Paleo Recipes: Adding Eggs to your Paleo Diet
Eggs have become something of a lighthearted joke among healthy eating aficionados and science journalists alike: Are eggs supposed to be good for you or bad for you? The confusing back-and-forth debate on eggs in a healthy diet is emblematic of how difficult it can be to parse whether your meals are helping or harming you in the long run.
We decided it was as good a time as any to break down some of the facts surrounding eggs: why they used to be vilified, what their actual health benefits are, and a few neat tips on adding eggs to your balanced paleo diet.
First, we’ll get into the history behind eggs, and why many people new to the paleo diet question whether they’re safe for everyday eating. Then, we’ll list a few simple, delicious egg ideas to keep your paleo diet exciting and healthy!
Bad Days For Eggs: When Science Said “No!” To Eggs
From the 1950’s until the early 2000’s, conventional wisdom increasingly told us that fatty foods were a huge detriment to our cardiovascular health. And this had actual science to back it up: high cholesterol levels were definitively tied to heart disease, obesity, and more. High cholesterol levels in the blood, then as now, could kill.
The problem wasn’t the correlation; it was the conclusions taken from the data, and the extremely successful, well-meaning campaigns that led the public at large away from protein-rich foods and towards carbohydrates.
Because eggs were a staple food and happen to contain about 213mg of cholesterol, the innocuous food became the primary example of the seemingly simple foods that people should severely limit or avoid altogether to guarantee a long life.
The food pyramid from the United States Department of Agriculture became instantly recognizable, a symbol of what would quickly become a deeply flawed example of conventional wisdom even today: eat a diet centering grains, while severely limiting meat and other protein sources.
Ultimately, the problem was never with eggs, protein-rich foods, or even foods containing high levels of cholesterol. Science had the correlation right: high cholesterol is a red flag for cardiovascular health. But foods containing fat were never the main culprit. Putting grain products first had unintended consequences: it turns out the body processing these types of foods leads to far more cholesterol and plaque buildup than protein and fatty foods do.
And, most detrimentally, consuming modern grain-based foods too often meant that people thinking they were eating healthy were in fact consuming more of the real primary culprit in the rise in obesity: sugar!
So, as the science around cholesterol came up with better answers for how the dangerous type of cholesterol actually forms in the human bloodstream, an old friend came back into our lives: eggs!
How Eggs Actually Fit Into Your Diet
Eggs aren’t the terror of the culinary world we once thought they were, and they’re a cornerstone of the paleo lifestyle. Even dietitians outside the paleo sphere now recommend about one egg a day, largely because of the high protein content and low levels of saturated fat — the specific type of fat that does lead to increases in cholesterol.
Eggs clock in at 75 calories, paired with a whopping seven grams of protein. And that legitimately dangerous saturated fat? Only 1.6 grams. With that high protein count, eggs make you feel fuller on less calories, keep you away from saturated fat, and they’re packed with life-saving iron, vitamins, minerals, and more.
If you currently have a high cholesterol level, you should consult your doctor before adding eggs to your diet. But to be clear, this is due to adding any saturated fat to your diet, not because eggs are particularly high in it compared to many common meats and dairy products.
Simple and Delicious Ways to Add Eggs to Your Diet
Now that you have the basics on eggs down, how about a few simple suggestions for rolling eggs into your diet? With eggs, many of the best recipes involve putting butter into a pan as the first step. If you’re worried about the saturated fat inherent to cooking oil, a great way to mitigate the issue is to use coconut oil instead of conventional butter. Coconut oil’s medium-chain triglyceride composition adds up to a different type of saturated fat than the animal sources found in butter.
A great tip for getting started with this approach is to make a simple egg frittata with coconut oil in the pan. Add your favorite meaty protein as the filling, along with a light, paleo-appropriate green. We recommend adding paleo-appropriate sausage (homemade: ground pork with fennel, sage and garlic powder to taste) and spinach to get started!
Avocados are another amazing pair for eggs. They bring the complete package to your dish: texture, flavor, and healthy monounsaturated fat that is known to boost metabolism. Try chopping chilled avocado and hard boiled eggs as a simple, clean paleo topping for a bowl of salad greens. Dress with a teaspoon of lemon juice.
And finally, how about a supercharged paleo breakfast burrito? With eggs as your main filler, add in green peppers, onions, tomatoes in small amounts, and ditch the tortilla. If you aren’t already familiar, many grocery stores carry coconut-based paleo wraps that will replace the spot in your heart where a tortilla once was, no problem! Lightly sear your wrap in coconut oil, and pile on your paleo egg and vegetable filling.