Breakfast burritos, cookies, cocktails, pancakes, crackers, mayonnaise, pasta, and salad dressing…What do these foods all have in common? If you guessed that they may include eggs as an ingredient–you’d be right!
Eggs are such a diverse and versatile food that it’s no surprise that they might find their way onto almost everyone’s plate. And, along with being a tasty addition or a key ingredient, eggs are packed with many different nutrients.
In recent years, however, there has been controversy over the daily recommended intake of eggs and whether egg consumption can increase your risk for things like high cholesterol or heart disease.
So, is there any truth to these claims? Read on to see how eating eggs can affect your health and how you can include eggs as part of a healthy diet.
What are the Main Nutrients in Eggs?
Although they’re small, eggs are actually a very nutrient-dense food. They’re a good source of two important macronutrients: protein and fat. They also contain lots of beneficial micronutrients like folate and other B vitamins, iron, vitamin A, selenium, and zinc.
Egg yolks are particularly rich in protein, iron, and zinc, which are important for things like immune function, tissue repair, and growth. The yolk of an egg also contains high amounts of vitamins A, D, E, K, and several B vitamins.
Egg whites also contain protein and are lower in calories than the yolk. The white of an egg also contains many essential B vitamins, such as vitamins B2, B3, and B5.
On average, one large egg contains:
- 72 calories
- 6.25 grams of protein
- 5 grams of fat
- 0.5 grams of carbohydrates
- 0.75 grams of fiber
- 0.2 grams of sugar
The Protein Content of Eggs
You may have heard that eggs are a good source of protein, and this is true! Egg protein has been recognized by researchers to be the most easily digestible source of protein.
One large egg contains about six grams of protein and can be a great way to boost the protein content of your meals.Eggs are a complete protein source, meaning they have all nine essential amino acids, including branched-chain amino acids or BCAAs (along with non-essential amino acids).
Branched chain amino acids are a specific group of amino acids that get their name from their branched-chain structure. In total, there are 20 different amino acids, which can be broken down into essential and non-essential amino acids.
Unlike non-essential amino acids, essential amino acids cannot be produced by your body, so you must get them from dietary sources.
Essential amino acids include:
Why Does Protein Matter?
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are used for virtually all functions in the body. For optimal well-being, it’s important to get adequate amounts of protein daily.
Specifically, protein can play an important role in:
- Muscle building
- Weight loss
- Blood sugar regulation
- Thyroid function
- Insulin sensitivity
- Brain health and cognitive performance
- Digestion (including liver function)
- Regulating reproductive hormone levels
Do Eggs Raise Blood Sugar?
Eggs are also a low-carbohydrate food and since they mainly contain healthy fats and protein, the glycemic index of egg is zero. This means that eggs are not likely to spike your glucose levels. Eggs can also be a good dietary addition for anyone on the keto diet.
The American Diabetes Association recommends consuming eggs as a good source of protein in addition to different types of meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, and plant-based proteins.
Because eggs are a good source of protein, including them in your diet may help support healthy blood sugar levels. This is because protein can help slow down digestion as well as positively influence hormones involved in glucose regulation such as GLP-1.
When it comes to your blood sugar, finding the right balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats for your unique body is important. Consider consulting a registered dietitian if you are unsure of how certain foods may be best included in your diet.
Do Eggs Cause High Cholesterol?
You may have heard that eggs can increase your cholesterol levels. Let’s take a look at what the science really has to say about eggs and cholesterol.
First, it’s important to note the distinction between the types of dietary cholesterol. HDL cholesterol at healthy levels can be beneficial, as it has anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant properties (meaning it may help to “thin your blood”).
LDL cholesterol, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect and may lead to blood clotting or a buildup of plaque inside your arteries in excess amounts.
In the 1960s, the American Heart Association recommended cutting egg intake down to less than three eggs per week. However, a new study investigating the effect of eggs on cholesterol levels has determined that there’s no conclusive evidence to link egg consumption with increased cholesterol levels.
In fact, decades of research have now been able to show that not only do eggs not actually have a negative effect on cholesterol levels, but they may even have a positive effect on your metabolic health.
However, if you’re someone with high cholesterol levels, you may want to consult a registered dietitian or seek other medical advice from a healthcare professional to get a better idea of the right amount of egg consumption for your individual well-being.
Eggs and Your Blood Pressure
Another common myth when it comes to eating eggs is that high egg consumption may lead to high blood pressure. However, newer research has shown that egg consumption has no effect on systolic or diastolic blood pressure in adults.
Another study concluded that eating one egg per day was not associated with an increase in blood pressure or A1C levels regardless of body fat percentage.
Despite these positive findings, other research has found mixed results, with one study finding that egg intake may have some association with higher blood pressure levels in obese individuals. However, this study was correlational only and could not determine direct cause and effect links.
While most studies seem to indicate that consuming moderate amounts of eggs is not linked to blood pressure, more research may need to be done on this subject.
Can You Be Allergic to Eggs?
You may be surprised to learn that egg allergies are the second most common type of food allergy found in infants and younger children. Most egg allergies occur due to an immune system reaction to the proteins found in eggs.
According to researchers, an IgE antibody-mediated response to antinutrients called ovomucoid and ovalbumin and certain proteins can lead to some of the symptoms associated with egg allergies.
Symptoms of egg allergies may include atopic dermatitis, hives, nasal congestion, and eosinophilic esophagitis. People who have autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS), may be more likely to react to the proteins found in eggs.
It’s important to note that eggs are often hidden in many different types of foods, ranging from pasta to fried foods to waffles. If you suspect you may have an egg sensitivity or allergy, consult a dietitian or medical professional for guidance.
Can I Eat Eggs Every Day?
Eggs are nutrient powerhouses that contain beneficial macro and micronutrients, and can help support healthy blood sugar levels, cardiovascular health, and metabolic health. In general, including an egg as part of your daily routine can be healthy and can be a good source of essential nutrients.
However, most research done on eggs has not come to a conclusion regarding recommendations for optimal amounts of egg consumption. The general consensus from a 2020 overview of systematic reviews concluded that due to study limitations and conflicting data, it may not be possible to recommend a certain daily intake for eggs.
Due to these mixed results, researchers have determined that more studies are still needed in this field. It's also important to note that your body is unique, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for someone else.
Eating eggs in moderation may be a good place to start when it comes to healthy eating. But, as always, you may want to consult a registered dietitian or nutritionist to craft a meal planning guide based around your individual dietary needs.
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