I get asked this question a lot, “I’m not sure if I should be eating whole eggs or just the whites. Are whole eggs healthy or unhealthy?
It’s a great question! Recommendations have gone back and forth for many years. For healthy adults, whole eggs can be part of a nutritious diet and contribute healthful benefits. However, depending on your goals, you may benefit from including both, whole eggs and egg whites, to meet your protein and fat needs.
An egg (whole) is a nutrient-dense food rich in vitamins, minerals, iron, and carotenoids. Their biological value (BV) of 100 means your body is able to utilize 100 percent of the protein (egg whites have a BV of about 88). On that note, almost half of the protein content is in the yolk.
Eggs are a good source of choline, an essential nutrient for brain development and memory. They are also one of the few foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D. With disease-fighting lutein and zeaxanthin, they may reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
So, that’s all good stuff. Their bad reputation stems mostly from their cholesterol content, and its perceived effect on heart health. Originally, it was understood that dietary cholesterol had a strong influence on serum (blood) cholesterol. However, several recent studies indicate otherwise. Harvard School of Public Health states, “A solid body of research shows that for most people, cholesterol in food has a much smaller effect on blood levels of total cholesterol and harmful LDL cholesterol than does the mix of fats in the diet.” In other words, consuming saturated and trans-fats show a stronger correlation in increasing serum cholesterol, than consuming dietary sources of cholesterol.
The American Heart Association also gives the green light on eggs, however they hold their suggested daily cholesterol limit at 300mg (one large egg contains about 180mg).
It’s worth mentioning that most of the study participants consumed one to two eggs per day, so it’s unclear if greater consumption would have a negative impact. Also, those having difficulty controlling their LDL cholesterol and/or those with diabetes should consult with a Registered Dietitian for individualized recommendations.
The verdict: Whole eggs are healthy. Eat the yolk!
By: Stephanie Brust, MS, RDN, LD/N
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