Devilled, scrambled, sunny side up, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, over-easy or Benedict – there’s no denying the popularity and versatility of eggs.
“Eggs are a widely available, very affordable and easy to prepare source of very high quality protein,” says Toronto-based registered dietitian Andy De Santis.
They also come with a wide range of nutritional benefits.
“Eggs are one of very few natural sources of vitamin D in our food system,” De Santis says. “This is a pretty big deal because it is very difficult for the average person to get enough vitamin D in their diet.”
Some Eggcellent Benefits
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin A
- Antioxidant compounds lutein and zeaxanthin
- Heart-healthy monounsaturated fats
- Omega-3 fatty acids (found in omega-3 rich eggs retrieved from specially fed hens)
How Healthy Are They?
You may remember a time not so long ago when eggs were deemed “bad for you” and they were commonly heard in the same sentence as “cholesterol”. De Santis says our understanding of cholesterol has evolved a lot since then. He breaks it down:
“We know that having high blood cholesterol (the bad type – LDL) increases our risk of heart disease, and we used to think because eggs contained cholesterol that they would directly contribute to our blood LDL levels.”
“We know now that it is more so our overall diet, rather than just the cholesterol in the food we eat that determines our blood cholesterol levels. With that being said the bodies of people with high blood LDL, diabetes or heart disease generally have a hard time controlling blood cholesterol (compared to a healthy person) and thus need to reduce their intake to two-three whole eggs a week to ensure they do not put their health at risk.”
For people in that situation, De Santis recommends eating egg whites with heart-healthy avocado. In general, he also suggests eating your eggs with something healthier than the “usual suspects like buttered white bread and bacon.”
Raw vs. Cooked
What about that old idea of muscle-seeking men chugging raw eggs? De Santis debunks that, too.
“Consuming raw eggs can put you at an increased risk for bacteria-induced food poisoning, especially in children, the elderly and pregnant women. If, for whatever reason, you want to consume eggs raw, you need to find pasteurized varieties,” De Santis says.
“There is no strong evidence to suggest that consuming the eggs raw versus cooked confers any additional health benefit.”
As for cooking, De Santis explains the method you use to cook your eggs doesn’t significantly affect their base nutritional value. However, you should consider the unnecessary calories you may be adding to your eggs when you cook them. It’s a simple fact that boiling an egg is a much lower calorie option than scrambling with butter or frying sunny side up in oil.
Yolk vs. White
While egg yolks contain the majority of the egg’s nutrients, they also hold the majority of the egg’s calories and cholesterol.
“Whether or not this matters will depend on the individual,” De Santis says. “If you are otherwise healthy and are not currently trying to lose or manage your weight, there is no reason to omit the yolk. If you are otherwise healthy, but are concerned about your weight, you can have egg whites and egg yolk in a 1:1 ratio.”
A Perfect Snack
A good snack, De Santis explains, is something that keeps us satisfied between meals, and protein is perfect for that. Eating eggs with a fibre-rich whole grain or a leafy green will make that goal of satiety even easier to achieve, De Santis adds.
“Most studies suggest the average person can eat an egg a day (seven eggs a week) without putting their health at any sort of risk,” De Santis says. “Two whole eggs total about 150 calories (depending on the size) and [are] the equivalent to one Canadian Food Guide serving of meat/meat alternatives.”
Looking for a plant-based alternative to eggs? De Santis recommends tofu, specifically a tofu scramble, which uses tofu to make a dish that looks and tastes “just like real eggs.” This is a great choice for vegetarians, vegans, and those with high LDL, heart disease and/or diabetes.