6 Reasons You Should Eat the WHOLE Egg

Written by Tim Skwiat

Eat the whole egg

Even though it shouldn’t, I still find it astonishing that some people think eggs—better said, egg yolks—are unhealthy. I shake my head when folks brag about their egg-white omelets. And I melt in disappointment when I hear nutritionists suggest fat-free egg substitutes.

If any of this sounds familiar, please don’t take it personally. It’s not your fault. It’s been beaten—no pun intended, I promise—into our heads over the years that egg yolks are “bad” for us. On top of that, many of us have been conditioned to believe fat is the dietary devil, so to speak. Fortunately, we do seem to be turning a collective corner as far as that goes due to the tireless, persistent efforts of health crusaders. Finally.

In other words, fat does not make you fat. What’s more, fat—included saturated fat—is not associated with an increased risk of heart disease.1,2 While we’re bursting mythical nutrition bubbles, let’s let the cat out of the bag: the cholesterol found in eggs—and any animal food, for that matter—has no appreciable impact on blood cholesterol.3 As a matter of fact, eggs can be quite heart healthy.

Now that the table has been set, let’s serve the main course: 6 reasons you should eat the whole egg.

1. Egg yolks are PACKED with nutrients. For starters, nearly half of the protein in an egg is found in the yolk. And while many people shy away from egg yolks because of their fat content, the fatty acid profile is relatively balanced. The greatest contribution of fat comes from “heart healthy” monounsaturated fats. Even more, egg yolks contain the essential omega-3 fatty acid DHA. This is critical for eye, brain, and heart health.

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On top of that, ALL the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E, and K) are found in the yolk. So too are potent antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin, which we’ll be coming back to again and again. What’s more, virtually all the following vitamins and minerals packaged in the incredible, edible egg are in the yolk:

  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Thiamin (B1)
  • Panthothenic acid (B5)
  • B6
  • Folate
  • B12

2. Eggs boost brain health. When you eat the whole egg, yolks are a very good source of vitamin B12. This vitamin energizes the brain and provides crucial protection by eliminating potentially toxic compounds (i.e., homocysteine) and supporting long-term nerve health and function.4 Eggs are also one of the few excellent sources of choline. And nearly all of it is in the yolk. A lesser-known nutrient that supports brain health and nervous system function, choline is the main building block of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Its significance in nervous system function cannot be overstated. The brain is particularly susceptible to oxidative stress. Eggs again are rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which fight free radical damage. Lutein also boosts levels of compounds which protect existing brain cells, help create new ones, and improve neuroplasticity (the brain’s capacity to keep developing, changing, and healing itself). So it enhances the ability to learn and master new tasks.5,6

3. Eggs-ray vision. Hopefully you’re not tired of hearing about lutein and zeaxanthin… Referred to as the “macular carotenoids,” they act as primary filters of high-energy blue light. Plus, they support visual health and acuity by protecting against oxidative stress and inflammation. Specifically, this duo acts as a “protective shield” against damaging UV rays and harmful free radicals. As a result, they are often referred to as “natural sunglasses.”

What’s more, the all-important omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, highly regarded for numerous health benefits including eye health and vision support, can also be found when you eat the whole egg.7–9

4. Eggs are heart healthy. Despite what you’ve probably been led to believe, regular egg consumption is heart healthy. In a recent 14-week crossover study, researchers from the University of Connecticut showed healthy adults eating 1 – 3 eggs per day for 4 weeks experienced a significant improvement in their blood lipid profile, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease, compared to eating no eggs.10 Dozens (get it…eggs come by the dozen) of other studies have shown, at worst, no association between egg consumption and risk of heart disease. At best, they’ve shown significant improvements in blood lipids to potentially lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Overall, eggs from pasture-raised hens provide a variety of nutrients that support cardiovascular health. This includes B vitamins (e.g., B12, folate), omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., EPA, DHA), and carotenoids (e.g., lutein, zeaxanthin). For instance, EPA and DHA are well-known for their beneficial effects on heart health, as research has shown they may lower triglycerides by up to 50% and result in a 45% reduction in cardiovascular events.12–14

5. Eggs can help trim the fat. When it comes to the battle of the bulge, appetite and satiety (feelings of fullness and satisfaction) are two critical factors that influence food intake. In a recent crossover study published in the journal Nutrients, researchers found that, compared to eating oatmeal, when healthy participants ate two eggs for breakfast daily for four weeks, they reported significant improvements in satiety, which correlated with lower levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.15

