The Facts about Eggs and Egg Whites

The Facts about Eggs and Egg Whites

How nutritionally healthy are eggs, and egg whites, for you?

At 70 calories each, an egg has 6 grams of high biological value (HBV) protein and lots of vitamins and minerals, but that’s just the beginning. Eggs are also great for energy and muscle building, they are full of antioxidants that are important for your brain (choline) and vision (vitamin A) and they’re even rich in an amino acid that’ll lessen the misery of hangovers (cysteine)! But even with all of their positive traits, eggs have still been the subject of lots of controversy over the past decade because of their high cholesterol and fat content. So what’s the real story with eggs and egg whites? Should you keep ‘em or cut ‘em? Without further ado, let’s crack open (had to) some of the most popular myths surrounding eggs.

Eggs cause high cholesterol
Myth. It’s true that 1 egg yolk has ~212mg of cholesterol (for comparison, the recommended daily allowance for cholesterol is 300mg). Back in the day, people used to avoid eggs because of this. But over the past two decades researchers have found that our body’s “bad” cholesterol (called LDL) is more affected by saturated fat and trans fat than by food sources of cholesterol. Studies have repeatedly shown that people who eat 1-2 eggs/day don’t have any measurable changes in LDL. What does that mean to you? It means that eating small amounts of cholesterol in food won’t necessarily raise your blood cholesterol. But as always, check in with your doc before diving into an omelette a day if you have high cholesterol or think you might be at risk for it.

Yolks are full of fat (mostly saturated fat) so I should only eat whites
Myth. Listen dudes, yeah, the yolk is where all the fat and the majority of the calories are, but by only eating the whites of the egg you’re missing out on all of the nutrition value of the egg. See for yourself by checking out the nutritional breakdown:

As far as fat goes, there are ~5g of total fat in the yolk but less than 1/3 of that is saturated fat (~1.5g). The average person shouldn’t consume more than 16g saturated fat per day, so 1 or 2 egg yolks aren’t going to kill you.

The yolks also contain Lutein and Zeaxanthin which are important for your vision, and are also one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, which is important for bone health. Additionally, Choline is part of a neurotransmitter (it sends messages between your muscles and your brain), and it decreases inflammation.

So while there are lots of healthy things about a yolk, eating more than 1 or 2 yolks will still increase calories and saturated fat content of your meal. Take a look at what tossing a few in the garbage will do for the protein content in your next meal:

3 whole large eggs: 225 calories, 18.9 g protein, 15 g fat
8 egg whites & 1 whole egg: 211 calories, 34.3 g protein, 5 g fat

Geez! While eating 8 whites of the egg is kind of outrageous, it’s worth cutting back on the yolks and fat for the extra protein.

Eating raw eggs is great for muscle building
Myth. This is a popular one, as athletes like boxers and the Arnold himself advocate drinking raw eggs, but are raw eggs actually better for you? The short answer is no. Besides the risk of getting salmonella poisoning (which, in reality, is a pretty small risk), the protein in raw eggs is only 50-65% absorbed, compared with 91-94% of the protein in cooked eggs. So to make a long story short The Governator could’ve gotten up to 40% more protein from scrambling those bad boys. No need for you to make the same mistake.

Eggs with brown shells are healthier than those with white shells
Myth. Believe it or not shell color has nada to do with nutrition or taste and has everything to do with feather color of the chicken. White eggs come from white chickens, and brown eggs come from reddish-brown ones. Yeah, it’s that simple.

Egg substitutes like egg beaters are the same thing as eggs without the shells
Depends. While the carton of Egg Beaters might tell you it’s made from real eggs, what they mean by that is there’s real egg in it somewhere. They hang on to the egg whites, and add in synthetic ingredients like emulsifiers, flavors and vitamins to make them look and taste sort of like real eggs. They became popular after the whole cholesterol scare, but since we now know we don’t have to worry about a yolk or two, real eggs are a better option.

There is a difference between Egg Beaters and ready-to-use 100% egg whites, though. If you’re watching your calories, or trying to squeeze in a high-protein mini meal, a carton of pre-separated egg whites is always a great option. Just make sure to get your good fats and other nutrients elsewhere.

Listen, the bottom line is this: No matter how you cook them (and you better cook ‘em), eggs are a great source of protein and muscle-building nutrients; just go easy on the yolks and easy on the synthetic substitutes. Oh, and last but not least, whenever you’ve had a rough day, just think how bad your life would be if you were an egg... You’d only ever get laid once!

If cooking eggs is too much for you to handle, 1R would recommend the following products that contain egg protein:

  • Optimum Nutrition 2:1:1 Recovery - The carbs and protein blend will help you recover and build lean muscle faster after tough workouts
  • BSN Syntha-6 - This versatile protein blend can be used as a meal replacement to help you meet your daily protein requirements or as a post workout shake to help improve your recovery time and build lean muscle mass
  • BSN True Mass – This post workout weight gainer with 6 different protein sources ensures that you’re maximizing your workouts
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About the Author

Carolyn is a Nutritionist/Registered Dietitian and has her masters in Clinical Nutrition from NYU. She went to Tulane in New Orleans for undergrad, spent 3 months traveling around the world on Semester at Sea and then swung through Boulder, CO before landing in her current home of NYC. Carolyn has a blog called One Smart Brownie (www.onesmartbrownie.com) to simplify healthy eating for those who don’t spend their lives studying nutrition. Her favorite hobbies include getting new stamps on her passport and telling yo mama jokes, and she says that if she were to have a crush on a food it would be chocolate biscotti, no questions asked.