I love eggs, but I’m never quite sure if they’re really good for me or not.
Eggs seem to be one of those foods that go in and out of favor, depending on what the most recent research shows.
So I thought I’d spend a little time doing my own research and determine what are, if any, the health benefits of eggs.
Eggs are packed full of nutrients
First the good stuff.
A large egg contains a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients—and at only 77 calories, that’s a great deal!
Here’s a rundown of the top nutrients:
- Vitamin A:
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Vitamin B12
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- Folate (vitamin B9)
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin
All these nutrients support cell growth and function, which makes sense because an egg is meant to provide nourishment for a growing embryo.
- Vitamin A, lutein and zeaxanthin are especially important for eye health.
- Eggs are one of the best dietary sources of choline, a compound necessary for a healthy brain and nervous system.
- Eggs are also an excellent source of selenium, a mineral that supports thyroid function and the immune system.
- The protein in eggs is good quality. It has all the amino acids in proper proportion, so eggs are a great protein source for anyone who doesn’t eat meat.
So eggs are relatively inexpensive, readily available, easy to prepare, low calorie and full of nutrients.
What’s not to like about them?
Saturated fat and cholesterol
Decades ago researchers jumped on saturated fat and cholesterol as the leading dietary causes of heart disease and stroke.
Fat-free everything became the trend, and we were stuck with the unappetizing cartons of “fake eggs” for making omelets and scrambled eggs.
Now we know that dietary fat and cholesterol may not be all that bad, or at least not for everyone.
In general, cholesterol levels are determined by our genes, and our diets only have a modest effect, good or bad.
I found multiple studies over the last five years that show eating eggs, even every day, doesn’t increase our cholesterol levels or put us at higher risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke.
On the contrary, eggs have been shown to actually benefit heart health. They raise our levels of the good cholesterol (HDLs), and change the bad cholesterol, or LDLs, into a healthier form.
But despite all the pro-egg news, I found a few studies that continue to link eggs and cholesterol to an increased risk of heart disease.
It’s not all gloom and doom, though. The researchers on one recent study basically just reminded everyone that even though dietary cholesterol guidelines have gone away, it’s still prudent to limit how much cholesterol we eat every day (so maybe go without the side of bacon).
…don’t completely banish eggs and other cholesterol-rich foods from meals, because eggs and red meat are good sources of important nutrients such as essential amino acids, iron and choline. Instead, choose egg whites instead of whole eggs or eat whole eggs in moderation.
“We want to remind people there is cholesterol in eggs, specifically yolks, and this has a harmful effect,” said [researcher Norrina] Allen, who cooked scrambled eggs for her children that morning. “Eat them in moderation.”
Anyone with a really high cholesterol level or other risk factors for heart disease (diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, etc.) should probably talk with a doctor or dietitian for more information about eggs and cholesterol.
My husband is one of those unlucky few we call “hyper-responders.” That means his diet is much more likely to affect his cholesterol levels. His cholesterol really spiked a few years ago after he started eating eggs every day for breakfast, and his doctor threatened him with statins. 😬
Luckily he was able to significantly reduce his cholesterol by watching what he ate and increasing soluble fiber in his diet.
But for most healthy adults, the nutrition benefit of eggs appears to outweigh the negatives. Yay! I can continue to enjoy an egg or two several times a week.
Bottom line: An egg with a slice of whole grain toast and a small glass of calcium-fortified orange juice makes a delicious and nutritionally-balanced breakfast.