Everyone seems to have an opinion on eggs. Some people think that they're the perfect breakfast food, filled with healthy fats, protein and numerous vitamins. They stack eggs on their plate with no thought, filling up with relish on this animal-based protein.
Others aren't so sure. In recent years the purported negative health effects of eggs have become a form of tabloid gossip as dieticians and dieters alike rant and rave about the high levels of cholesterol within the ever-delicious egg yolk.
Eggs only belong under chickens they claim, unless you're willing to eat only the white. Who's right? Are eggs a diet disaster or a natural health food full of benefits?
Simply searching online for the answers might leave you more confused than before, so we've taken it on ourselves to do the difficult work for you and find out once and for all what role eggs should take in your daily diet.
The rest of this article delves deeply into the story behind eggs, from their evolutionary history to their effects on weight loss. And yes, we'll be answering the cholesterol question as well.
If you want to know the truth about where eggs should fit in your daily diet, then keep on reading. Together we'll tackle the complexities of this strange food and give you the information you need to get back on your journey towards your healthiest life.
What Do People Fear About Eggs?
Eggs have been an important part of the human diet for thousands of years, but in the past few decades they have gotten enough bad publicity to take them permanently off many people's menus. One of the biggest concerns is salmonella.
As kids, most of us were warned by our mothers not to eat raw cookie dough, lest we contract this awful infection.
Our mothers were right to warn us, as salmonella bacteria have the power to make you extremely sick, and occasionally even dead.
Children are the most at risk of developing salmonella, and eggs are one of the easiest ways that it can spread, especially when eaten raw or undercooked.
The widespread media publicity about salmonella infections around the country has caused many people to be concerned enough to take eggs permanently off their plate.
The second part of the scary story about eggs is cholesterol. The American Heart Association's guidelines for dietary cholesterol are about 300 mg per day, and because one egg can contain over 185 mg, many people see them as too big of a risk for their diets to handle.
Are these risks so great that they outweigh the benefits of eating eggs? Frankly, we don't think so.
The negative health effects of eggs have been greatly exaggerated and are out of touch with the reality of the actual full-body benefits of this natural food.
Soon we'll look at the these health claims and others about eggs more carefully, but for now, let's take a moment to really understand what an egg is.
What Is An Egg?
It's easy to forget when you see them sterilized in the cold section of the grocery store, but eggs are the biological tools that chickens (and other birds) use to reproduce.
Contrary to what many people think, hens don't need a rooster to lay eggs; not having a rooster just ensures that the eggs aren't fertile.
Like the female bodies of mammals, chickens have internal eggs that are available for fertilization on a consistent basis.
However, instead of having them available monthly or seasonally like other females, top production chickens usually lay between 250-300 eggs per year.
The high rate that modern chickens lay eggs speaks to their long domesticated history that has kept them closely connected with humans.
Chickens were first domesticated in southeast Asia over 8,000 years ago, and since then chickens have been selective bred over time to achieve the high rates of egg production that commercial egg facilities aim for today.
In nature, wild chickens only lay about 10 to 15 eggs a year, and any more than this can easily cause long term damage to the hen's body.
The process of creating an egg is actually quite complex. To form an egg embryo internally usually takes a chicken about 24 hours.
Once formed, the yolk moves into the oviduct that contains several stages for the egg to go though before a hard outer shell is formed around the embryo.
One of these stages, called the infundibulum, is the stage where an egg gets fertilized by a rooster if the hen is given the opportunity to mate.
If she doesn't, the egg continues to form normally and simply will rot if not eaten, rather than forming a chick.
Once an egg is laid, it is usually abandoned by a hen unless she is in the mood to brood.
In conventional chicken farms eggs are collected through an automatic system and are brought to a facility where they can be cleaned and distributed.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Eating Eggs?
It's hard to imagine that eight thousand years of happy egg eaters could have gotten the chicken egg wrong nutritionally, and the truth of the matter is that the humble egg is full of health benefits that will have impressive effects on your whole body.
If you think about the intended purpose of an egg, this makes sense. Every egg contains within it all the nutritional material that an embryo needs to form into a chick.
Unlike mammals that can feed their offspring through the benefit of an umbilical cords in the placenta, a chick is left entirely to the food sources it can find inside its shell.
