By Rebecca Abma
Where can you find more than a dozen essential nutrients for less than 100 calories? Look no further than the egg. One large egg contains about 75 calories and 6 grams of protein. For someone on a 2,000-calorie diet, that translates to 10 percent of the daily recommendation of protein for less than 4 percent of calories. What’s more, one egg packs a nutritional punch with vitamins A, B6, B12, D, and E, along with riboflavin, folate, choline, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc. Eggs are one of the very few foods that contain naturally-occurring vitamin D. Most of an egg’s nutrients are in the yolk, though more than half the protein is in the white.
While eggs were one once thought of as something to avoid, these nutrient-rich superfoods actually provide many health benefits, and can be an important part of a healthy diet.
Eggs and Your Heart
Perhaps the biggest myth about eggs is that they’re bad for your heart. Two decades ago, eggs’ cholesterol content—about 200 milligrams (mg) per egg yolk—put them on the watch list of artery clogging food. But researchers now believe that eating cholesterol-rich foods—like eggs—may not affect the cholesterol levels in your blood, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
A study that assessed the dietary habits of 1,032 men between the ages of 42 and 60 showed that eating one egg a day did not increase the risk of coronary heart disease. The results were published in February 2016 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. However, in people with diabetes, researchers caution that further study is needed, because there may be an increased risk among those who consume more than six eggs per week. A review published in BMJ in January 2013 found that higher egg consumption was associated with an elevated risk of coronary heart disease in people with diabetes. On the other hand, the same review showed that higher egg intake was associated with a lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke.
Cholesterol confusion aside, eggs contain nutrients essential to heart health. Eggs are a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, including Omega-3 fatty acids. According to the Mayo Clinic, these types of fat can help improve blood cholesterol levels, which can reduce your risk of heart disease. They can also help regulate insulin levels, which can improve blood sugar control. Eggs also contain the B vitamins choline, folate, and B12, which can help reduce homocysteine levels. Studies show high homocysteine levels may increase your risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.
Eggs and Your Waist
If eggs bring to mind greasy-spoon diners and fattening meals, think again. In fact, eating eggs may help you manage your weight. That’s because the protein found in eggs can help you feel fuller longer, and may help you eat less. In a study published in June 2013 in the European Journal of Nutrition, 30 men were randomly assigned to eat one of three breakfasts—eggs on toast, cornflakes with milk, or a croissant and orange juice. The participants who ate the egg breakfast reported feeling fuller and less hungry, and had less desire to eat. They also ate less at lunch and dinner compared to participants who ate the lower-protein, higher-carbohydrate breakfasts.
Including a source of protein in a meal can also blunt the curve and elongate the glucose peak after eating. Results from one study published in March 2014 in the Journal of Nutrition showed that eating more protein at breakfast can help reduce blood sugar spikes after both breakfast and lunch in people with type 2 diabetes.
Rebecca Abma was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in December 2003. After diagnosis, she began spending 90 percent of her non-work computer time researching the disease and chatting with fellow diabetics. Her writing has appeared in Fitness, First for Women, GreatLife, and diabetes self-management magazines, among others, as well as several websites, including Body1.com.
Cleveland Clinic. “Why You Should No Longer Worry About Cholesterol in Food.” February 19, 2015. Accessed November 20, 2016.
Fallaize, R., Wilson, L., Gray, J., et al. “Variation in the Effects of Three Different Breakfast Meals on Subjective Satiety and Subsequent Intake of Energy at Lunch and Evening Meal.” U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. September 5, 2012.
Ganguly, P. and Alam, S.F. “Role of Homocysteine in the Development of Cardiovascular Disease.” Nutrition Journal. January 10, 2015. Accessed November 20, 2016.
Mayo Clinic. “Dietary Fats: Know Which Types to Choose.” February 2, 2016. BMJ. Accessed November 20, 2016.
Park, Y.M., Heden, T.D., Liu, Y., et al. “A High-Protein Breakfast Induces Greater Insulin and Glucose-Dependent Insulinotropic Peptide Responses to a Subsequent Lunch Meal in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes.” The Journal of Nutrition. November 26, 2014.
Rong, Y., Chen, L., Tingting, Z., et al. “Egg Consumption and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke: Dose-Response Meta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies.” January 7, 2013. Accessed November 20, 2016.
Virtanen, J.K., Mursu, J., Virtanen, H.E., et al. “Associations of Egg and Cholesterol Intake with Carotid Intima-Media Thickness and Risk of Incident Coronary Artery Disease According to Apolipoprotein E Phenothype in Men: the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study.” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. December 31, 2015. Accessed November 20, 2016.