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Are eggs even good for you? You might ask this because, for quite a while now, eggs have been vilified as a source of cholesterol and fat. Some doctors, dieticians and nutritionists even recommend excluding eggs from your diet if you have high cholesterol, obesity and heart disease. But the fact is, eggs are anything but unhealthy.

The first thing one needs to understand is that there’s a difference between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Dietary cholesterol is found in foods derived from animal sources, including milk, cheese, chicken and mutton. Blood cholesterol refers to the levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or good cholesterol) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or bad cholesterol) in the body. Consuming saturated fats and trans fats can increase blood cholesterol levels, but eggs are actually rich in unsaturated fats: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. So, eating eggs does not increase LDL cholesterol levels. 

Actually, eating eggs has a lot of benefits. They are a rich source of protein, choline, folate (vitamin B9), vitamins and minerals - all of which can promote good health. What’s more, eggs are a relatively inexpensive and easily accessible source of energy, and are available in many types across the world. Of course, eggs - like all good things - should not be overeaten, and safety guidelines should be followed regarding their production, sale and consumption too. But nutritionally, eggs can be squarely placed on the healthy side rather than the unhealthy one.

Did you know: Eggs have been considered a valuable food since prehistoric times. Wildfowl and chickens found in South-East Asia and the Indian Subcontinent were domesticated solely for their eggs. Chicken egg remains the most popular type of egg consumed in India, but duck eggs, quail eggs and fish eggs are quite popular in certain parts of the country.

  1. Egg nutrition facts
  2. Health benefits of eggs
  3. Side effects of eggs
  4. Tips to buy and cook eggs safely
  5. Egg Whites or Egg Yolks: Which is healthier?
  6. Can eating eggs cause heart disease or stroke?
  7. Should I store eggs in the fridge or not?

A whole egg (with the yolk) consists of all the nutrients needed by a single cell to transition gradually into a chick. This makes eggs a powerhouse of nutrients. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the following are the nutritional facts of raw, fresh eggs.

Nutrient Value per 100 g
Water 76.15 g
Energy 143 kCal
Protein 12.56 g
Total lipid (fat)  9.51 g
Ash 1.06 g
Carbohydrate 0.72 g
Choline 293.8 mg
Folate  47 micrograms (µg) 
Vitamins  
Vitamin A 160 µg
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid)  1.533 mg
Vitamin E  1.05 mg
Vitamin D 82 international units (IU)
Minerals  
Calcium  58 mg
Iron 1.75 mg
Magnesium 12 mg
Phosphorous 198 mg
Potassium 138 mg
Sodium 142 mg
Zinc 1.29 mg
Selenium  30 µg
Fluoride 1.1 µg

A microgram is one-thousandth of a milligram. An international unit is a measure of the powerfulness or potency of a vitamin or any other substance present in a food item. To put this in perspective, healthy adults need 400-800 IU of vitamin D daily, of which 82 IU can come from a single egg!

Eggs are delicious and packed with many nutrients that are good for the brain, eyes, heart, muscle growth and even for healthy weight loss. No wonder, then, that eggs have been a part of the diet of humankind for a millennium.

Eggs are also loaded with rarer nutrients like choline, which is essential for brain function, healthy heart and reducing risks during pregnancy.

Though high in proteins, eggs don't have a lot of purine - an organic compound that can trigger the symptoms of gout. For this reason, eggs - in moderation - are also recommended as part of the diet for gout.

It is a known fact that eggs are good for our skin and hair. Indeed, many home remedies to remove wrinkles and tips for thicker hair include egg-based masks.

Eggs are, therefore, so beneficial that you might even want to refer to them as superfoods. The following are some of the most well-known benefits of eating eggs:

  1. Eggs to build muscles
  2. Eggs improve brain health
  3. Eggs boost the immune system
  4. Eggs lower heart disease risks
  5. Eggs promote weight loss
  6. Eggs improve eye health
  7. Eggs promote healthy pregnancy

Eggs to build muscles

Protein is known as the building block of life because this nutrient is needed to build, strengthen, maintain and repair tissues, including muscle tissues. Eggs are among the cheapest sources of high-quality protein - they contain all the nine essential amino acids your body needs for proper growth. Many other foods, like chicken and fish, might have more protein content than eggs, but the quality of proteins in eggs wins hands down.

You might also be interested in: Best foods to build muscles

Eggs improve brain health

Eggs are rich in folate, omega-3 fatty acids, and compounds like lutein, zeaxanthin, riboflavin, etc. This apart, eggs also have a very high concentration of essential minerals like phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and zinc. All these nutrients are necessary to improve and maintain cognitive function. Eggs are also exceptionally rich in choline, which your body can use to create acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that boosts mood and memory.

You might also be interested in: Foods and home remedies to increase brain power

Eggs boost the immune system

You might have been told to eat just the egg whites and leave the yolks because the latter are packed with cholesterol. While that is true, the fatty acids in question are omega-3 fatty acids, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats - healthy fats, in short.

The yolks also have a high concentration of minerals like zinc and selenium, which can help boost the immune system.

Eggs, as a whole, contain enough vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and proteins to give your immunity a good boost.

Eggs lower heart disease risks

Eggs are packed with healthy fats which can keep your LDL cholesterol levels low, and increase your HDL cholesterol levels. This can improve blood circulation and keep the heart healthy. The omega-3 fatty acids, choline and antioxidants like lutein in eggs also improve heart health. The choline, in particular, helps break down a type of amino acid called homocysteine, which is known to improve heart health.

Eggs promote weight loss

Eggs are nutrient-dense foods which can help you lose and maintain a healthy weight as well. Eggs help you feel full for longer, thereby curbing the urge to eat too much - eggs especially help to manage unhealthy cravings. Eggs also help reduce the variations in glucose and insulin levels in the body, making you feel energetic and active for longer periods of time.

