Eggs: Health Benefits, Shopping Guide and Recipes

Gone are the days when eggs were vilified for their high cholesterol content. Eggs are also no longer just a staple at breakfast. Whether topping salads, pizza, burgers, sandwiches, ramen or grain bowls, eggs are now a popular ingredient at lunch and dinner as well.

Child breaking an egg into a bowl.

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That’s a good thing since eggs are an affordable source of high-quality, complete protein and contain an impressive array of essential nutrients like choline for brain health, and lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health.

Several comprehensive scientific studies suggest that eating an egg a day is okay, which is the current recommendation from the American Heart Association, even for people at risk for heart disease.

Are Eggs Heart-Healthy?

Yes. It’s true that eggs are one of the most concentrated sources of cholesterol, with about 200 milligrams per large egg yolk. And dietary guidelines once restricted egg consumption as a result. But thanks to a growing body of research, the egg has rehabilitated its image.

Now, scientists understand that dietary cholesterol is not the biggest influence on cholesterol in the blood, rather saturated and trans fat are primarily responsible for that.

A large global study of 177,000 individuals from 50 countries did not find significant associations between egg intake and blood lipids, mortality or major cardiovascular events, such as stroke. The findings indicate that moderate egg intake (one egg a day) does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, even among those with a history of heart disease or diabetes.

Eggs may actually offer some protection. Eggs contain nutrients that may help lower the risk of heart disease, such as vitamin D, vitamin A, selenium and choline.

The prospective Framingham Offspring Study found that regular egg consumption as part of a healthy diet lowered the long-term risks of high blood pressure and diabetes. Despite the benefits, moderation is still important. This isn’t a green light to have a three-egg omelet loaded with cheese every day.

It’s critical to consider what you serve with eggs, says Linda Van Horn, chief of the nutrition division in the department of preventive medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago and volunteer expert for the American Heart Association.

That means reconsidering the traditional breakfast sides of bacon and sausage. “Eggs and processed meat have a very different nutrition profile than eggs served with steamed or sauteed vegetables and a side of fruit,” she says.

Key Takeaways

  • Eggs are high in cholesterol, but eating an egg a day does not adversely affect blood cholesterol levels for most people.
  • Eggs are a good source of protein and many vital nutrients and vitamins.
  • Eggs are a great source of choline, a nutrient that is incredibly important but most people don’t get enough of.

Nutrition Benefits of Eggs

Eggs are incredibly nutrient-dense. For only 70 calories in a large egg, you’ll get 6 grams of protein. The protein found in eggs is considered a “complete protein,” which means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that we need for growth, development and repair.

Eggs are also an excellent source of vitamin B12, biotin, iodine, selenium and choline, and contain varying amounts of 12 other vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, iron and folate

While the cholesterol content is about 200 milligrams, a large egg contains only 5 grams of fat – primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, which are the “healthy” fats.

With 0 carbs, eggs are popular for those following a low-carb diet. They are also low in sodium: 70 milligrams or 3% of the daily value.

Nutritional information for eggs

Annika Urban

Egg white vs. egg yolk

So what about the egg white vs. egg yolk? Egg whites contain a little more than half the protein and no cholesterol, but the bulk of the nutrients are found in the yolk. So if you’ve been dumping the yolk and only eating egg whites, you’re throwing so many of the benefits down the drain.

Which Eggs to Buy

Shopping for eggs can be a bit confusing as the options have dramatically expanded in recent years. Here’s a look at some of the different choices and what they mean, according to the American Egg Board.

Egg labels

  • Free-range. Laid by hens not housed in enclosures and with access to the outdoors. In addition to eating grains, these hens may forage for wild plants and insects.
  • Cage-free. Eggs produced by hens that roam in a building, room or open area, usually in a barn or poultry house, that includes nest space and perches. It does not necessarily mean they have access to the outdoors or a pasture. Despite the name, some cage-free hens can be housed in confined conditions, such as a barn or poultry house.
  • Pasture-raised. Although the definition is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for labeling, these are eggs laid by hens that roam and forage on a maintained pasture.
  • Certified organic. Laid by cage-free or free-range hens raised on certified organic feed and have access to the outdoors year-round, except during extenuating circumstances. The feed is grown without most synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides or fertilizers and 100% of the agricultural ingredients must be certified organic.
  • Pasteurized. Eggs heated to a temperature just below the coagulation point to destroy pathogens. Although available as shelled eggs, most often you’ll find liquid pasteurized eggs and egg whites in pourable cartons.
  • Omega-3 enriched. Laid by hens fed a special diet that increases omega-3s, ranging from 100 milligrams to over 600 milligrams per egg.
  • Vegetarian-fed. Eggs laid by hens fed a vegetarian diet. Nutritionally, there’s no difference between vegetarian-fed eggs and other eggs.
  • Brown eggs. Eggs from a certain breed of hen that has red feathers and red ear lobes. The darker shade of the shell does not mean the egg is more nutritious, which is a common misconception.

Keep in mind, some of the specialty eggs will be more expensive than conventional eggs. For instance, Happy Egg Co. offers heritage free-range eggs that retail for about $9.00 per dozen. Laid by heritage hen breeds, the eggs have blue and brown shells with deep amber yolks that are achieved by a propriety feed mixture. The company describes the eggs as a favorite of Michelin-starred chefs.

I most often buy large conventional white eggs, but sometimes I choose omega-3 enriched eggs or pasture-raised eggs that have a slight nutrition edge. It all comes down to personal preference. If you are concerned about food costs, conventional eggs are one of the most affordable sources of protein.