Additional research has shown when you eat the whole egg for breakfast, it increases levels of additional satiety hormones, which decrease food intake and promote blood sugar control.17,18 Eggs are a good source of protein. And studies have shown protein-rich meals boost satiety, improve appetite control, reduce snacking, improve diet quality, reduce food motivation and reward, and support healthy weight management.19–23 In addition, eggs are also rich in healthy fats, which also help increase feelings of fullness and satisfaction.24

Not surprisingly, research has shown eating eggs daily for breakfast is an effective strategy to help control body weight.15,16,25 In fact, one study showed eating two eggs for breakfast helped overweight dieters lose 65% more weight and feel more energetic than those who ate a bagel breakfast of equal calories and volume.26

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6. Eggs are among an athlete’s best friends. Speaking of protein, eggs are one of the highest quality sources of any whole food available. In a recent review in Nutrition Today, researchers analyzed more than 25 protein studies and concluded the natural, high-quality protein in eggs contributes to strength, power, and energy in several ways:27

  • Sustained Energy. The protein in eggs helps promote steady, sustained energy because it helps support healthy carbohydrate metabolism and glycemic control. As a result, eggs help prevent a rebound effect or energy crash common with poor carbohydrate management. Further, eggs provide several B vitamins (e.g., thiamin, riboflavin, folate, B6, and B12) required for energy production.
  • Muscle Strength. Dietary protein directly influences muscle mass, strength, and function in people of all ages. Eggs are a good source of protein, with a single egg providing six grams of high-quality protein, which can help individuals build and preserve muscle mass and promote healthy aging (i.e., prevent muscle loss). Eggs are also rich in the amino acid leucine, which is a “trigger” for building muscle, promotes recovery, and contributes to the body’s ability to use energy.
  • Gold-Standard Protein. The high-quality protein in eggs provides all the essential amino acids our bodies need to build and maintain muscle mass. In fact, the quality of egg protein is so high scientists often use eggs as the “gold standard” for evaluating the protein quality of other foods.

Eat the Whole Egg

And of course, no matter how you like them prepared (personally, I’m a soft-boiled kind of guy), eggs are pretty darn tasty. The bottom line is eggs are packed with nutrition. If you regularly eat the whole egg, you are receiving some substantial health benefits you’d otherwise miss out on when you trash the yolk. With that being said, when it comes to choosing eggs, your best bet is to purchase eggs from pasture-raised hens, which tend to have a slightly healthier nutrition profile.

As I like to tell my one-year-old daughter Parker, who eats eggs on the regular, “Eggs are egg-cellent!” At her age, dad jokes are pretty cool.

