Eggs are one of those foods it seems nutrition professionals can’t make their minds up about: first they are good for you, then they are bad for you and now they are considered good again. Eggs are a protein source and have many other vitamins and minerals. However, they are also relatively high in cholesterol and fat, which is why they have been disputed on if they are beneficial or harmful.
Here are some health benefits from egg whites, egg yolks and considerations if you should egg whole eggs or just egg whites.
Why eggs have a bad reputation
The reason eggs have a bad reputation is that a large egg has about 200 mg of cholesterol and about 6 grams of fat. General guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) for heart health recommend limiting cholesterol intake of 300 mg per day. One egg a day can put you relatively close to this cholesterol limit, and this is why eggs had a caution around them especially for people with risk factors for heart disease.
However, it is now known dietary cholesterol does not have a strong impact on blood cholesterol levels. What has a greater impact than dietary cholesterol is dietary fat and sugar on blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Some people with increased risk still need to be on a lower dietary cholesterol intake. If you have questions about your cholesterol intake and heart health talk with a health professional.
Health benefits of egg whites
Eating eggs without the yolks will give you almost all the protein without the cholesterol, as all the cholesterol is in the yolk. Eating egg whites instead of whole eggs became a popular alternative for people on limited cholesterol diets.
Eggs are considered a concentrated source of protein; one large egg white provides about 7 grams of protein. Because of this, egg whites are also a popular choice for body builders because you get protein and not a significant amount of fat or carbohydrates. Egg whites are high in protein and also contain a small amount of riboflavin.
Health benefits of egg yolks
Egg yolks don’t have the protein of the egg whites, but they offer a lot of other nutritional benefit. Egg yolks contain choline, a compound needed for brain health. Egg yolks are one of a few foods with a natural source of vitamin D, and egg yolks contain vitamin A, folate, vitamin B-12, selenium, iron, zinc and vitamin B6.
One reason some health professionals are now in favor of eating whole eggs instead of just egg whites is because the egg yolks are a source for so many vitamins and minerals that are important for health.
Heart health and eggs
As mentioned above, eggs have been in and out of the “healthy” spot light for nutrition. Most research studies suggest moderate egg consumption, up to one egg a day, won’t increase risk for high cholesterol or increase risk for heart disease.
For example, a 2006 study from British Journal of Nutrition analyzed egg intake and coronary heart disease (CHD) with high cholesterol in middle aged Japanese men and women. Researchers found eating eggs, about one per day, was not associated with increased risk for CHD.
So does this mean you can eat as many eggs as you want? Most health professionals still caution moderation with eggs, up to one per day for most healthy people. Also, other heart health conditions may still warrant a lower cholesterol intake, or if there is diabetes and heart health issues. A 2008 study in Circulation concluded higher intakes of 1 egg per day may increase risk for heart failure in male test subjects.
Whole egg or just the white?
Most people can enjoy whole eggs, about one per day, without increasing risk for heart conditions. Eating more than 1 egg per day may increase risk for some people, while other people may be able to eat more than 1 egg per day and be fine. Dietary cholesterol does not impact blood cholesterol as much as other dietary factors.
If a doctor has told you to lower your cholesterol intake for medical reasons, egg whites would be better than whole eggs because you eliminate the cholesterol by only eating the egg whites. Eating only egg whites are also popular for people looking for a concentrated source of protein, like body builders.
Either egg whites or whole eggs can be a healthy choice whether it’s for an egg dish or to use in baking. Egg yolks provide many vitamins and minerals that are missed when just eating egg whites.
Be aware that some packaged egg whites have extra coloring and preservatives added to them to make them look like real eggs. Check labels before buying packaged egg whites, as the extra fillers may not be worth paying for.
References used in this article