Eggs Come From the Dairy Section — But Are They Actually Dairy?
Food and nutrition aren’t always as simple as you might want them to be if you’re trying to eat healthy. There’s a seemingly never-ending list of diet plans you could follow… Tomatoes are fruits, but many of us count them toward our veggie intake goals… And then there are eggs, with no shortage of questions surrounding such a simple foodstuff. First there was the back and forth about whether the fat in egg yolks is healthy, and then there’s the lingering question you may be sort of afraid to ask: Are eggs dairy?
Eggs: Dairy or Not Dairy?
We’ll clear this one up for you quickly thanks to the expertise of Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., MPH, RD, a senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. “No, eggs are not dairy,” Hunnes clarifies.
She points out that dairy has a specific definition: “Dairy specifically refers to products made from milk, which is secreted from mammals after giving birth. Eggs neither come from mammals, nor are they secreted from mammary glands. Therefore, eggs are definitely not dairy.”
Why Are Eggs Confused As Dairy?
“My guess is that this misconception comes from the fact that eggs are frequently placed near dairy shelves in grocery stores,” Hunnes explains. But there’s even more that compounds this confusion.
“Eggs and dairy are both products derived from animals but are not animal flesh themselves the way meat is.” So these products may be lumped together in people’s minds simply because they’re all non-meat animal products.
Although experts have long debated the accuracy of the USDA’s food guidelines, they can be helpful in clarifying this question. The agency’s rules lump eggs into the same category as meat and fish, not milk and other dairy products.
Do Eggs Have Lactose?
Some of the confusion may also come down to hyper-vigilance on the part of people with lactose intolerance or sensitivity. Lactose, which aids in the absorption of many crucial nutrients, is a large sugar molecule found in milk. Since eggs aren’t a milk product, they don’t contain any of this sugar that some people struggle to digest.
Egg Nutrition and Benefits
It’s worth clearing up the confusion because eggs carry a long list of health benefits. Hunnes underscores that “eggs are basically concentrated sources of protein, certain fats such as cholesterol, and certain vitamins.” They also provide crucial nutrients you may not consider when crafting your weekly menu, such as choline, a nutrient that’s important in cell function.
But don’t think you’re getting the same nutrients if you opt solely for egg whites. “Eggs are also high in a number of B vitamins,” Hunnes says, “but these are specifically found in the yolk.”
Hunnes also specifically points out lutein and zeaxanthin as benefits of eating whole eggs. She explains that these “two important vitamin A-derived nutrients are good for eyesight.”
|Vitamin A||80 mcg|
|Vitamin D||1 mcg|
|Lutein + zeaxanthin||252 mcg|
Source: USDA (one large egg)