Eat well: what you need to know about egg nutrition
There has been a lot of controversy around eggs and whether they are healthy. For years, people have been told to stay away from eggs because they are high in cholesterol, but is it really something we need to be concerned about? Let’s take a closer look at egg nutrition as a whole.
Eggs are not only a high-quality, affordable source of protein with 6 grams per egg, but they’re also packed with vitamins and minerals. Egg whites and yolks are only made up of different nutrients that the body needs – making it both important for overall health. Egg whites contain water, B vitamins, and minerals such as potassium, sodium, and small amounts of selenium. More than half of the protein in an egg is found in the egg white.
The yolk contains almost 3 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat, including 1.5 grams of saturated fat. The yolks also contain the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as many minerals like iron, selenium, zinc, copper and iodine. Additionally, egg yolks are known to contain choline, which can be important for certain cognitive functions like memory, and the antioxidant-acting carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for eye health. Since lutein and zeaxanthin are not produced by the body, it is important to consume foods rich in these compounds, such as green vegetables and eggs!
While an egg contains around 200 milligrams of cholesterol, research shows that cholesterol from food may not have a big impact on blood cholesterol levels. Instead, it’s more important to pay attention to saturated fat intake. According to current USDA dietary guidelines, less than 10% of calories should come from saturated fat. For people with high cholesterol, it is recommended to reduce this level to 5-6% of calories. This means that a person with high cholesterol and consuming 2,000 calories per day should aim to eat no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day.
With this information in mind, it is important to plan egg consumption according to individual needs. If you look at the recommendations of the American Heart Association, one egg per day is recommended. Eggs are also included in MyPlate’s recommendations, as one egg counts as a 1-ounce serving of the Protein Food group.
If you choose egg substitutes, note that they are lower in calories and saturated fat, but are also lower in protein and generally contain added sodium. Whether you choose whole eggs or substitutes, remember to focus on the big picture. For example, if your pairings include options like bacon and Danish, try including more nutritious offerings like whole grain toast and fresh fruit.
Author’s Note: This column was written in collaboration with Kerri Watkins, nutrition student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Andrea Luttrell. Andrea Luttrell is a registered dietitian for Big Y Foods’ Living Well Eating Smart program. Have a question about nutrition? Send him an e-mail at [email protected] or write Living Well at 2145 Roosevelt Ave, Springfield, MA 01102.