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References

  • 1. Willett WC, Leibel RL. Dietary fat is not a major determinant of body fat. Am J Med. 2002;113 Suppl 9B:47S-59S.
  • 2. Lawrence GD. Dietary fats and health: dietary recommendations in the context of scientific evidence. Adv Nutr Bethesda Md. 2013;4(3):294-302. doi:10.3945/an.113.003657.
  • 3. United States Department of Agriculture. Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.; 2015.
  • 4. Gröber U, Kisters K, Schmidt J. Neuroenhancement with Vitamin B12—underestimated neurological significance. Nutrients. 2013;5(12):5031-5045. doi:10.3390/nu5125031.
  • 5. Stringham NT, Holmes PV, Stringham JM. Lutein supplementation increases serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in humans. FASEB J. 2016;30(1 Supplement):689.3-689.3.
  • 6. Bekinschtein P, Cammarota M, Katche C, et al. BDNF is essential to promote persistence of long-term memory storage. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2008;105(7):2711-2716. doi:10.1073/pnas.0711863105.
  • 7. SanGiovanni JP, Chew EY. The role of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in health and disease of the retina. Prog Retin Eye Res. 2005;24(1):87-138. doi:10.1016/j.preteyeres.2004.06.002.
  • 8. Stough C, Downey L, Silber B, et al. The effects of 90-day supplementation with the omega-3 essential fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) on cognitive function and visual acuity in a healthy aging population. Neurobiol Aging. 2012;33(4):824.e1-3. doi:10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2011.03.019.
  • 9. McCusker MM, Durrani K, Payette MJ, Suchecki J. An eye on nutrition: The role of vitamins, essential fatty acids, and antioxidants in age-related macular degeneration, dry eye syndrome, and cataract. Clin Dermatol. 2016;34(2):276-285. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2015.11.009.
  • 10. DiMarco DM, Norris GH, Millar CL, Blesso CN, Fernandez ML. Intake of up to 3 eggs per day is associated with changes in HDL function and increased plasma antioxidants in healthy, young adults. J Nutr. 2017;147(3):323-329. doi:10.3945/jn.116.241877.
  • 11. Toft-Petersen AP, Tilsted HH, Aarøe J, et al. Small dense LDL particles--a predictor of coronary artery disease evaluated by invasive and CT-based techniques: A case-control study. Lipids Health Dis. 2011;10(1):21. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-10-21.
  • 12. Kris-Etherton PM, Harris WS, Appel LJ. Fish consumption, fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, and cardiovascular disease. Circulation. 2002;106(21):2747-2757. doi:10.1161/01.CIR.0000038493.65177.94.
  • 13. Bradberry JC, Hilleman DE. Overview of omega-3 fatty acid therapies. Pharm Ther. 2013;38(11):681-691.
  • 14. Lee JH, O’Keefe JH, Lavie CJ, Marchioli R, Harris WS. Omega-3 fatty acids for cardioprotection. Mayo Clin Proc. 2008;83(3):324-332. doi:10.4065/83.3.324.
  • 15. Missimer A, DiMarco DM, Andersen CJ, Murillo AG, Vergara-Jimenez M, Fernandez ML. Consuming two eggs per day, as compared to an oatmeal breakfast, decreases plasma ghrelin while maintaining the LDL/HDL ratio. Nutrients. 2017;9(2). doi:10.3390/nu9020089.
  • 16. Ratliff J, Leite JO, de Ogburn R, Puglisi MJ, VanHeest J, Fernandez ML. Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutr Res N Y N. 2010;30(2):96-103. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2010.01.002.
  • 17. Liu AG, Puyau RS, Han H, Johnson WD, Greenway FL, Dhurandhar NV. The effect of an egg breakfast on satiety in children and adolescents: A randomized crossover trial. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(3):185-190. doi:10.1080/07315724.2014.942471.
  • 18. Pelletier X, Thouvenot P, Belbraouet S, et al. Effect of egg consumption in healthy volunteers: Influence of yolk, white or whole-egg on gastric emptying and on glycemic and hormonal responses. Ann Nutr Metab. 1996;40(2):109-115.
  • 19. Leidy HJ, Racki EM. The addition of a protein-rich breakfast and its effects on acute appetite control and food intake in “breakfast-skipping” adolescents. Int J Obes 2005. 2010;34(7):1125-1133. doi:10.1038/ijo.2010.3.
  • 20. Hoertel HA, Will MJ, Leidy HJ. A randomized crossover pilot study examining the effects of a normal protein vs. high protein breakfast on food cravings and reward signals in overweight/obese “breakfast skipping,” late-adolescent girls. Nutr J. 2014;13:80. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-80.
  • 21. Leidy HJ, Hoertel HA, Douglas SM, Higgins KA, Shafer RS. A high-protein breakfast prevents body fat gain, through reductions in daily intake and hunger, in “breakfast skipping” adolescents: High-protein breakfast improves weight management. Obesity. 2015;23(9):1761-1764. doi:10.1002/oby.21185.
  • 22. Rains TM, Leidy HJ, Sanoshy KD, Lawless AL, Maki KC. A randomized, controlled, crossover trial to assess the acute appetitive and metabolic effects of sausage and egg-based convenience breakfast meals in overweight premenopausal women. Nutr J. 2015;14(1):17. doi:10.1186/s12937-015-0002-7.
  • 23. Karalus M, Barisas L, Zaripheh S. The effect of commercially prepared breakfast meals with varying levels of protein on acute satiety in non-restrained women. FASEB J. 2014;28(1):823.6.
  • 24. Samra RA. Fats and Satiety. In: Montmayeur J-P, le Coutre J, eds. Fat Detection: Taste, Texture, and Post Ingestive Effects. Frontiers in Neuroscience. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2010. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53550/. Accessed December 8, 2015.
  • 25. Rueda JM, Khosla P. Impact of breakfasts (with or without eggs) on body weight regulation and blood lipids in university students over a 14-week semester. Nutrients. 2013;5(12):5097-5113. doi:10.3390/nu5125097.
  • 26. Vander Wal JS, Gupta A, Khosla P, Dhurandhar NV. Egg breakfast enhances weight loss. Int J Obes 2005. 2008;32(10):1545-1551. doi:10.1038/ijo.2008.130.
  • 27. Layman DK, Rodriguez NR. Egg protein as a source of power, strength, and energy: Nutr Today. 2009;44(1):43-48. doi:10.1097/NT.0b013e3181959cb2.
  • Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks very much for your time and feedback. Of course, we want to do whatever we can to ensure the best possible educational experience for our blog readers. The last thing we want to do is insult you and other viewers. Along those lines, we welcome feedback and constructive criticism such as yours with open arms.