Each egg contains 78 calories, but that's only the beginning of the impressive nutritional content contained between each shell.
Pumped Full Of Protein
Your body needs a constant supply of protein to stay full and perform to its fullest capacity. Protein is necessary for the basic functions of your body like growing nails, hair, and of course muscles.
Eating lots of protein in your diet helps to ensure that your body gets lots of health benefits, including quicker recovery after exercise, a faster build up of lean muscle mass and more stamina with less hunger throughout the day.
Each egg contains six grams of protein, meaning that a breakfast cooked with two eggs will give you the metabolism-boosting benefits that you need to stay full and energetic all morning long.
High protein foods like eggs can help you reduce your appetite and stay full enough that you don't need to snack between meals, which can prevent you from suffering a sugar crash from grabbing refined carbohydrate snacks when your energy reserves are low.
Eggs are a perfect source of protein to achieve this type of fullness.
Multiple studies have shown that eating meals containing eggs increases your feeling of fullness, even compared to eating meals that contain more calories.
Because of their protein content, eggs rank high on the Satiety Index, meaning that they will cause you to both feel full and eat fewer calories on average throughout your day.
A Powerhouse Of Nutrients
Eggs may look simple, but they are filled with disease-fighting nutrients that are essential for keeping your body functioning properly.
Each egg contains a healthy dosage of letein and zeaxanthin that can help to reduce your risk of macular degeneration that is caused by age and often leads to blindness in older adults.
One key to the unique benefits that eggs have for the body is that they can be eaten on their own for nutrient effectiveness.
Unlike plant-based nutritious foods like kale and beans, eggs don't have to be combined with fat in order for your body to absorb nutrients out of them - the five grams of fat in each egg ensures that their nutritional content is fully soluble for your body.
Eggs contain trace amounts of the vast majority of vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function.
Some of the highest concentrations of these essential nutrients are listed below.
Within one large egg there is:
Egg Yolk: Good For You Or Better Thrown Out?
In recent years, no part of the egg has undergone more controversy than the yolk itself. At first glance, this can be confusing because there's a lot to get excited about in the egg yolk.
When compared to the yolk, the egg white is bland and devoid of almost everything tasty and nutritious, including the majority of its iron, folate and vitamins.
Eating an egg without the yolk is like eating popcorn without any salt or butter- perfectly edible, but lacking in “oomph”.
However, this tasty egg center has been attacked for years as being full of dietary cholesterol, which is why it has slowly been pushed off the breakfast plate in favor of egg white omelets instead.
In a country where heart disease is a leading cause of death, more and more people are attempting to protect their arteries by forgoing egg yolks.
But does this make sense? Do the nutritional dangers of egg yolks really outweigh their health benefits? In a word, no.
Trace amounts of protein are the only benefit you'll get from eating just egg whites, meaning that if you want your egg to work for you, you need to eat it in the complete form that nature intended.
The case can be made that egg yolks are worth eating simply for their choline content.
One egg contains over 35% of your daily choline needs (all of which is found in the yolk), which is a key nutrient for maintaining human health and keeping various brain development systems running properly.
Choline is required to synthesize the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is a component of cell membranes and essential for aiding brain development and memory as well as protecting against Alzheimer's disease.
Not getting enough choline in your diet can have negative health consequences and is shown to lead to liver diseases, cardiovascular disease and even neurological disorders.
Even more notable, choline is essential for pregnant women, as a shortage in their diet while their child is developing can lead to reduced mental abilities in their children.
According to recent dietary surveys, over 90% of adults in the United States are eating less than the daily recommended amount of choline.
Because one of the best sources of dietary choline comes from egg yolks, incorporating more eggs into your diet can help you get your levels to where they need to be.
The Truth About Cholesterol And Eggs
It's time to have an honest conversation about cholesterol. Do eggs deserve the vilification they have received in recent years for their high levels of dietary cholesterol? Let's look at the facts.
First, about 25 years ago scientists began to earnestly study why the rates of heart disease were going up to astronomical levels in America.
When they discovered that high blood cholesterol levels were closely linked with heart disease, they assumed that foods with high levels of cholesterol were to blame.
For this reason the American Heart Association recommended that adults limit their dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day.
