great deal of selenium, which is associated with thyroid health, and they're high in vitamins D, B6, B12, plus important minerals like iron, zinc and copper.
So how can you make sure to get all the good stuff, without the added risk.
The good news is, it's easy! All the nutrients in eggs exist in plant-based foods, too...without the cholesterol.
Selenium: Brazil nuts
Vitamin D: Sunlight, a D3 supplement
B6: peanuts, soy beans, wheatgerm, oats, bananas
B12: Mushrooms, nutritional yeast, supplements
Zinc: pumpkin seeds, Spinach, shiitake mushrooms, broccoli
Iron: Spinach, beans, dried fruit, peas
Copper: Shiitake mushrooms, nuts and seeds,
Omega-3: Did you know the Omega-3s you eat come entirely from plants? That’s right, eggs only contain this nutrient because chickens eat flax, and fish only has Omega3-s because they eat algae and seaweed. Many times, chicken feed is fortified with additional Omega-3s using fish oil and flax oil. Go right to the source! Load up on Omega-3s with flax, nuts, avocados, and algae supplements. Easy peasy.
You can get plenty of protein from plant-based foods!
Plant-based actually eaters get about 70% more daily protein than their bodies need.
Where's all this protein coming from?
Whole grains, potatoes, nuts, seeds, lentils, and other legumes also have high amounts of protein. A lot of fruits and vegetables contribute to our daily protein intake, too. Here’s a quick rundown on just some of the many protein-rich plants.
1 cup of black beans = 14.2 g protein
1 cup of chick peas = 11.6 g protein
½ cup tofu = 10 g protein
½ cup oatmeal = 6 g protein
1 baked potato = 5 g protein
1 cup of broccoli = 2 g protein
1 Tbsp of chia seeds = 3 g protein
1 cup of blackberries = 1.4 g protein
But don’t worry fret too much about nutrient counting; just eat a range of colorful plants and you should be covered all the way from protein to zinc.
Caroline is a plant-based chef, recipe designer, and whole food plant-based nutrition educator, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.