How Nutritious Are Eggs, Really?
In This Article
It’s hard to find a food that beats eggs (pun fully intended!). Eggs are nutrition powerhouses that can make an already healthy meal feel more filling.
If you love eggs, you’re not alone — Americans eat nearly 290 eggs per person, per year.
But despite being a popular protein, eggs have stirred up a lot of nutrition controversy (and flip-flopping): “Don’t eat egg yolks!” “Eat the egg yolk!” “Eggs have too much cholesterol!” “Egg whites are best!”
With this guide, we’ll help you unscramble some egg nutrition facts and whisk up a few egg-cellent recipes. (No more egg puns. We promise.)
1. Eggs Are Nutrient-Rich
The term “superfood” doesn’t have an official definition, but if it did, eggs would probably fit the bill. One large egg is just 70 calories and provides 18 vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, D, E, B6, B12, folic acid, biotin, choline, calcium, iron, selenium, and the list goes on.
Of these nutrients, eggs are a really good source for biotin, choline, and selenium — one egg satisfies more than 25 percent of your daily needs for each of these three nutrients. Choline is an important nutrient for brain health, cell development, and muscle function. Research suggests that many people aren’t getting enough of it.
2. Eggs Are Protein-Packed
With 6 grams per large egg, you may already know that eggs are a high-protein food favored by fitness folks. But did you know egg protein is a worthy rival for whey protein? Eggs are also considered complete proteins because they contain the right amounts of the nine essential amino acids that our bodies can’t produce.
Both egg and whey protein get similar marks for how easy and efficiently they can be digested, absorbed, metabolized, and incorporated into your organs and muscles. “Adding eggs to a post-workout meal can help facilitate muscle recovery and reduce muscle breakdown,” says Krista Maguire, R.D., C.S.S.D., and Openfit nutrition manager. Eggs’ protein power means they’re popular in meal plans for people who want to build muscle and serious bodybuilders.
3. Eggs Can Help You Lose Weight
Due to their high protein content, eggs can help feel more full and help stave off any cravings commonly experienced during weight loss.
A study of overweight adults found that those who ate an egg breakfast achieved 65 percent greater weight loss, compared to those on a bagel breakfast that was similar in calories. The egg eaters also achieved 34 percent greater reduction in waist circumference.
Impressive, but keep in mind that this study was only two months long. To lose weight — and keep it off — requires a healthy, balanced diet combined with consistent exercise.
Caveat: Eggs can help, but they’re not a weight-loss miracle.
4. Eggs Are Budget-Friendly
The Consumer Price Index found that an average dozen eggs is $1.54 as of December, 2019. This price varies widely depending on where you live, but this is a steal for such a nutritious food. Eggs prove that you don’t need to break the bank to add a high-quality protein to your diet.
5. Eggs Are Easy to Cook and Versatile
Scrambled, sunny-side up, poached, hard-boiled, omelets, frittatas, wraps, stratas — the culinary possibilities of eggs are endless. You can enjoy them for any meal of the day and you can pretty much add them to any dish.
Egg White Nutrition Vs. Egg Yolk Nutrition
Which is better for you? Both! Let’s crack open the reasons why: Egg whites are popular among fitness folks because they’re fat-free and hold most of the egg’s protein. Guess where the other 40 percent of an egg’s protein is?
(Spoiler alert: It’s in the yolk!)
The yellow yolk is where you’ll find all the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as almost all the other vitamins and minerals. Here are the nitty-gritty egg nutrition facts for white versus yolk:
Cholesterol in Eggs: Healthy or Unhealthy?
Research has fluctuated over the years from over-easy to sunny-side up regarding the dietary dangers of cholesterol. But the general consensus is that saturated fat is the bigger concern when it comes to the impact of eggs on heart health.
For decades Americans were taught that cholesterol was dangerous, clogging arteries and increasing the risk of heart disease. Eggs contain the seventh-highest concentration of cholesterol of any food at 186 milligrams each, and consumers were advised to cap daily intake at 300 milligrams.
But in the updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2015–2020), nutrition experts changed their stance. Gone is the 300-milligram cholesterol cap; experts have concluded there isn’t enough evidence to justify it.
Sonya Angelone, M.S., R.D.N., CLT and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics corroborates that the link between dietary and blood cholesterol is weak, but still advises moderation: “A healthy person can have an egg a day, on average,” she says. Of course, most of the saturated fat and cholesterol is found in the yolk, so Angelone’s recommended limit doesn’t extend to egg whites.
Long story short: Enjoy your eggs — just don’t go to egg-stremes! (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)
Tips for Buying, Storing and Cooking Eggs
Now that you’ve got a grasp on egg nutrition, here are few practical tips to help you buy, store, and cook your eggs:
- Cook eggs thoroughly: Raw eggs put you at higher risk for salmonella, a bacteria that may cause diarrhea, cramps, fever, and vomiting. Cook your eggs until the white and yolk are firm. Egg-based dishes like casseroles, quiches and frittatas should be cooked to 165 degrees F.
- Don’t judge an egg by its shell: White or brown, the color is determined by the breed of hen that’s doing the laying, not by its nutritional content.
- Maybe consider animal welfare: While there is no research to support a nutritional difference between cage-free or free-range eggs, you may still want to consider these claims. They indicate the hens are raised and treated more humanely (relatively) than those in conventional egg production. (Note: “natural,” “farm-fresh,” and “vegetarian-fed” claims are not related to animal welfare.)
- Don’t be fooled by “designer” eggs: These are labeled as enriched in omega-3, lutein or vitamin-E. It means the hens have been fed a food source with these nutrients. While some of it may end up in the egg, it’s not worth the bigger price tag.
- Eat eggs in a timely manner: Here’s a chart to help you visualize what “timely” means:
You know what they say, the proof is in the eating!
- American Egg Board Egg Industry Overview 2019 www.aeb.org/search/result-item/69-farmers-marketers/market-data-trends/231-u-s-egg-industry-egg-facts
- USDA nutrition data: Egg, whole, raw, fresh fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171287/nutrients
- Egg and Egg-Derived Foods: Effects on Human Health and Use as Functional Foods www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/7/1/706/htm
- American Egg Board: Egg Nutrition Facts www.eggnutritioncenter.org/content/uploads/2015/10/12-Largevert-voluntary.pdf
- Choline, Other Methyl-Donors and Epigenetics www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28468239
- Choline: An Important Micronutrient for Maximal Endurance-Exercise Performance? journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsnem/18/2/article-p191.xml
- Protein – Which is Best? www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3905294
- A nutrition and conditioning intervention for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: case study jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-015-0083-x
- Egg breakfast enhances weight loss www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2755181
- Average price data (in U.S. dollars), selected items www.bls.gov/charts/consumer-price-index/consumer-price-index-average-price-data.htm
- North Carolina Egg Association: Yolks Vs. Whites ncegg.org/egg-nutrition-center/yolks-vs-whites/
- History of Recommendations to the Public about Dietary Fat jn.nutrition.org/content/128/2/449S.full
- USDA and HHS Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-1/a-closer-look-inside-healthy-eating-patterns/
- What You Need to Know About Egg Safety www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm077342.htm
- American Egg Board Eggcyclopedia www.incredibleegg.org/eggcyclopedia/c/color
- Nutritional Value Is the Same for Free Range or Cage Eggs webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:epsLMRWBY5gJ:https://hoke.ces.ncsu.edu/2013/08/nutritional-value-is-the-same-for-free-range-or-cage-eggs-5/+&cd=15&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us
- The Sunny Side of Eggs www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/article/sunny-side-eggs