Because a single large egg has 185 mg, they were immediately seen as a dangerous food that should be avoided for heart health.
But does this logic hold up under scrutiny? As it turns out, it doesn't. The AHA recommendation for cholesterol depends on the truth of the premise that when you eat more cholesterol, your blood cholesterol levels increase.
This makes perfect sense in theory, but in fact, multiple studies have shown that it's just not true.
Research has instead consistently shown that the cholesterol you eat has very little impact on the cholesterol levels in your blood stream.
The reason for this is that your body makes much of its own cholesterol. Every day it produces between 1 and 2 grams all on its own (roughly the amount found in half a dozen eggs).
When you eat more cholesterol from foods like eggs, your body actually makes less of it.
This is because your body has a cholesterol “set point” like a thermometer, and it's always trying to maintain a relative level of equilibrium.
The ways that this set point is controlled comes from a variety of factors, including your genetics, amount of daily exercise and even stress levels. Comparatively, your diet itself has a minimal impact on blood cholesterol levels.
Even people who are at a higher risk for heart disease can eat an egg every day without hurting their health, according to a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
It tuns out that looking at one nutritional component of an egg like its cholesterol level is not the best way to gauge its overall health impact.
Does this mean that you should eat five eggs every morning for breakfast? Hardly. Too much of any good thing inevitably turns it into a bad thing, so keep your egg eating to moderate levels in order to enjoy the healthy benefits.
The evidence that cholesterol isn't always bad for you is so strong that the AHA revised their guidelines in 2000 to note that healthy adults can eat an egg a day.
Eggs are among the healthiest foods on the planet. Just be smart about how you eat them.
Are All Eggs Created Equal?
The modern commodity market has been working very hard to convince us all that each egg is equivalent to every other egg. Frankly, that doesn't make any sense at all.
Not only does the breed and age of the chicken affect her eggs, the way the hen is treated, what she is fed, and what kinds of antibiotics she is exposed to can make a big difference in the overall nutritional value of the egg.
It can be confusing to try to understand what buzzwords like “all natural” or “pasture raised” really mean for egg production, so we've broken down the most common descriptors and interpreted them below.
As the standard cheap grocery store eggs, conventional eggs come from factory farms filled with chickens that stay in cages or an enormous hen house for their entire lives.
They are fed a grain-based diet (usually corn) that is heavily supplemented with antibiotics and hormones.
Omega-3 Enhanced Eggs
These eggs come from hens raised like conventional ones, with the exception that they are given an omega-3 fortified diet to produce eggs with a higher omega-3 content.
Because these eggs are unregulated for their omega-3 content, the actually amounts can vary considerably from brand to brand.
Cage Free Eggs
“Cage free” is an unregulated term that can mean anything from birds that have pastures to wander through to factory farms without cages.
There is no guarantee that cage free birds have access to the outside or even have better lives than regular conventional birds, especially since overcrowding without the protection of cages can cause hens to be violent towards each other.
Free Range Eggs
“Free range” is another unregulated term that usually implies that the birds have some access to the outdoors, though the actual amount of time or quality of the outdoor space is open to interpretation.
These birds are also still fed a diet of antibiotics and GMO feeds.
For eggs to be certified organic, they have to come from antibiotic-free and hormone free hens that are given an organic diet and have access to the outdoors.
However, these standards can be interpreted in lax ways, meaning that overcrowding birds in factory farms with tiny outdoor porches is still legally organic. The quality of treatment that organic birds are given has a huge range.
Pasture Raised Eggs
This term is also unregulated, but truly pasture-raised eggs come from birds that spend the majority of their lives on grassy pastures where they forage for bugs and insects (as they do in the wild) to supplement their organic feed diet.
The variation in their diet gets passed on to their eggs, making far more nutritionally complex.
Which Eggs Are Best?
The closer you can get your chickens to mimic their natural behaviors in the wild, the healthier your eggs will be. It's always best to buy eggs that come from chickens that aren't overcrowded, fed nutritionally devoid diets, or stuffed with antibiotics.
Organic or pasture raised eggs will be your best choice, but because the lax standards in regulations, it's smart to investigate more deeply to see what kind of conditions the hens are truly raised in.
