Are Egg Whites Healthy?

Egg whites deliver fat-free protein.

Egg whites deliver fat-free protein.

Many women choose to eat only the egg white because the yolk contains all of the fat. Egg whites are also good for dieters because they’re very low in calories and deliver complete protein. On the downside, the egg white is not exactly packed with vitamins and minerals.

Fat Free

The white from one large egg has just 17 calories and 0.06 gram of fat, which is considered to be fat free. By comparison, the egg yolk has 4.5 grams of fat, including 184 milligrams of cholesterol. A fat-free source of protein is certainly healthy, but in the larger picture, you still need to include some fat in your diet because it has an essential role in vitamin absorption. Aim to get 20 to 35 percent of your daily calories from fat. Limit saturated fats to less than 7 percent of your daily calories and get most of your dietary fat from healthy unsaturated fats.

Complete Protein

Egg whites are an easy way to add fat-free protein to your diet, and they contain all of the amino acids, so they're a complete protein. You’ll get 3.6 grams of protein from the white in one large egg. Women need 46 grams of protein daily, so they get 8 percent of their recommended intake. When protein is digested, it’s broken down into individual amino acids and then rebuilt to create whatever protein your body needs. Amino acids are not stored for future use, so your body needs a regular supply of protein from your diet.

Nutrients

You'll only get a significant amount of two nutrients from the egg white: selenium and riboflavin. Riboflavin is one of the B vitamins essential for metabolizing food and producing energy. Selenium combines with proteins to form selenoproteins. Some selenoproteins regulate thyroid hormones, while others are antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. The white from one large egg has 6.7 micrograms of selenium and 0.15 milligram of riboflavin. That's 14 percent of women's recommended intake of riboflavin and 12 percent of selenium.

Considerations

Women who are healthy should limit their cholesterol to no more than 300 milligrams daily. If your cholesterol is high or you’re at an increased risk for heart disease, you shouldn’t consume more than 200 milligrams. That makes egg whites a healthy choice for reducing cholesterol. Otherwise, eating just the whites versus whole eggs is not always a straightforward choice. For many people, dietary cholesterol has less impact on heart health than saturated and trans fats, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. One egg yolk is actually low in saturated fat, plus it has nutrients that you won't get from the egg white, including folate, antioxidants and vitamins A, E and B-12. Talk to your health care provider if you have any concerns about your diet.

 

About the Author

Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.

Photo Credits

  • Burke/Triolo Productions/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images