The egg has such an undeserved sordid history. The number one myth that I constantly have to dispel in my work is that eggs are unhealthy and a major cause of high cholesterol and heart disease. I often think the most effective public health message ever disseminated is: “Eggs cause high cholesterol. High cholesterol causes heart disease and heart attacks.” I hope to convince you otherwise. The main reason people eat egg whites instead of whole eggs is to avoid the extra calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol that the yolk contains. Unfortunately when you throw out the yolk, you also throw out all the nutritional value.
When it comes to cholesterol, whole eggs may actually raise HDL or good cholesterol levels, though they may also raise total cholesterol and LDL (considered “bad” cholesterol) levels. Despite this data, additional research suggests that eating eggs leads to larger “light and fluffy” LDL molecules, which are less likely to cause clogged arteries than smaller denser LDL molecules. Overall in this area, eggs seem to have gotten an undeserved bad rap. It’s also important to remember that total cholesterol levels are not the great predictor of heart disease they were once thought to be.
Now let’s consider the nutritional analysis of 1 whole egg versus with equivalent amount of egg whites (which is the white from 1.5 eggs):
|1 whole egg
|1.5 egg whites
|Total fat (g)
|Saturated Fat (g)
|Monounsaturated fat (g)
|Polyunsaturated fat (g)
|Vitamin B-6 (mg)
|Vitamin B-12 (mcg)
|Vitamin A (IU)
|Vitamin E (mg)
|Vitamin D (IU)
Whole eggs are a much better source of minerals like calcium and zinc and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, and E as compared to egg whites. Vitamins D and E are nutrients that many people don’t get enough of. Vitamin D is essential for bone health and may help prevent certain types of cancer and autoimmune disease like multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant, which helps to prevent free radical damage to the cells of your body. Research also indicates that vitamin E may help to prevent cardiovascular disease, by preventing oxidation of LDL. Oxidized LDL is implicated in heart disease. In the latest national surveys, 90% of Americans do not take in enough vitamin E. Zinc, vitamins A, D, and E are also important for immune system function. Could it be possible that eggs yolks could help prevent you from getting sick? Perhaps.
Eggs are also one of the best sources of choline, which along with folic acid, can help to prevent neural tube defects when women take-in enough early in pregnancy. Egg yolks have 3 times as much choline as egg whites. When it comes to cardiovascular disease, choline is essential to allow transport of fat and cholesterol from the liver to the cells of the body. If you don’t take in enough choline, it can lead to fatty liver and liver dysfunction. In my practice, I have seen reversal of fatty liver in a client who drastically changed her diet to eat more protein, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, which included daily eggs, and less sugar and refined carbs. Choline also plays a role in preventing elevated levels of homocysteine, which are also associated with increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
All in all, egg yolks are a rich source of nutrients that actually may play a role in preventing heart disease, while egg whites offer minimal nutritional value aside from protein. Eating well and being healthy is about nourishing your body with nutrient-dense vitamin and mineral-rich foods, not choosing the lowest calorie, lowest fat, lowest cholesterol foods. So go ahead and eat eggs for breakfast and throw your favorite vegetables (kale, onions, and mushrooms are some of my personal favorites) in for a very satisfying, nourishing, and healthy way to start the day.
Do you eat whole eggs, or do you usually toss out the yolk? Does this post make you change your mind? Please comment below and let me know!