Eggs are among the most nutritious foods in the world, according to the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
A large egg contains varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals and 6 grams of high quality protein, which contains all the essential amino acids that humans need.
For as many nutrients as they have, eggs are a relatively low-calorie food with only 70+ calories in one large egg. There are no carbohydrates or sugar and only 5 grams of healthy fat (7 percent of the recommended daily allowance). Eggs are a source of choline, a nutrient that most people don’t even know exists, but it’s an incredibly important substance that is used to build cell membranes and produce signaling molecules in the brain along with various other functions.
A single egg contains more than 100 mg of choline. Eggs are also an important source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are very important for eye health and can help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts in older adults.
It is true that eggs are high in cholesterol. In fact, a single egg contains 212 mg, which is more than half the recommended daily allowance of 300 mg. It is important to note, however, that numerous recent studies show that dietary cholesterol does not necessarily increase blood cholesterol in most people. In fact, eating eggs consistently leads to elevated HDL (good) cholesterol levels and appears to change LDL (bad) particles from small dense harmful particles to large particles. Elevated HDL lowers our risk of many diseases, and large particle LDL lowers the risk of heart disease.
The nutritional composition of the eggs will vary depending on how the hens are fed and reared, and is usually reflected in the color of the egg yolk. Eggs from chickens raised on grass and sun and / or fed omega-3-fortified feed tend to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that eating omega-3 fortified eggs is an effective way to lower triglycerides in the blood.
The color of the egg shell has nothing to do with diet. All eggs, no matter the color, are filled with the same proteins and nutrients inside. The different colors or the presence of spots or speckles are due to the hen’s genetics or breed.
All eggs start white. Pigments are deposited on non-white eggs as the egg travels through the hen’s fallopian tubes. Brown eggs tend to be more expensive, which leads people to mistakenly believe that they are more nutritious or better in some way. In fact, the high cost is due to the care of the hens. Brown chickens are usually larger than the white breeds and require more food to make an egg, which justifies a cost increase over white eggs.
Eggs can be cooked in many ways – fried, stirred, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, poached, baked, or in the microwave. Boiling eggs makes the protein they contain easier to digest. It also helps make the vitamin biotin more available to your body. Raw eggs should be avoided unless they are pasteurized according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Raw eggs can contain salmonella, a pathogenic bacterium that can cause food poisoning.
Linda Robbins, CDN, is the associate director and nutrition educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Herkimer County.