My quest for a nourishing breakfast continues, as I ponder the relationships between egg consumption and dietary cholesterol on cardiovascular, mental, and emotional health. This renewed curiosity about the health effects of egg consumption was prompted by two events last week. One was listening to a recent podcast discussion between Peter Attia, MD, and nutritional biochemist Chris Masterjohn, PhD, and the other was receiving promotional information on a new vegan egg substitute.
While listening to and later reading over the “show notes” (transcript) from the incredibly informative 3-hour Attia-Masterjohn podcast, I was reminded of the importance of choline in cardiovascular, mental, and emotional health, as well as its role in detoxification. I covered some of this in previous blogs, which you can find using the search term “choline” on my Blog page. While eggs are an excellent source of choline, egg whites and other vegan egg substitutes are not.
Just to quickly review, choline is essential for proper liver, muscle, & brain functions. Some can be produced by our liver, but not enough to meet human needs. Choline is used by the liver to transport triglycerides (fat) out of the liver to the muscles, where the triglycerides are used as an energy source for muscular work. Choline is also critical for cell membrane function & repair. And choline is needed to produce acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter for memory, mood, muscle control, and other brain and nervous system functions.
The recommended daily choline intake is 425 mg for females and 550 mg for males. Only about 10% of Americans obtain the recommended intake of choline, and 90% obtain well below the recommended intake. Inadequate choline during pregnancy & early childhood impacts neurocognitive development; during adolescence & adulthood increases the risk of mood disorders & fatty liver disease; and in later years, increases the risk of cognitive decline.
Egg yolks are an especially rich source of choline, providing about 145 mg in one large egg (including yolk), while egg whites are virtually choline-free. Other foods providing choline include: 108 mg in ½ cup edamame; 35-40 mg in ½ cup cooked legumes (beans, lentils, peas, tofu); 45 mg in 2-oz cooked lean meat, poultry, fish; 35 mg in 1 cup unflavored milk or yogurt; 15 mg in ½ cup cooked non-starchy vegetables or ½ medium avocado; and 14 mg in 2 tbsp seeds (flax, pumpkin, sunflower).
So I am not a fan of egg substitutes, including the recently marketed JUST Egg from mung bean protein. While these substitutes, including whites only, are a good source of protein, they are much lower in important nutrients like choline and vitamin A/carotenoids provided by whole eggs. Egg substitutes usually also contain a long list of food additives of questionable nutritional and health value.
So for a nourishing protein-rich, high-fiber breakfast that is also rich in choline, I suggest that you try one of my baked pancake recipes topped with fruit. Both the High-Fiber “Paleo” Baked Pancake” and the Baked Pepita Pancake recipes are made with lemon, including the inner and outer peel. The outer peel, referred to as lemon “zest,” not only adds special flavor, but is also loaded with protective plant compounds, including limonene and other anti-inflammatory polyphenols. The white inner peel of lemons is rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that helps to control cholesterol and also supports a healthy gut microbiome. And both pancake recipes include ground psyillium seed, rich in soluble fiber, to help soften the stool, promote regularity, and help the body dispose of excess cholesterol to help normalize circulating cholesterol levels.