Did you know that May is National Egg Month? In the spirit of one of my favorite foods, I teamed up with the North Carolina Egg Association to put together a Q&A on egg nutrition to clear up some of the confusion.
This post is sponsored by the NC Egg Association, in partnership with the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and the NC Tobacco Trust Fund. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Eggs are one of the top foods I recommend to my clients and athletes, and generally, to all consumers. Their nutrition profile and versatility make them a staple in most households!
Eggs Across the Lifespan
Since I’ve done baby led weaning with two kiddos, and about to start it with a third, I’ve always been conscious about including eggs as an early food for a few reasons.
Firstly, the nutrition profile of eggs is outstanding, as we will soon review. Eggs for kids can be great for brain health, which is monumental.
Secondly, newer research shows that introducing allergenic foods, like eggs, early can reduce the risk of allergies later in life.
We love to include eggs as a breading or ingredient in recipes, like baby meatballs, for this reason!
While eggs are such a great food for all of us (I love recommending eggs for runners and for kids, pregnancy and through adulthood!), there remain many questions about egg nutrition among consumers and the media.
Many people fear the cholesterol and fat in eggs, and wonder if eggs are even a “healthy” food to be including in their diets.
Well, spoiler alert, eggs are included for many examples of what a dietitian eats in a day.
So, let’s break down some of these myths and questions as we review all things egg nutrition.
Table of contents
What are Some Key Nutrients in Eggs?
Eggs are an all-around nutrient powerhouse. Firstly, they are a complete protein with essential vitamins and minerals for healthy living.
- Protein – The high-quality protein in eggs (including the amino acid, leucine) helps to support muscle and bone health, while helping to provide energy. One medium egg provides 6 grams of protein and all 9 essential amino acids – eggs ARE a complete protein!
- Choline – You’ve probably heard about choline as this micronutrient is getting much attention these days in utero, pregnancy and infants. Choline is so important in supporting lifelong brain health, and eggs are one of the best food sources of choline. More than 90% of Americans (including approximately 90% of pregnant women) don’t get enough of this essential nutrient and it’s not found in high quantities in many foods.
- Selenium – Selenium is a trace mineral that helps make up enzymes and proteins to help promote immunity and protect against cell damage.
- Vitamin D – Eggs are one of few foods that have natural Vitamin D, which is important for bone health, mood and more. One egg provides about 1 mcg of Vitamin D.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin – Antioxidants that help support eye health and cognitive function.
- Calories – One medium egg provides only 70 calories. However, instead of focusing on calories, we promote focusing on eating and enjoying a balanced plate of foods that you enjoy and that is satisfying for you. Know that with those calories you’re also getting a slew of nutrients!
Eggs have no carbohydrates, so I recommend always pairing them with some complex carbohydrates for satiety and lasting energy.
Eggs are also void of added sugars, making them a great option for keeping blood sugar stable.
Are Eggs Good for Cholesterol?
The science on dietary cholesterol and eggs continues to grow (as this is a popular topic)!
The most up-to-date information demonstrates that eggs are an important part of healthy dietary patterns across the lifespan, meaning from in utero, through infancy and childhood and adulthood.
For most people, eating eggs does not negatively impact blood cholesterol levels.
Furthermore, the Dietary Guidelines do not list cholesterol as a nutrient of concern. Government and other public health organizations have removed dietary cholesterol limits and include eggs in recommended healthy eating patterns.
Overall, this data supports the value of eggs as a nutrient-dense food within healthy dietary patterns. According to the American Heart Association, eggs can be included in a heart-healthy diet for healthy adults.
What About Egg Yolks?
The old recommendations to skip the yolk are outdated and not science-based. We know that nearly half of an egg’s protein and most of its vitamins and minerals, including those essential for supporting our brains and bodies, are found in the yolk!
To get the most out of your eggs, eat the entire egg.
Information for Purchasing Eggs
Here are answers to many common questions regarding purchasing and storing eggs.
How do you store eggs?
Keep eggs in the carton in which you purchase them, as it is designed specifically for this purpose.
The carton helps the eggs from picking up odors and flavors from other foods and prevents moisture loss.
To ensure egg quality and food safety, store your eggs only in the refrigerator.
The best location in your refrigerator to store your eggs is on an inside shelf.
Be aware that repeated opening and closing of the door causes temperature fluctuations, so try to minimize constant opening and closing.
How long are eggs good for?
You can keep fresh, uncooked eggs in the shell refrigerated in their cartons for at least four to five weeks beyond the pack date, or about three weeks after you bring them home.
When eggs are properly handled and stored, they rarely spoil. However, if kept long enough, you may find that they dry up.
Try not to leave eggs out after you bring them home. A little known fact is that they can age more in one day at room temperature than they will in one week in the refrigerator.
What do egg grades refer to?
Egg grades primarily refer to the appearance of the egg and have nothing to do with nutrition.
There are three consumer grades for eggs: United States (U.S.) Grade AA, A, and B.
According to the USDA, the grade is determined by the interior quality of the egg and the appearance and condition of the eggshell. Eggs of any quality grade may differ in weight.
- Grade AA eggs have whites that are thick and firm; yolks that are high, round, and practically free from defects; and clean, unbroken shells.
- Grade A eggs have characteristics of Grade AA eggs except that the whites are reasonably firm, which is what is most often sold in stores.
- Grade B eggs have whites that may be thinner and yolks that may be wider and flatter than eggs of higher grades. You won’t really find Grade B in retail stores because they are usually used to make liquid, frozen, and dried egg products.
Are brown eggs more nutritious than white eggs?
There is no nutritional difference between white eggs and brown eggs.
Regardless of color, all large eggs contain 6 grams of protein for only 70 calories. Interestingly, egg color depends on the breed of the hen.
What about egg yolk color?
The yolk color also has no relationship to egg quality, flavor, cooking characteristics or shell thickness.
Hens that are fed wheat and barley produce eggs with lighter color yolks, while hens that are fed green plants, corn and alfalfa produce eggs with darker color yolks.
In short, the yolk color does not indicate hen health or egg nutrition.
Should I only buy organic eggs? Cage-free?
How an egg is produced (organic vs. not organic, cage-free, etc.) has no effect on its nutritional value.
All eggs provide about the same essential vitamins and minerals, including six grams of high-quality protein.
In conclusion, eggs are a wonderful food to incorporate across the lifespan that provide several key nutrients and help fill some nutrition gaps.
Whether you eat them on their own, in an omelet or quiche, as a hard-boiled snack on the go, take advantage of this budget-friendly complete protein! If you need more inspiration, check out some of my favorite easy egg recipes.