Eggs are so nutritious that they're often referred to as "nature's multivitamin."
They also contain unique antioxidants and powerful brain nutrients that many people are deficient in.
Here are 6 reasons why eggs are among the healthiest foods on the planet.
One whole egg contains an amazing range of nutrients.
In fact, the nutrients in there are enough to turn a single fertilized cell into an entire baby chicken.
Eggs are loaded with vitamins, minerals, high-quality protein, good fats and various other lesser-known nutrients.
One large egg contains ():
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): 9% of the RDA
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 15% of the RDA
- Vitamin A: 6% of the RDA
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 7% of the RDA
- Selenium: 22% of the RDA
- Eggs also contain small amounts of almost every vitamin and mineral required by the human body, including calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, manganese, vitamin E, folate and many more.
A large egg contains 77 calories, with 6 grams of quality protein, 5 grams of fat and trace amounts of carbohydrates.
It's very important to realize that almost all the nutrients are contained in the yolk, the white contains only protein.
Summary Whole eggs are incredibly nutritious, containing a very large amount of nutrients compared to calories. The nutrients are found in the yolks, while the whites are mostly protein.
The main reason people have been warned about eggs is that they're loaded with cholesterol.
One large egg contains 212 mg of cholesterol, which is a lot compared to most other foods.
However, dietary sources of cholesterol have a minimal effect on cholesterol levels in the blood ().
Your liver actually produces cholesterol, every single day. The amount produced depends on how much you eat.
If you get a lot of cholesterol from food, your liver produces less. If you don't eat cholesterol, your liver produces more of it.
The thing is, many studies show that eggs actually improve your cholesterol profile.
They raise HDL (the "good") cholesterol and they tend to change the LDL (the "bad") cholesterol to a large subtype which is not as strongly associated with an increased risk of heart disease (, , ).
Multiple studies have examined how eating eggs affects the risk of heart disease and found no association between the two (, , ).
On the contrary, eggs have been linked with health benefits.
One study discovered that eating 3 whole eggs per day reduced insulin resistance, raised HDL and increased the size of LDL particles in people with metabolic syndrome ().
However, some studies do show an increased risk of heart disease in people with diabetes. This needs further research though and probably doesn't apply to a low-carb diet, which can, in many cases, reverse type 2 diabetes (, , ).
Summary Studies show that eggs actually improve the cholesterol profile. They raise HDL (good) cholesterol and increase the size of LDL particles, which should lower the risk of heart disease.
Choline is a lesser-known nutrient that is often grouped with the B-complex vitamins.
Choline is an essential nutrient for human health and is needed for various processes in the body.
It is required to synthesize the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and is also a component of cell membranes.
A low choline intake has been implicated in liver diseases, heart disease and neurological disorders ().
This nutrient may be especially important for pregnant women. Studies show that a low choline intake can raise the risk of neural tube defects and lead to decreased cognitive function in the baby ().
Many people do not get enough choline. As an example, one study in pregnant, Canadian women found that only 23% reached the adequate intake of choline ().
The best sources of choline in the diet are egg yolks and beef liver. One large egg contains 113 mg of choline.
Summary Choline is an essential nutrient that few people get enough of. Egg yolks are an excellent source of choline.
Proteins are the main building blocks of the body and serve both structural and functional purposes.
They consist of amino acids that are linked together, kind of like beads on a string, and then folded into complex shapes.
There are about 21 amino acids that your body uses to build its proteins.
Nine of these cannot be produced by the body and have to be obtained from the diet. They are known as essential amino acids.
The quality of a protein source is determined by its relative amounts of these essential amino acids. A protein source that contains all of them in the right ratios is a high-quality source of protein.
Eggs are among the best sources of protein in the diet. In fact, the biological value (a measure of protein quality) is often evaluated by comparing it to eggs, which are given the perfect score of 100 ().
Summary Eggs are an excellent source of protein, with all the essential amino acids in the right ratios.
There are two antioxidants in eggs that can have powerful protective effects on the eyes.
They are called lutein and zeaxanthin, both found in the yolk.
Lutein and zeaxanthin tend to accumulate in the retina, the sensory part of the eye, where they protect the eyes from harmful sunlight ().
These antioxidants significantly reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, which are among the leading causes of vision impairment and blindness in the elderly (, , ).
In one study, eating 1.3 egg yolks per day for 4.5 weeks increased blood levels of zeaxanthin by 114–142% and lutein by 28–50% ().
Summary Eggs are very high in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which can drastically reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
Eggs contain only trace amounts of carbohydrates, but plenty of protein and fat.
They score very high on a scale called the satiety index, which is a measure of how much foods contribute to satiety ().
For this reason, it is not surprising to see studies showing that eating eggs for breakfast may lead to fat loss.
In one study, 30 overweight or obese women consumed a breakfast of either eggs or bagels. Both breakfasts had the same amount of calories.
The women in the egg group felt more full and ate fewer calories for the rest of the day and for the next 36 hours ().
In another study that went on for 8 weeks, eating eggs for breakfast led to significant weight loss compared to the same amount of calories from bagels. The egg group ():
- Lost 65% more body weight.
- Lost 16% more body fat.
- Had a 61% greater reduction in BMI.
- Had a 34% greater reduction in waist circumference (a good marker for the dangerous belly fat).
Summary Eggs are very satiating. As a result, eating eggs for breakfast may reduce calorie intake later in the day and promote fat loss.
It's important to keep in mind that not all eggs are created equal.
Hens are often raised in factories, caged and fed grain-based feed that alters the final nutrient composition of their eggs. It is best to buy omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs, which are more nutritious and healthier.
However, conventional supermarket eggs are still a good choice if you can't afford or access the others.
Summary The nutrient content of eggs largely depends on how the hens were fed. Omega-3 enriched or pastured eggs tend to be richer in healthy nutrients.