An egg is a nutritional powerhouse that contains a wide variety of essential nutrients including protein, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. Eggs are frequently fried, scrambled or poached, although hard-boiling them preserves the highest percentage of nutrients. The protein in eggs is complete and easily digested, which is why eggs have been a staple for athletes for generations. Hard-boiled eggs are also quick to prepare and easily transported, which makes them a convenient snack at any time of day.
Quality of Eggs
The potential health benefits of hard-boiled eggs are directly related to the quality of eggs you buy. Organic eggs are laid by hens fed organic grains, which often leads to more nutrients when compared to regular eggs, but it depends on the type of regular feed and the overall health of the birds. Free-range eggs are laid by hens allowed to roam outside of their cages, which may lead to the most nutritious eggs, but it depends on the plant material, soil quality and insects available to the birds while they forage. Free-range eggs are almost always more expensive, often twice the cost of regular eggs.
Eggs contain many essential nutrients while being low in calories -- about 75 calories each, on average. A regular store-bought egg weighing approximately 50 grams contains about 6.4 grams of complete protein, 0.4 grams of carbohydrate, 4.1 grams of fat and 215 milligrams of cholesterol. Eggs are a rich source of choline, tryptophan and selenium, and good sources of many B-vitamins and vitamin A. Eggs also contain vitamins D and E, iodine, magnesium, sodium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, zinc and flavonoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Eggs are quickly digested and completely absorbed by your body within about two hours. On average, hard-boiled eggs are about 15 percent more nutritious compared to fried eggs because the lower cooking temperature destroys fewer nutrients.
Potential Health Benefits
In addition to containing all the essential amino acids needed for muscle growth and repair, eggs are a good source of saturated fat, which is needed to build and maintain cell walls. Cell function is greatly aided by the high amounts of choline found in eggs, according to the “PDR for Nutritional Supplements.” Choline also promotes the function of your nervous system, especially in terms of memory, and stimulates metabolism in your liver. The antioxidants in eggs, such as vitamins A and E as well as lutein and zeaxanthin, combat free radicals and help reduce oxidation damage in tissues, especially in the eyes. In fact, lutein and zeaxanthin are linked to lower risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, which both lead to visual impairment.
Although eggs contain many healthy nutrients, the yolks are fairly high in saturated fat and cholesterol, which may increase your risk of cardiovascular problems if you indulge in them too much or too often. For example, eggs typically contain between 200 and 220 milligrams of cholesterol and most medical authorities recommend limiting cholesterol to 300 milligrams daily. Consequently, it may be a good idea to limit your consumption of hard-boiled eggs and refrain from combining them with other foods high in fat and cholesterol such as sausage, bacon or butter.
- The Nutribase Complete Book of Food Counts; Art Ulene
- PDR for Nutritional Supplements; Sheldon Hendler and David Rorvik
- Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Reference: Evidence-based Clinical Reviews; Catherine E. Ulbricht and Ethan M. Basch
- Public Health Nutrition: From Principles to Practice; Mark Lawrence and Tony Worsley
Sirah Dubois is currently a PhD student in food science after having completed her master's degree in nutrition at the University of Alberta. She has worked in private practice as a dietitian in Edmonton, Canada and her nutrition-related articles have appeared in The Edmonton Journal newspaper.