The incredible egg. Perhaps the most versatile food (besides our forever number one, potatoes), eggs can be thrown into almost any recipe with ease. Sad desk salad? Add a hard boiled egg and turn that frown upside down.
However, eggs have been dogged for decades by a not-so-great reputation. Remember the whole egg whites thing? And how everyone was panicked about their cholesterol content? Now that eggs are making a comeback onto our plates, that rep makes their actual health value a wee bit confusing.
Well, we’re about to set the record straight. On the latest episode of You Versus Food, Well+Good’s nutrition-focused YouTube series, our go-to registered dietitian Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, MS, RD, gushes about eggs—which she refers to as “nature’s multivitamins.”
So…are eggs healthy or what?
The TL;DR version: Eggs are healthy (like, really healthy) because they’re filled with good-for-you vitamins and minerals like choline, iron, vitamin D, vitamin A, and B vitamins, says Beckerman.
Here’s what you get in a large, whole, raw egg, according to the USDA:
- Calories: 70
- Fat: 4.75 g
- Protein: 6.28 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 0.36 g
- Sugar: 0.18 g
As for the specific benefits you can get in a serving from eggs, here’s a brief lowdown from Beckerman.
1. Eggs are an excellent source of complete protein. Just one egg contains 6 grams of protein (see above). “Eggs contain all the essential amino acids your body needs,” says Beckerman, making it a complete source of protein. (This is good news for vegetarians, who may struggle to get enough of the essential amino acids solely from plants.) “Plus, your body is able to fully absorb all the protein from the eggs to help lower blood pressure, optimize bone health, and help to increase muscle mass,” she says.
2. They’re good for your brain. Eggs are high in choline, a nutrient Beckerman says plays an important role in nervous system health. It also is important for fetal development.
3. They’re packed with iron. Just one egg contains 1 mg of iron, about 5 percent of your recommended daily intake. “Iron helps to eliminate fatigue, and boost your immune system stat,” Beckerman says. It also helps your blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body and is used to create mood-regulating serotonin.
4. They keep bones and teeth strong. That’s because they’re filled with vitamin D, a hard-to-get nutrient that also regulates the immune system, says Beckerman.
5. Eggs are a surprising source of antioxidants. We typically think of antioxidants being a fruits-and-vegetables thing, but Beckerman says eggs actually contain vitamin A, an important antioxidant that is good for your skin.
What about the cholesterol in eggs?
People have been shunning eggs for years because of the belief that the cholesterol in egg yolks can put us at a higher risk for heart disease. A controversial (and much-debated) study in JAMA from March of this year found that a higher consumption of eggs and other dietary cholesterol was associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. But Beckerman says to take this egg shade with a grain of salt.
“It used to be said that egg yolks raise cholesterol and increase our chances for heart disease, stroke, etc.,” she says. “But the current research [mostly] shows that eggs do not have a link to increasing blood cholesterol and could actually help raise good cholesterol.”
According to Beckerman, dietary cholesterol has very little effect on blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol, which is formed in the liver, is much more affected by trans- and saturated fats than by dietary cholesterol. So you and your omelet can rest easy, as long as you’re consuming the yolky goodness in moderation. Research shows that eating an egg a day can actually lower your risk for a cardiac event.
What are the healthiest ways to eat eggs?
When choosing how to eat your eggs, Beckerman recommends soft-boiled or poached eggs, because cooking ’em at super high temperatures can eliminate some of the nutrients (see: fried and hard-boiled varieties).
She also recommends eating your eggs with leafy greens (because the vitamin D in the eggs will better help your body absorb the calcium in the veggies) avocados (because the fat will help your body absorb eggs’ vitamin K) and yes, healthy starches. “Starches, such as potatoes, are a great side. Combining eggs with a carbohydrate like fruit, sweet potato, or oats is great to regulate blood sugar,” she says.
However, she doesn’t recommend eating eggs with sausage or other fatty meats. Same goes for cheese. (That’s a lot of saturated fat in one sitting.) Sad news to everyone who relies on their BEC breakfast sammies to get them through the morning. But Beckerman has a better option: the WGBESA, a combination of whole grain bread, eggs, spinach, and avocado. Let’s make that a thing.
If you’re tired of the same old scrambles, upgrade your eggs with these five new recipes. And who says oatmeal can’t be savory? Not us. Here are four ways to combine the two for a delish, protein-packed breakfast.