I love eggs. Always have. Especially poached and scrambled. But, I’ve noticed that quite a few people have reported that they’ve suffered gout flares through eating eggs. Now, I’ve personally never had a gout flare through eating them. And I haven’t been able to find any studies linking gout to eggs either.
That doesn’t mean that those people are wrong: It’s been my experience that what may be a trigger for gout in one person might not be in an other. For example, a family member of mine cannot eat asparagus without suffering a flare-up, while I seem to be able to consume it OK, albeit in moderation.
Now, to be fair, I don’t eat eggs every day, perhaps three or four a week at most. Maybe moderation is the key here too then…
You see, on the face of it, eggs should be an ideal protein substitute for gout sufferers who have to avoid, or seriously moderate, meat consumption. Eggs are very low in purines and are alkaline-forming when digested, both of which help to reduce the risk of elevated uric acid. And they contain omega-3 fatty acids (heart-healthy fats) that help to reduce inflammation.
[A note on egg protein: There are twenty amino acids in your body’s proteins, nine of which cannot be manufactured by your body. So it’s essential that they are included in your diet (consumed) or you risk a protein deficiency. Here’s the good news: eggs are one of a few foods that contain all those essential amino acids.]
On the downside though, they are relatively high in cholesterol and fat. But, then again, they are rich in important nutrients such as vitamins B2, B6, B12, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, lecithin, folate, riboflavin, niacin, and much more.
So you need to strike a reasonable balance when considering them as part of your gout diet. There’s a “risk v’s reward” thing going on here: the cholesterol and fat in eggs versus their undoubted health benefits and being a very inexpensive, first class substitute for meat protein.
But here’s the thing, for many years now, most attention has been on the cholesterol in eggs; how this must raise your blood cholesterol and therefore increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
However, we now know through recent studies, that dietary cholesterol (e.g. via eggs) has very little effect on your blood cholesterol levels. For example, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, blood cholesterol is much more influenced by the types of fats and carbohydrates you eat in your general diet.
In addition, your body’s cells actually need cholesterol to help build and maintain their membranes. And your body needs it for hormone production and to help synthesize vitamin D from the sun on your skin. So some cholesterol is actually a good thing.
On balance then, my view is that eggs are a very nutritious addition to your gout diet, that is, as long as you don’t fill your face with them every single day, because they do contain fat (the key factor).
So How Many Eggs Should You Eat?
In terms of their suitability for gout, eggs are an almost perfect addition to your diet. The only downside is their fat content (cholesterol not being as critical as first thought), but that can be managed by limiting how many eggs you eat…
According to Dr. Anthony Komaroff of the Harvard School of Public Health, consuming 1 egg per day doesn’t raise the risk of heart disease for most people.
However, for those who have heart disease, those who are at a high risk of heart disease (e.g., smoke, are overweight, lead a sedentary lifestyle, etc.), and diabetics, he advises eating a maximum of 3 eggs per week.
On the other hand, according to “The National Institutes of Health” (NIH), a maximum of 4 eggs per week is advised for healthy adults with no history of heart disease and normal blood cholesterol.
But they, too, advise a maximum of 3 eggs per week for those with diabetes, heart disease, or in the high risk category.
My own view is that if you have heart disease, are at a high risk of heart disease, and/or if you are diabetic, then you are better off seeking advice from your doctor or primary healthcare provider about how many eggs to eat and even whether you should eat them at all.
But there wasn’t agreement among the studies on the maximum consumption for healthy and low-risk individuals: ranging from 4 to 7 eggs per week.
So, if you don’t fall into any of those categories above, are healthy and lead a healthy lifestyle, then perhaps 5 eggs per week max. would satisfy the “risk v reward” question.
Of course, if you’ve already been advised by your doctor or primary healthcare provider to avoid eggs then you must keep following their advice and leave them out of your diet.
And, if you are allergic to eggs, then you must stay away from them too.
Which Eggs Are Best for Your Gout?
By far the most common and most popular are chicken eggs, while more “gourmet” types are duck, goose and quail, even ostrich eggs.
Chicken eggs are more readily available and cheaper than their “up-market” counterparts. And, as you saw previously, they are extremely nutritious and healthy when eaten in moderation. So they are ideal in your gout diet.
But not all chicken eggs are the same…
Free-range eggs contain more omega-3 and vitamins A & E than intensively reared factory eggs. And the chickens are generally healthier than their intensively reared counterparts because they can roam more freely and have a better, more natural diet.
So free-range are more nutritious. And higher omega-3 is especially good news for us gout sufferers.
However, if you cannot easily get your hands on free-range eggs then look for organic eggs that have had omega-3 added to them through feeding the chickens things like flaxseed. Those are still way better than factory reared ones.
But, even then, you still need to be able to recognize a high quality, healthy egg by its appearance…
When you crack it open, it should have a hard, fairly thick shell and a deep yellow/orange-colored yolk that clearly stands up in a round hemisphere. Factory reared eggs, on the other hand, have thinner shells and flatter, pale yellow yolks. And their taste is nothing like as good.
What about brown v white eggs? There’s a general belief that brown ones are more nutritious than white ones. Studies on this issue are mixed; some have found that they are, while others have found that they aren’t. Even some of the former found the benefits to be negligible.
So it would seem that you need not worry too much about the color. Just concentrate on choosing healthy free-range/organic eggs, whatever their color.
Whites or Yolks or the Whole Egg for Your Gout Diet?
