Health Benefits of Eggs
Eggs have garnered some controversy over the years, primarily because of their cholesterol content.
“The thinking on eggs and cholesterol is changing,” says EvergreenHealth nutritionist Marcy Dorsey, MS, RD, CD. “About 80% of your cholesterol is made in your liver. This is serum cholesterol, which is different from dietary cholesterol from food.”
Marcy points to numerous studies that show there are no harmful effects from regular egg consumption. These studies include one that found that people with heart disease could safely eat two whole eggs a day without negatively impacting their cholesterol, blood pressure, or weight.
Marcy encourages people to eat whole eggs, including the yolk, despite the dietary cholesterol they contain. “Why use egg replacement products and then have to add cheese or another fat for flavor? It’s healthier to simply include the yolk.”
She says that it is fine for most people to eat eggs several times a week, which is in keeping with current American Heart Association and Mayo Clinic guidelines.
Marcy says that many people are deficient in the very nutrients that egg yolks contain. The variety of vitamins and other nutrients in whole eggs makes them an important part of a balanced diet:
- Eggs are high in protein with 6 grams in a 70-calorie large egg, making them an excellent protein source for vegetarians or others who limit their meat consumption. Protein helps you build muscles as well as repair tissue following exercise.
- Eggs contain healthy fats that help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you full longer. Most egg yolks contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, though the amount varies based on the diet of the hen. Some brands of eggs have added omega-3s.
- Whole eggs are one of the best sources of choline. Each one contains 30% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA), primarily in the yolk. Choline is a B vitamin that is essential to fetal brain development and may reduce the risk of cancer for adults. Choline helps your body produce serotonin (the “happiness hormone”), reduce inflammation, and maintain brain health.
- The sulfur in eggs helps with the absorption of choline and other B vitamins. It also aids in collagen production for healthy skin, hair, and nails.
- Eggs are one of the few food sources of Vitamin D. One large egg contains 45 IUs of the 600 IUs you need per day. Vitamin D helps aid calcium absorption for better bone health.
These nutrients give eggs many health benefits:
- Weight control: Multiple studies have found that people who eat eggs as part of their breakfast eat fewer total calories throughout the day than those who eat complex carbohydrates instead. Eating protein at breakfast helps you feel full longer and helps fight off cravings throughout the day.
- Eye health: Egg yolks are high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important in preventing macular degeneration and cataracts. Eggs also provide approximately 10% of your daily RDA of Vitamin A, another important vitamin for protecting your eyes and preventing night blindness.
- Reduced disease risk: A in Science Daily showed that antioxidants in eggs may reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. Another study showed that the protein in eggs could help reduce blood pressure, further reducing the risk of heart disease.
Marcy says that eggs from free-range or “pastured” hens – those that forage for at least 20% of their food – have less cholesterol and saturated fat, more Vitamin A, and three times the omega-3s, Vitamin D, and Vitamin E of conventional supermarket eggs from commercially raised chickens.
Eggs labeled “organic” come from chickens that receive organic feed, are not given hormones or antibiotics, and are also free-range. The yolks in these eggs may be deeper yellow with a richer flavor. You will also pay a little more for them.
Some people choose brown eggs believing they are healthier, but this is not the case. The size and color of an egg is determined by the chicken that produced it. Brown chickens lay brown eggs and white lay white, but their nutrition is similar.
Sometimes brown eggs cost more, because the chickens that lay them tend to be larger and therefore cost more to feed, according to the EveryDay Health newsletter.
If you want to ensure that you always have fresh, flavorful eggs close by, you might consider raising chickens at home. The trend is growing in popularity in urban and suburban areas.
The health benefits of eggs make them something you should include in your meals several times a week. They can be served at any meal, from a breakfast omelet to a dinner soufflé.
Try one of our recipes below – they work at any meal. Get cracking and eat well!