When it comes to sources of animal protein, eggs are one of our best choices. They are a nutrient-rich, natural, whole food that is easy to prepare, and super yummy. Eggs have a biological value (a measure of protein quality) of 100, meaning that they house all the essential amino acids needed to survive. Aside from containing 7 grams of high-quality protein and 5 grams of healthy fats, whole eggs are a great source of a variety of vitamins and minerals, including iron, choline, vitamin D and vitamin B12.
People have historically avoided eggs due to their high cholesterol content, believing that too much dietary cholesterol could lead to heart disease. However, the truth is that dietary cholesterol is not the culprit that leads to high blood cholesterol. As humans, we need cholesterol to survive, and we actually produce it ourselves!
To achieve the health benefits from eggs, we must eat the whole egg because the yolk is the most nutritious part! It not only contains the majority of the egg’s vitamins and minerals, but it also holds ~40% of the total protein. The yolk contains fat-soluble nutrients like vitamin D, which is important for bone health and immune function, choline, which enhances brain development and memory, and antioxidant properties, which help protect the body from damage caused by harmful free radicals… very necessary in the world we live in. The healthy fats of the yolk, in combination with the protein, will keep you satiated until your next meal so you’re not reaching for the snack drawer!
So you’re thinking, what if I just want the protein and don’t care about all the other benefits in the yolk? Well, when considering choosing the egg white omelet or doubling up on egg whites and trashing the yolk… remember this. Egg whites are one of our most constipating food sources, and adhere like cement to the intestine. Did you know that egg whites are used in wallpaper paste? Yuck! By adding the yolk, we’re able to better keep things moving.
When it comes to buying eggs, things can get quite confusing with all the different labels these days. Always choose pasture-raised organic eggs, not just “cage-free”. Pastured or pasture-raised means that the hens were raised in some sort of outdoor pasture setting. Pasture feeding can actually double the amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acids in the yolk because the hen is able to consume plants like clover and alfalfa which are rich in omega-3s. Unfortunately, not many standards are set for labeling terms; so the amount of time the hens spend outside really is unknown and what qualifies as outdoor space may be unclear. Nonetheless, try to stay away from commercial eggs, which have less nutritional value and can be loaded with hormones and antibiotics. These chickens are confined to tiny cages their entire lives and are fed an unnatural diet of corn, soy, and cottonseed. When you eat eggs, you’re also eating what the chickens ate, in addition to the hormones and antibiotics they were pumped with.
So how many eggs should you eat? The amount of eggs you should eat depends on what the rest of your diet looks like. If you are eating tons of fruits, vegetables, juices, raw greens and avocado, for example, you can eat a few eggs a day without a problem. That diet is balanced by tons of alkaline foods.
Eggs are good for you. And bottom line: If you’re going to eat eggs, eat the whole thing!
By Nathalie W Rhone, MS, RD, CDN
Nathalie is a Registered Dietitian and Functional Medicine Nutritionist who has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Cornell University and a Masters of Science in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Nathalie is the founder of Nutrition by Nathalie LLC, a private nutrition practice in New York City focusing on health and wellness using an integrative approach, and All Good Eats, a social media health and wellness brand focusing on healthy, practical recipes and leading a clean, holistic lifestyle. When she isn’t working with her clients or on media projects, you can find Nathalie working out at Tracy Anderson Method, experimenting with new recipes in the All Good Eats Kitchen, or traveling with her husband and mini-aussie, Brady. For more information, visit www.nutritionbynathalie.com.