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Are eggs healthy? A dietitian weighs in

Forget what you've heard.

Although eggs are a breakfast staple for many people, they tend get a bad rap for their cholesterol content. But you may be surprised to learn that eggs contain eight essential nutrients, protein, healthy fats and antioxidants. Plus, they are affordable, easy to cook and versatile. And believe it or not, the cholesterol in eggs isn’t actually linked to raising blood cholesterol levels. Here are some of the top reasons to have an egg a day and a few great ways to include them in your daily meal plan. 

Egg Nutrition Facts

One large egg has an abundance of nutrients, including:

70 calories

5 grams fat

185 milligrams cholesterol 

70 milligrams sodium

0 grams carbohydrates

0 grams fiber

0 grams sugar

6 grams protein

1 mcg vitamin D (6% (daily value) DV)

80 mcg vitamin A (8% DV)

0.2 milligrams riboflavin (15% DV)

0.5 mcg vitamin B12 (20% DV)

28 mcg iodine (20% DV)

15 mcg selenium (25% DV)

150 mg choline (25% DV)

The health benefits of eggs

Looking at the nutrition facts, it’s no shocker that eggs have been synonymous with cholesterol. But recent research has determined that eating cholesterol is not associated with an increase in blood cholesterol. “While past research confused the public regarding if it was truly safe to eat eggs on a regular basis out of fear of cardiovascular disease, recent research has since disproved this notion,” said registered dietitian Elizabeth Shaw.

As a matter of fact, the American Heart Association recommends eggs as a source of protein in a heart-healthy diet. A study of more than 400,000 adults in Europe found no link between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease risk. Actually, the study found that higher egg intake was associated with lower risk of having a heart attack. 

Another similar study demonstrated that eating one egg per day is not correlated to heart disease risk. In fact, the authors concluded that eating eggs may even lower cardiovascular disease risk. 

Eggs are also one of the only natural food sources of vitamin D, a nutrient that promotes calcium absorption for bone health. Vitamin D plays a role in many other bodily functions, such as combatting inflammation, cell growth, immune function and glucose metabolism. The main source of vitamin D is the sun, but blood levels often fluctuate based on skin color, time spent outdoors and geographic location. Many people have a vitamin D deficiency at some point in their life, but one study found that eating one egg per day can help prevent deficiencies that commonly occur during winter months. 

“Eggs are also one of the highest concentrated sources of choline, an important vitamin that most Americans don’t get enough of in their diet,” said Shaw. This little known essential nutrient plays an integral part in liver, brain and muscle function, as well as metabolism and cell membrane composition. Most notably, choline is involved in fetal brain and spinal cord development, making it a crucial nutrient for pregnant people. 

Plus, the Academy of Pediatrics declared choline a brain building nutrient and recommended all pediatricians stress the importance of this nutrient with caregivers. It’s no wonder “the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommends incorporating eggs as an important fundamental first food for infants due to their comprehensive nutrition profile that helps with growth and development,” Shaw explained. 

Lastly, eggs contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that are known to improve or prevent macular disease, the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment. Lutein and zeaxanthin also contribute to cognitive function, as well as reduce cancer and cardiovascular disease risk. 

Are there any drawbacks to eating eggs?

While people previously believed that dietary cholesterol was the culprit for increased blood cholesterol levels, new research indicates that saturated fat is actually the main determinant for high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 5% of daily calories (11 grams) from saturated fat.  

One large egg has 1.5 grams of saturated fat, which is a little more than 13% the daily value (in a 2,000 calorie diet). Therefore, eating more than one egg per day can really add up, especially if you eat other animal foods. While eggs have many health benefits, it’s best to limit your intake to one or two eggs per day. 

3 fun facts about eggs

The shell color doesn’t matter

Believe it or not, brown eggs are not more nutritious or higher quality than white eggs. The only difference in the egg shell color is the bird that laid the eggs. Hens with white feathers lay white eggs, while hens with red feathers lay brown eggs. 

And Shaw said the egg shells can actually serve a purpose: “Don’t toss those shells! You can use them in your garden as nutrient rich compost.”  

Most of the nutrition is in the yolk

“Contrary to what you may see on social media, you actually want to eat the whole egg (yep, yolk included) to reap the full nutritional benefits,” said Shaw. The yolk houses most of the nutrients, including the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as all of the choline, lutein and zeaxanthin. 

Eggs are good for post-workout recovery 

Research suggests eating at least 20 grams of protein after a workout promotes muscle protein synthesis. And proteins that contain the amino acid leucine have been shown to be most effective for muscle repair and growth. One large egg has 6 grams of high-quality protein with all nine essential amino acids (including leucine). Not to mention that eggs are inexpensive and easy to cook after a strenuous workout. 

Healthy egg recipes

Eggs are a breakfast staple, but they also work well for lunch and dinner. Here are some creative ways to use eggs. 

Breakfast: A simple veggie-stuffed omelet is an easy and delicious breakfast that comes together in minutes. Both frittatas and souffles are two egg-centric dishes that can be meal prepped ahead of time for busy mornings. 

Lunch/Brunch: Invite friends over for brunch and impress them with a healthy quiche lorraine or deviled egg toast. And if you’re really hungry, opt for a double decker egg salad sandwich or brunch burger topped with a sunny side up egg

Dinner: Make a lightened up spaghetti carbonara, add eggs to sheetpan meal for a quick and easy protein or top off homemade ramen with a soft boiled egg.  

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