    With that in mind, would it be possible for you to be a bit more specific? As the author of the article itself, I’d be curious to get your input. I’m definitely open to refining my craft if it benefits you and others. Are you referring to the article? I didn’t include a video, so I’m interested to better understand what you’re referring to.

    Thanks, Jonathan!

  • Hi hifz,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your concern. I’ll be happy to share my opinion on this topic. It’s unfortunate that myths like this are still so pervasive; however, that’s why we’re here: to help educate you on your health and fitness journey.

    I’ve covered this topic in depth in the following report on eggs, which you can download for free:

    All About Eggs

    Here’s the relatively short story…because eggs, which contain enough nutrients to turn a single cell into a chick, contain a relatively substantial amount of cholesterol, they have long been believed to raise blood levels of cholesterol, and even worse, lead to heart disease.

    However, when you look at the preponderance of scientific research investigating the effects of eating eggs on cholesterol and heart health, you’ll find the contrary is true. You’ll see findings like:

    • “dietary cholesterol may be less detrimental to cardiovascular health than previously thought.”
    • eating eggs for breakfast (providing 400mg of cholesterol) 5 days per week for 14 weeks has no negative impact on blood lipids (e.g., total cholesterol, LDL).
    • “no evidence of an overall significant association between egg consumption and risk of CHD or stroke in either men or women.”
    • consuming greater than 6 eggs per week does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease compared to eating none.
    • no association between egg consumption and CVD risk when comparing folks with the highest to lowest egg consumption.
    • eating 3 whole eggs per day for 12 weeks significantly increased HDL cholesterol and large HDL particles (i.e., the “good” forms of cholesterol), increased HDL and LDL particle size (i.e., more large, fluffy particles) and reduced total VLDL and medium VLDL particles.19 Particle size is noteworthy because small, dense particles are considered more detrimental than large, fluffy particles.

    Still not convinced about the connection—or lack thereof—between dietary and blood cholesterol?

    Perhaps the most striking evidence on the topic came in 2015 when America’s top nutrition advisory panel, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), which is responsible for publishing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans based on the body of scientific and medical evidence, stated that the “available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and [blood] cholesterol.”

    The DGAC’s findings are consistent with the conclusions of the very conservative American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association. Finally, the DGAC went on to retract its previous recommendation to limit cholesterol to no more than 300mg/day and concluded, “Cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”

    In other words, you don’t need to worry about the cholesterol in your food.

    And when it comes to eggs, they are likely to be beneficial (or at worst, neutral) for heart health. In addition to dietary cholesterol being a moot point, eggs contain a variety of nutrients that support cardiovascular health including B vitamins (e.g., B12, folate), omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., EPA, DHA), and carotenoids (e.g., lutein, zeaxanthin). EPA and DHA are well-known for their beneficial effects on heart health, as research has shown that they may lower triglycerides by up to 50% and result in a 45% reduction in cardiovascular events.

    Just some food for thought; hope this helps!

  • This is a really good point, DG, and I appreciate you bringing it up. I know you’re not asking for my opinion, but here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote on the topic:

    “Any time you crack an egg and expose it to air (i.e., oxygen) and light, the cholesterol in eggs can be oxidized. When you cook eggs (in any way), there will be some oxidation of the cholesterol, as heat is also a catalyst for oxidation. These are called cholesterol oxidation products (COP), which may have harmful effects on human health.

    Among the different preparations of eggs, poached and boiled eggs are thought to have the lowest COP. Along those lines, eating eggs raw (immediately after they’re cracked open) would involve the least COP, and some studies have shown that raw eggs have no COP. Whether or not eating eggs raw is safe is somewhat of a separate discussion.

    Along those lines, however, there are benefits to cooking/heating eggs. For instance, heat will can kill off any “bad” microbes. Also, heating can destroy the “anti-nutrient” avidin, which can bind to and inhibit the absorption of certain B vitamins. Cooking/heating also significantly improves the digestibility of proteins in eggs (77% greater digestibility).4

    Overall, there may be potential benefit to cooking eggs at lower temperatures for shorter periods of time to limit the production of COP while still reaping the advantages of heating. Having said that, the largest concern is likely with egg-based products (e.g., egg powder), which tend to undergo exposure to high heat (e.g., 100 C) for longer periods of time (e.g., 2+ hours).”