Who can resist biting into the creamy bliss of a deviled egg, or the combination of a soft-boiled egg with avocado on toast for breakfast? Mmmmm…. But many people naturally shun eggs because they think they’re unhealthy. Nutritionally speaking, for years, eggs have gotten a raw deal. This is because their cholesterol content was blamed for raising LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and the risk of heart-disease. But after much study, science has concluded that eggs “bad boy” reputation is not deserved after all.
A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating one egg a day was not associated with an increased risk of heart disease. That’s in addition to a 2003 study in the British Medical Journal, which tracked 115,000 adults for 14 years and concluded that eating one egg/day was not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. What researchers learned is although chicken eggs are high in cholesterol, the effect of egg consumption on blood cholesterol is minimal when compared with the effect of trans fats and saturated fats. Even though eggs have about 186 mg of cholesterol, they’re relatively low in saturated fat — about 1.6 grams in the yolk.
The number of calories in an egg depends on its size – small (54 calories), large (70 calories), and jumbo (90 calories). The white part of the egg is the best source of protein, and the white of a large egg contains about 17 calories. Although the egg yolk contains 55 calories, cholesterol and fat, it also includes vitamins A, D, E, B-6, B-12, folate, and thiamin, and the minerals calcium, iron, zinc and selenium.
The yolk is also the source of other important nutrients. It contains omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation in the body, may lower risk of heart disease and cancer, and are important for brain function and memory. The amount of omega-3s depends on the diet of the hen. Some are fed a special diet supplemented with omega-3s. Next time you’re buying eggs, check the label for omega-3 or DHA (a type of omega-3). Other key ingredients in the yolk are lutein and zeaxanthin that help to reduce the risk of agerelated macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness in older adults, and choline that plays a role in brain development and memory enhancement.
Although cooking does not significantly affect the nutritional content of eggs, the method of preparation (poaching, scrambling, omelet, frying) can certainly change the nutrient profile. For example, 1 tablespoon of butter adds 102 calories and 11.5 grams of fat. To reduce additional saturated fat, try using a non-stick spray, or a small amount of olive oil.
What you add to eggs (or eat along with them) like cheese, bacon, or sausage can also increase calories and heart unhealthy saturated fat. Cheesy eggs are delicious, but opt for naturally lower fat cheeses like feta (75 calories/oz), goat cheese (75 calories/oz), part-skim mozzarella (70 calories/oz), Neufchatel cheese (70 calories/oz) or Camembert (85 calories/oz). Along with herbs, vegetables like steamed spinach, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomatoes are a great option to fold into a scramble or omelet. Leaner meats like chicken sausage, turkey bacon or Canadian bacon are healthier protein choices.
Another plus for including eggs in your diet is that they help you feel full. A study published in 2013 in the European Journal of Nutrition looked at 30 healthy men who were assigned to eat one of three breakfasts: 1. eggs on toast, 2. cornflakes with milk, and 3. toast or a croissant and orange juice—on three separate occasions, each separated by one week. The men felt more full and less hungry after having the egg breakfast. They also ate less at lunch and dinner after having the egg breakfast, compared to the other breakfasts. Since the link between excess weight and heart disease is well established, eggs may help to keep appetite in check.
Based on current studies, here’s the take away: for most people, an egg a day does not increase your risk of a heart attack, a stroke, or any other type of cardiovascular disease. If your cholesterol is already high, or you have diabetes check with your physician and local registered dietitian/nutritionist (RD, RDN), but more than likely you’ll be able to eat eggs in moderation (four to six per week) in combination with a dietary plan that minimizes foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol.
Eggs are an eggcellent choice for important nutrients (so please don’t throw away the yolk!) and help you to feel satisfied at mealtime. Here’s a recipe to get you started.
Suzy’s Summer Antioxidant Salad
6 cups fresh spinach
3 large hard-boiled eggs
¼ cup Sun-Maid raisins
¼ cup almonds
½ cup sliced strawberries
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon vinegar (any type)
1 Tablespoon raw honey
1. Wash and dry spinach.
2. Peel, slice, and chop hard-boiled eggs.
3. In a large bowl, combine spinach, eggs, raisins, almonds, strawberries and cheese.
4. Mix together oil, vinegar, and raw honey.
5. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat.