What Are the Healthiest Ways to Eat Eggs?

Despite years of dietary controversy, this complete protein source is full of essential nutrients.

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Last updated: Nov 3rd, 2022

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Are eggs nutritious?
Ways to prepare eggs
Handling eggs safely
Conclusions
Sources
Healthiest ways to eat eggs

Eggs have been a popular choice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner as far back as 1400 B.C.E.¹ They are highly nutritious, containing the vitamins, essential amino acids, and minerals necessary for healthy bodily function. However, they way they’re prepared makes a difference in how healthy they are. It’s a common misconception that eggs are bad for you because of their fat. You may be surprised to learn that the cholesterol issues stemming from eating eggs actually come from the ingredients used to cook them and the foods we eat alongside them.

Finding the healthiest approaches to cooking and eating eggs can mean the difference between a nutritious diet and one that can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and other health problems. Read on to find out the health benefits of eggs, healthy ways to prepare them, and information on how to handle them safely.

Are eggs nutritious?

Eggs are a widely available, versatile, and inexpensive source of essential nutrients and protein. The vast majority of the eggs we eat today are laid by chickens, but duck and quail eggs are also commonly consumed with little difference in their nutritional makeup. Brown eggs and duck eggs may be higher in calories than white eggs due to their size and may contain higher levels of omega-3s, but those are the only notable differences.

One large hen egg contains about 70 calories, 6g of protein, and 5g of fat. Eggs contribute to regulating many normal processes, including:

  • DNA building
  • Hormonal function
  • Pregnancy

They can also keep your eyesight strong and reduce your risk of cardiovascular problems. Below, we’ll explain exactly how eggs can support your body in many ways.

Vitamins

Eggs contain the essential vitamins A, B5, B6, B12, D, E, and K. These vitamins are known for reducing the risk of certain cancers, contributing to healthy eyesight, turning food into energy, healthy immune function, strong musculature and bones, and healthy brain development, among other things.² We need to get essential vitamins from our food and environment, so eating eggs can help improve our chances of getting everything we need.

Calcium

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the human body, primarily stored in the bones and teeth. Calcium contributes to the building and maintenance of bones. It is also critical for healthy nervous system function, releasing hormones and maintaining healthy blood flow.

Choline

Choline is an important water-soluble vitamin critical for building cell membranes and acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, memory, and muscle control.² One large egg provides 147mg of choline, which is 27% of the total recommended daily intake.³

Folate

Folate is a vitamin essential for building DNA and other genetic material, and also contributes to proper cell division. It is an important part of a daily diet, particularly for pregnant women, as it guards against neural tube defects.

Omega-3

When ingredients such as fish oil, flaxseeds, and algae are included in a chicken's diet (which is common), its eggs will contain higher levels of omega-3, a fatty acid important to healthy bodily function. Omega-3 fatty acids help in energy production and reduce triglyceride levels, a type of lipid like cholesterol found in the blood. Too-high triglyceride levels can lead to cardiovascular problems and stroke if too high. Brown eggs are typically higher in omega-3 fatty acids than white eggs but can be more expensive due to the kind of chickens that lay them.⁴

Phosphorus

Phosphorus is a mineral present in every cell in our body, with most of it in our bones and teeth. Our bodies use phosphorus to create energy, maintain and repair tissues, and carry out other chemical processes like building DNA. It’s the second most common mineral in the body after calcium.

Protein

One egg contains about 6g of protein, which comes from both the yolk and the white. Protein is critical for muscle building and maintenance, as well as many other important body functions such as weight management and lowering blood pressure. Proteins are made up of amino acids. Some amino acids are made by the body, while others are essential, meaning we must get them from food sources. Eggs are an excellent source of all of the essential amino acids, making them a complete protein source.

Selenium

Eggs are an excellent source of selenium, a trace element essential for healthy thyroid function and metabolism. It has also been linked to reducing the risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular diseases. One egg contains about 15mcg of selenium, making up about 27% of the total recommended daily intake.

Zinc

Zinc is a trace mineral that is vital to many of the body’s functions. It ensures you can taste properly and heal wounds, and plays a big role in immune functioning and healthy pregnancies.

Cholesterol

Medical experts once thought eating eggs would raise your low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) levels and lead to heart disease. Most of these concerns centered around the yolk’s high concentration of fats compared to lean, protein-rich egg whites. Healthcare providers used to caution people with high cholesterol to limit their consumption of eggs altogether. However, recent studies have shown that there is little to fear.

One large egg contains 5g of unsaturated (healthy) fats and only 1.5g of saturated fat. A Harvard study found that most cholesterol-raising features associated with eggs don’t come from the eggs themselves but rather from how they’re prepared and what you eat with them. Frying eggs in butter or copious amounts of oil, serving them with bacon or sausage, and including a buttery pastry or deep-fried donut on the side will raise your LDL cholesterol levels. Eating one egg a day, boiled, poached, or scrambled in a small amount of healthy fats, such as olive oil, is associated with no cardiovascular risk at all.³

Eating eggs raises HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels, also known as “good” cholesterol. High HDL cholesterol lowers the risk of stroke and heart disease, and eating two eggs daily for six weeks can raise HDL levels by 10%.³

Ways to prepare eggs

It is hard to say no to food with complete protein, low in saturated fat, and many vitamins and minerals. It’s even easier to say yes knowing that eggs are healthier when prepared without excess butter and oils and are delicious. While it’s okay to indulge in a breakfast of eggs fried in butter and served with pancakes or sausage every once in a while, it is important to remember this increases the fat and cholesterol content considerably — around 50%. Regular consumption of eggs prepared this way can lead to high cholesterol, raising the risk of heart disease and stroke.⁵

There are many ways to prepare eggs that mitigate this risk. Instead of frying, try poaching them in water and serving them on top of vegetable hash or avocado toast. A hard-boiled egg or two with a vegetable or fruit-packed salad is a great way to include all the health benefits the eggs offer. (Just be sure to go easy on the salad dressings.) Another way to enjoy eggs is to scramble them with a light amount of olive oil and your favorite vegetables and cheese.

If you’re feeling adventurous, consider this recipe for shakshuka. This Northwest African egg dish is made with spicy harissa and rich feta and is easily customizable to your preferences. Another option is this recipe for Turkish cilbir: poached eggs served atop garlicky yogurt and drizzled with a bit of olive oil. If you prefer something low in calories, consider skipping the yolk entirely and using only the high-protein white. (All of the fat in an egg resides in the yolk, so you’ll miss some of the nutrients when you cut calories.) If an egg white scramble or omelet is a little boring for your taste, try this recipe for easy, customizable, and freezer-friendly egg white muffins.

There are many ways to prepare eggs in a way that is both healthy and delicious. All it takes is a little awareness and creativity. Here are some other creative, healthy ways to eat eggs:

Handling eggs safely

When it comes to your health, it’s just as important to know how to safely handle eggs as it is to prepare them. A raw or undercooked egg — particularly if it’s unpasteurized — can cause food poisoning due to a bacteria called Salmonella. Salmonella poisoning symptoms run the full range of severity and often include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Many people are at higher risk of serious illness from Salmonella, including:

  • Infants
  • Young children
  • Pregnant women
  • Elderly people
  • People with compromised immune systems

Salmonella can even be present in fresh eggs, no matter how unbroken and clean the shells appear.⁶ To lower your risk of food poisoning from eggs, the FDA advises the following instructions:

  • Store eggs in their original carton and keep them refrigerated under 40F.
  • Cook eggs and dishes with eggs thoroughly or until they reach 160F.
  • Use eggs within three weeks of purchase.
  • Eat cooked or hard-boiled eggs within one week.
  • Refrigerate leftover dishes with eggs and use or eat them within three or four days.
  • Do not allow egg dishes to sit out at room temperature longer than two hours or one hour in temperatures above 90F.
  • Do not freeze eggs in their shells. Instead, freeze the white and yolks mixed in an airtight container.
  • Use frozen eggs within one year.
  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly when handling raw eggs.
  • Wash and disinfect all equipment, surfaces, and utensils that have come into contact with raw eggs.⁶

Conclusions

Eggs are a natural choice for a healthy diet. Packed with essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, they are a delicious, filling, and nutritious option for any meal. However, the health dangers associated with eggs come from their preparation. Be sure to cook your eggs with a moderate amount of healthy fats, such as olive oil instead of butter, and pair it with your favorite vegetables and healthy grains. Remember to exercise caution while handling, cooking, and storing eggs, taking care to wash hands, surfaces, and any equipment that has come into contact with any raw eggs. And, as with all foods, moderation is key.

Sources

[1] Olver, L. (n.d.). The Food Timeline: history notes--eggs. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.foodtimeline.org/foodeggs.html

[2] Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/list-all/

[3] Zahed, R. (2022, April 14). 9 Health Benefits of Eating Eggs for Breakfast. Keck Medicine of USC. https://www.keckmedicine.org/blog/10-healthy-benefits-of-eating-eggs-for-breakfast/

[4] Organic? Omega 3? Free-Range? All You Need to Know About Eggs. (2017, May 12). Columbia Surgery. https://columbiasurgery.org/news/2017/05/12/organic-omega-3-free-range-all-you-need-know-about-eggs

[5] Harvard Health. (2021, December 14). Ask the Doctor: Are eggs risky for heart health? https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/are-eggs-risky-for-heart-health

[6] Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (2022, May 10). What You Need to Know About Egg Safety. U.S. Food And Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/buy-store-serve-safe-food/what-you-need-know-about-egg-safety