When properly prepared, eggs can be part of a healthy diet. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, eggs are one of the most nutritious foods available. Along with the many advantages of eggs, however, come some disadvantages, especially if eaten in excess. The amount of eggs you should consume is based on your age and heart disease risk.
Eggs are an excellent source of nutrients, such as phosphorous, vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E and protein. One large egg provides 6 grams, and two egg whites contain about 7 grams of protein. Eggs are considered high-quality protein because they contain all of the essential amino acids your body needs on a daily basis.
Eggs are high in dietary cholesterol, a contributor to heart disease, and can lead to food poisoning if not cooked properly. A review published in a 2010 edition of the “Canadian Journal of Cardiology” reported that people at risk for heart disease should limit cholesterol intake, especially from egg yolks, which contain about 184 milligrams of cholesterol per yolk. The same review encouraged limiting dietary cholesterol to less than 200 milligrams per day to reduce heart disease risk. Medline Plus recommends limiting egg consumption to four eggs or fewer per week. Salmonella bacteria are often present in eggs, and can cause illness if the eggs are not thoroughly cooked. Hard-boiled and scrambled eggs are safer than eggs with runny yolks.
Egg Whites: Pros and Cons
Egg whites lack vitamins A and D, which are present in egg yolks. However, egg whites are cholesterol-free and contain few calories. Two egg whites provide about the same amount of protein as one whole egg; however, two whites only contain 34 calories versus 55 calories in one large egg yolk. Therefore, egg whites are an excellent high-protein alternative for those who want to curb their risk for heart disease.
Although usually more expensive, some eggs are high in omega-3 fatty acids because they come from chickens fed an omega-3-rich diet; this type of diet may include soybeans or flaxseed, for example. According to Harvard School of Public Health, omega-3s may protect you against heart disease. Since omega-3 fatty acids are essential for proper fetal growth and development, they are important for pregnant women or women who may become pregnant. If eggs are enriched with omega-3s, the nutrition label generally provides information about the amount of omega-3s provided in each egg.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Egg Products Preparation
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
- Canadian Journal of Cardiology: Dietary Cholesterol and Egg Yolks: Not for Patients at Risk of Vascular Disease
- Medline Plus: Protein in Diet
- Harvard School of Public Health: Ask the Expert: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.