Most vitamins and minerals are to be found in both the whites and yolks in varying concentrations, while some are only found in one or the other.
Here’s a breakdown of how whites and yolks compare in terms of their nutritional distribution…
Egg whites contain the likes of:
- protein (57% of the total egg)
- vitamins B2, B6, B12
- selenium (41%)
- riboflavin (62%)
- pantothenic acid (11%)
- niacin (91%)
- folate (5%)
- calcium (10%)
- magnesium (81%)
- manganese (31%)
- potassium (74%)
- phosphorus (7%)
- sodium (87%)
- copper (38%)
- iron (6%)
- hardly any fat (1%)
Egg yolks contain things like:
- protein (43% of the total egg)
- vitamins A, D, E and K (fat soluble vitamins)
- DHA omega-3
- AA omega-6
- selenium (59%)
- folate (95%)
- riboflavin (48%)
- niacin (9%)
- pantothenic acid (89%)
- calcium (90%)
- magnesium (19%)
- manganese (69%)
- potassium (26%)
- phosphorus (93%)
- sodium (13%)
- copper (62%)
- iron (94%)
- fat (99%)
- saturated fat
So you can see…
Egg whites have almost no fat, which is great. And they contain most of the protein and higher concentrations of riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, and sodium, than yolks. They also contain nearly all the niacin. Excellent!
Egg yolks contain nearly all of the fat, which isn’t so good. But, they contain all, or nearly all, of the omega-3, omega-6, lecithin, folate, thiamin, carotenoids, phosphorus, and zinc in an egg. In addition, they contain higher concentrations of selenium, pantothenic acid, manganese, and copper than whites. Wow!
So, although egg whites may seem the healthier option because they have almost zero fat, and have the bulk of the protein, you shouldn’t underestimate the depth and breadth of healthy nutrients contained in egg yolks.
By eating only the white, to avoid the fat in the yolk, you are missing out on some very important nutrients. What’s very clear is that, in order to get the full nutritional value, you should consume the whole egg.
That’s not to say that, if your healthcare professional has advised you to avoid egg yolks because you have a medical condition, you should start eating the whole egg. No. If you’ve been advised by them to avoid eating egg yolks, or eggs in general, then you must continue to follow their advice.
However, if you do not have such a condition and are perfectly healthy, apart from your gout of course, then eating the whole egg in moderation — as discussed earlier — can be beneficial to your overall health and a welcome addition to your balanced gout diet.
What’s the Best Way to Cook Them?
When considering the best way to cook eggs, especially on a gout diet, you have to consider not just your “taste buds” but, rather, how cooking can change the chemical structure of eggs and how that can affect their nutritional value.
The first thing to say is that frying is out of the question! Frying eggs increases their fat content by up to 50% and increases your bad cholesterol (LDLs). So stay well away from fried eggs.
Most health advice is to boil or poach eggs and not to add salt. I’m okay with that because I like both. But I also enjoy scrambled eggs. I’m pretty sure having scrambled eggs made without butter and using low-fat milk instead of cream with no added salt is perfectly fine too. But remember, everything in moderation.
Avoiding the Spread of Bacteria
All foods not stored, handled, and cooked properly pose a risk to health and eggs are no exception. In fact, they have to be handled with particular care since studies have found microbial growth, including Salmonella and E. coli, on shell surfaces. And the incidences were higher on free-range eggs than on factory produced eggs.
Don’t let that put you off though. Eggs are safe to eat as long as you take proper precautions. Here are some simple things — published on the UK’s National Health Service website — you can do to avoid food poisoning when handling and eating eggs:
“There can be bacteria on the shell as well as inside the egg, which can spread very easily to other foods, as well as to hands, utensils and worktops.
These tips can help avoid the spread of bacteria:
- keep eggs away from other foods – both when they are in the shell and after you have cracked them
- be careful not to splash egg onto other foods, worktops or dishes
- always wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, and then dry them after touching or working with eggs
- clean surfaces, dishes and utensils thoroughly using warm soapy water after handling eggs
- don’t use eggs with damaged shells, because dirt or bacteria might have got inside them”
Only eating thoroughly cooked eggs (e.g. hard boiled), and completely avoiding raw or lightly cooked eggs, is the safest option if you’re still concerned about food poisoning.
So, Are Eggs a Good or Bad Thing When You Have Gout?
I’m pretty sure that you can see now why eggs are such a good addition to a healthy gout diet.
- are very low in purines.
- are packed full of protein.
- contain all nine essential amino acids.
- are alkaline-forming when digested.
- contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- are rich in important vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients.
Apart from their fat content, there is nothing to be said against them as an ideal addition to your gout diet, as long as they are eaten in moderation of course:
- 5 eggs maximum per week if you are healthy, do not have heart disease, diabetes, or are at high cardiovascular risk, according to your doctor or primary healthcare provider.
- 3 eggs maximum per week if you do have heart disease, diabetes, or are at high cardiovascular risk.
- the whole egg, boiled, poached, and maybe scrambled (as described earlier).
However, if you do fall into any of the risk categories above it’s still best to consult with your doctor / primary healthcare provider first, before adding eggs into your diet. And, in any case, if they have already advised you to avoid eggs, then you must not add them into your diet.
Of course, if you are allergic to eggs, you must not use them. And if you are sure they trigger your gout then avoid them too.
But, on balance, and given the caveats above, eggs can be a very healthy addition to your gout diet.