Egg sizes

The USDA outlines six weight classes for shelled eggs: peewee (rarely available at retail), small, medium, large, extra-large and jumbo. Eggs graded “large” are the most widely available and are the standard size preferred in recipes, especially for baking.

How to Cook Eggs

Eggs are amazingly versatile and easy to cook. Here are five easy ways to serve an egg:

Make a batch of hard-boiled eggs and keep in your refrigerator for a quick breakfast, high-protein snack and to top salads throughout the week. Try making grated egg avocado toast with hard-boiled eggs or cut them in half, top with everything bagel seasoning and serve with sliced tomatoes.

1. Place eggs in a saucepan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Add cold water to cover eggs and heat on high to just boiling.
2. Remove from burner and cover pan. Let eggs sit in the hot water about 12 minutes for large eggs
3. Drain immediately and serve warm, or cool in a bowl of ice water or cold running water and then refrigerate.

In the shell, hard-boiled eggs can be refrigerated safely up to one week. Once peeled, eggs should be eaten in a day.

You can also hard-boil eggs in an air fryer, but without the boiling water.

  1. Preheat your air fryer to 250 F and add eggs in a single layer.
  2. Cook for 15 minutes and then remove and add to an ice bath. If you want jammy eggs, cook for 12 minutes, or 10 minutes for soft-boiled.

You can also use small dishes or ramekins to bake eggs in the air fryer. Crack eggs into a dish coated with nonstick spray and cook at 330 F for 10 minutes.

Make this viral TikTok trend by heating a tablespoon of chili crisp (a spicy, crunchy condiment) and a drizzle of sesame oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-low heat until shimmering. Spread the mixture in the pan and crack an egg in the middle and cook until whites are set and yolks are still runny. Slide onto a plate or toast. Serve with fresh fruit.

Another popular TikTok recipe, the spinach feta egg wrap can be an easy, delicious breakfast.

  1. Sauté 1 cup of baby spinach in a nonstick skillet.
  2. Pour in 2 beaten eggs.
  3. Sprinkle with feta cheese once the spinach is softened and the eggs begin to set.
  4. Top with a tortilla and carefully flip in the pan.
  5. Let the tortilla brown slightly and then fold in half.

You can also add avocado, sliced tomato or sun-dried tomatoes to your egg wrap.

Instead of visiting the drive-thru, make your own breakfast sandwich at home with a whole-grain English muffin, fried egg, smashed avocado and a squirt of sriracha.

Optional additions: cheddar or pepper jack cheese, turkey bacon or sliced tomato. Also try layering slices of hard-boiled eggs on a whole-grain bagel with lettuce and tomato.

Healthiest Ways to Cook Eggs

The healthiest ways to cook eggs are methods that do not rely on added fat, such as hard-boiling and poaching. Use nonstick spray when frying or scrambling eggs. Add a touch of water instead of cream when scrambling eggs. You’ll save the fat and calories – plus the water helps steam the eggs and makes them fluffier. Use 1 tablespoon of water per egg.

However, it’s often traditional sides that can be the problem, not the eggs themselves. Instead of piles of bacon or sausage, serve your eggs with sliced avocado or tomato and load up your omelets and frittatas with vegetables, such as asparagus, spinach, chopped red pepper, onions and mushrooms.

New Egg Innovations

Eggs are going beyond the shell in supermarkets. Now you can find a wide range of frozen egg bites, omelets and egg sandwiches, along with refrigerated scrambled egg breakfast bowls, snackable hard-boiled eggs with dips and ready-made egg salad.

If you’ve been noticing an increase in new egg products, it’s not your imagination. The egg industry has created The Eggcelerator Lab to help bring new egg-based ideas to market.

Nelson Serrano-Bahri, director of innovation of this division of the American Egg Board, says a big focus has been on beverages, from protein drinks and fortified cold brews to cocktails, including nogs, fizzes and sours that use eggs.

“The next big opportunity is snacks,” he says. Eggs are now being turned into chips and used in place of flour in egg wraps. Other popular egg trends involve global flavors, such as shakshuka, empanadas, new variations of eggs benedict and breakfast soup with eggs and potatoes.

Who Should Not Eat Eggs

Some people may need to limit eggs, such as people with specific blood lipid disorders including familial hyperlipidemia and other lipoprotein abnormalities, says Van Horn.

Of course, if you have an egg allergy you’ll need to avoid eggs. Egg allergy is the second most common food allergy after milk allergy in infants and young children, although most children outgrow their allergy to eggs.

Studies suggest that toddlers with an egg allergy who can tolerate foods containing baked eggs were more likely to outgrow their egg allergy by age two.

FAQs

For hard boiled eggs, add eggs to a pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat and cover; let the eggs cook in the warm water for 12 minutes for large eggs.

The bulk of the nutrients in an egg are found in the yolk, so if you dump the yolk and only eat egg whites, you’re throwing so many of the benefits down the drain.

The float test is frequently mentioned as a way to tell if an egg is bad. Yet that’s not a reliable way to measure freshness. Instead, rely on carton dates and your senses. If the egg looks or smells different when you crack it, or has a rotten, sulfurous odor, then it’s likely bad.

There are 6 grams of high-quality protein and 70 calories in a large egg.

Brown eggs come from a certain breed of hen that has red feathers and red ear lobes. The darker shade of the shell does not mean the egg is more nutritious, which is a common misconception.

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