If your only option for eggs is to them from conventional sources, its probably still better for your health to eat them than not.
Just be sure to use more naturally-raised brands when you have the chance.
Are Eggs Helpful For Weight Loss?
You now know that eggs can be part of a healthy diet, but are they a diet friendly food? Should you switch to tofu, or are eggs all good?
Can adding eggs to your diet actually help you lose weight? Let's look at the facts.
Eggs Make Up A Healthy Breakfast
Eggs have long been a breakfast food staple, and recent evidence has come out that they might be surpassing. Wheaties as the real breakfast of champions; weight loss champions, that is.
Several studies have compared the effects of an egg-based morning diet to one that focused on bagels and other carbs.
Though both meals would have the same amount of calories, the egg breakfasts were consistently shown to cause up to a 65% greater weight loss over the eight week testing period, while also causing them to feel more full in the mornings.
Keep in mind that the weight loss benefits from eggs went away when participants were allowed to each as much as they wanted; in order to lose weight effectively you will also need to be cautious about the number of calories you consume.
Similar studies have shown that men who eat eggs for breakfast tend to eat between 270-470 fewer calories for lunch than those that ate different breakfasts.
Because egg breakfasts give you a more stable blood glucose and insulin response, they trigger you to feel fuller in the morning and have less interest in snacking between meals.
Feeling Full On Fewer Calories
One of the best benefits of incorporating eggs into your weight loss plan is that they help you to feel full faster, even when you eat fewer calories.
The main reason for this is the 6 grams of protein in each egg, a level that can keep you full while also boosting the thermic effect of your food by causing your metabolism to get revved up and burn and additional 80-100 calories everyday.
The main benefit of a protein filled diet for weight loss is the substitution effect. In other words, when you fill your body with protein, there's less room for weight gaining foods like refined carbohydrates and sugars.
Many people find that they lose more weight and dramatically reduce their risk of heart disease when they eat a low-carb diet, and a diet that emphasizes eggs can make this transition easier.
Additionally, eggs are the perfect convenience food to keep on hand when you need a calorie boost. A hard boiled egg is an easy, low-calorie snack that fills you up without causing you to take a trip to the nearest convenience store.
If you want something a bit different, you can try pickled eggs, they go great with other fermented foods, too, for improved gut health.
Eggs And Exercise
If you want to lose weight efficiently, eggs are a great addition to your pre-workout diet.
A study by the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport has found that eating protein-filled snacks before working out causes your body to burn more calories during the exercise.
Eating an egg with toast half an hour before working out can make a big difference in your overall fitness results.
Best Tips For Eating Eggs In A Healthy Way
The health benefits of eggs only make a difference if you chose to eat them in a healthy way.
By following these tips, you can keep your egg eating to a smart level that allows you to enjoy all of the benefits without putting your body at risk.
Moderation Is Key
A safe bet is to limit your egg consumption to about one a day, in compliance with the recommendations from the American Heart Association.
If you need more to fill out an omelet, you can consider eating one full egg and the whites of a few others.
Choose Pasture Raised
The origins of your eggs have a huge impact on their overall quality, so chose the highest quality sources you can find to guarantee that you get the maximum health benefits.
Be Smart About Other Breakfast Staples
Sure it might be hard to imagine eggs without bacon, but the health effects of bacon are bad enough to wreck any diet.
Pair your eggs with fresh fruit and tastily seasoned sauteed vegetables instead.
Watch Your Baked Goods Consumption
Almost every cookie and cake you choose to snack on contains eggs, so keep this in mind when you tally up the amount the eggs that you eat everyday.
However, if your heart is healthy and you aren't concerned about the effects of dietary cholesterol, this should be a minor concern.
In regards to bang for your buck, eggs are a cheap protein source that is highly versatile in a number of dishes.
Not only do eggs taste great, they are full of essential nutrients that keep you healthy.
There's no need to worry about eggs and cholesterol if you keep yourself within the healthy dietary limits.
So long as you don't top them with unhealthy condiments and cooking oils, an egg a day should keep the heart doctor away and help you to live a long, physically fit life.
Do you have any awesome egg-based weight loss recipes that have worked for you?
We'd love to hear from you. Feel free to shoot us your recipe suggestions or any questions that you have right below in the comments.