You might also be interested in: What to eat, what not to eat for weight loss

Eggs improve eye health

Eating adequate amounts of eggs can reduce the degeneration of eyesight with age. Eggs contain high amounts of antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, which boost eyesight and keep eye infections and diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration away. The vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acid content in eggs also play a role in maintaining good retinal health.

Eggs promote healthy pregnancy

Folate (vitamin B9) is a nutrient that is recommended to all women who are either trying to have a baby or are already pregnant. Pregnant women are also given folic acid tablets because it is crucial for the development of your baby.

Folic acid is needed during the early stages of a pregnancy for the growth of the foetus, particularly to avoid the occurrence of congenital defects like spina bifida.

Eggs are chock full of folate, and adding eggs to your pregnancy diet can boost the health of both the foetus and the mother. That said, please do not discontinue the use of folic acid tablets just before and during your pregnancy - the idea is to add more cooked eggs to your diet, not remove or replace the folic acid tablets.

Read more: Don't have raw eggs or raw fish during pregnancy

Though eggs are highly nutritious and should be included in your diet, there are a few side effects of eating too many eggs. Also, research into the role played by eggs in a balanced diet keeps swaying the needle one way or the other, making it difficult to ascertain some of the side effects. According to the latest research, the following are the key side effects of including eggs in your diet:

  1. Eating eggs linked to heart disease
  2. Raw eggs can cause infections
  3. Overeating eggs may cause diabetes
  4. Eating eggs linked to cancer

Eating eggs linked to heart disease

Eggs were once considered harmful for the heart due to their high dietary cholesterol content. However, researchers have not yet found any direct link between dietary cholesterol and high blood cholesterol level. Hence, the idea that eating eggs can cause heart diseases was disproved in general. Indeed research published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology in October 1996, argued that increasing dietary cholesterol intake from healthy foods suppresses the production of cholesterol (biogenesis of cholesterol) in the body!

Yet, a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association in 2019 has once again linked eating eggs to increased heart disease risks. The study followed nearly 30,000 Americans for over 17 years and found that those who ate an extra 300 mg of dietary cholesterol daily were more prone to cardiovascular disease and had a higher chance of death (all-cause mortality) than those who didn't. (An egg yolk can contain 200-250 mg of dietary cholesterol.) Additionally, the study said that adding just half an extra egg a day increased the chances of heart disease in these participants.

To be sure, the mechanism of how dietary fat does or does not get converted into blood cholesterol is still unknown. But the fact that a long-term study found a link between regular egg eaters and heart disease may be concerning for some. So it may be a good idea for people with high cholesterol to eat eggs in moderation, and check with their doctor for the proper diet for high cholesterol.

Raw eggs can cause infections

Any type of raw protein, whether it’s in the form of sushi (raw fish) or undercooked red meat (example, tartare), can be contaminated with salmonella and listeria bacteria, which in turn can cause salmonella infection and listeriosis. Eating raw eggs can also cause biotin depletion, which in turn can lead to seborrheic dermatitis.

Overeating eggs may cause diabetes

Eggs are a great source of nutrition and have a low glycaemic index, too. So it’s believed that you can have eggs if you have diabetes. But a number of studies, including one published in Atherosclerosis - a peer-reviewed journal - in 2013, claim that eating more than three eggs in a week increases the risk of diabetes. Two studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology also indicate that eating eggs can increase the risk of gestational diabetes.

Eating eggs linked to cancer

Some studies have suggested that eating even one or two eggs in a week can increase the risk of ovarian cancer and prostate cancer by 80%. Consumption of eggs is also linked to colorectal cancer. However, a lot can cause cancer, and the link between eggs and different types of cancer are not as firmly established by science yet.

Whether you eat one egg every week or a dozen, it’s important to buy eggs which are safe for consumption. It’s equally important to cook the eggs the right way for consumption. The following tips can help you buy, store and cook eggs safely:

  • Always buy eggs from credible sources or vendors who have a licence to sell eggs. Check for the Agmark standard while buying eggs. Finding out where the eggs were farmed, whether they were free-range or not, etc., might also help.
  • Do not buy or use eggs which are dirty or whose shells are cracked. These eggs have a higher chance of contamination, and can cause bacterial infections.
  • The quality of eggs remains high when refrigerated, as compared to room temperature storage.
  • Do not store the eggs in the door of the refrigerator, since that zone is most affected by temperature differences whenever the door is opened. Keep the eggs in one of the top shelves so that a stable temperature is maintained.
  • The healthiest way to cook eggs is to boil or poach them since both methods use water as a cooking agent.
  • Avoid eating fried, half-fried and cheesy eggs since butter or oil is used as a medium to cook them, and these can spike the LDL or bad cholesterol levels in your food.

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References

  1. FoodData Central. United States Department of Agriculture. Washington D.C. USA; Egg, whole, raw, fresh
  2. Harvard T.H Chan. Harvard Medical School [Internet]. Harvard University, Cambridge. Massachusetts. USA; Eggs.
  3. Kuang, Heqian. et al. The Impact of Egg Nutrient Composition and Its Consumption on Cholesterol Homeostasis. Cholesterol. 2018; 2018: 6303810. PMID: 30210871
  4. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine [Internet]. Washington D.C. United States; Health Concerns With Eggs
  5. National Health Service [Internet]. UK; The healthy way to eat eggs
  6. National Heart Foundation of Australia [Internet]. Sydney. Australia; Eggs
  7. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute [Internet]: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Questions and Answers on Cholesterol and Health
  8. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India [Internet]. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Government of India. New Delhi. India; FSSAI issues egg safety guidance note, busting myth about plastic eggs
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