People often ask me a question that comes with much debate. “Do you eat egg yolk or only egg whites?” To me, the answer is a no-brainer due to the fact that I love the flavor, consistency, and health benefits of the bright yellow yolk. However, many people are under the misconception that eating the whole egg is unhealthy. It’s easy to see why people think this, because the yolk is the primary source of fat within an egg. In addition, the yolk contains cholesterol, which can be a scary word to hear. Rest assured, egg yolks are not only delicious, but they’re extremely beneficial for your health as well.
The Benefits of Pure Egg Whites
People that eat pure egg whites are not making “the wrong decision.” There are many advantages to consuming this substance alone. The egg whites are the primary source of protein in the egg and are relatively low calorie. It also is virtually fat-free. The combination of a high amount of protein, a low number of calories, and trace amounts of fat makes egg whites an excellent food for fitness, weight loss, and overall health. When reducing calorie consumption from a weight maintenance caloric intake (typically 2000 calories is considered a general caloric intake to maintain weight) to a caloric deficit, egg whites are an especially smart choice. You’ll still consume lots of protein while consuming few calories, assisting in satiety (feeling full) and muscle growth. In one whole egg white, there are only 17 calories and 3.6 grams of protein. If using liquid egg whites, as I frequently do, three tablespoons contain 25 calories and 5 grams of protein (in Stop & Shop Brand Liquid Egg Whites). The whites provide some beneficial nutrients, but much fewer than the yolk. When looking at the nutrients of the whole egg, egg whites contain greater percentages of magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, and niacin than the yolk (A Healthier Michigan). However, there is an abundance of healthy nutrients in the yolk that you may miss out on by omitting them.
The Benefits of Egg Yolk
Egg whites contain some nutrients, but the yolk is where the most vitamins and minerals are located within a whole egg. Compared to whites, yolks contain much larger amounts of calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and manganese, among other nutrients. They are an excellent source of B vitamins, providing most of the egg’s thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folate. They also contain high amounts of choline, which helps maintain healthy cell membranes and neural activity. In addition, yolks possess the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. All of these nutrients combine to deliver very beneficial health effects, an important reason why you should include egg yolks as a part of your healthy lifestyle. Certain nutrients in egg yolks have been shown to protect against liver disease, aid in brain function and memory, improve sleep quality, maintain eye health, and more (Livestrong) (Berkeley Wellness).
The “Fear” of Fat and Cholesterol
People tend to stay away from egg yolks mostly due to the myth that all fats and cholesterol are bad. This is far from the truth. Egg yolks contain a combination of unsaturated fat and saturated fat. Both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are found in egg yolks. These are considered “healthy fats.” According to the American Heart Association, these types of unsaturated fats can help reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, also commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol. The polyunsaturated fats in eggs are the essential fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which have been associated with reducing the risk of heart disease. The unsaturated fats in eggs are very minimal. One whole egg contains about 5 total grams of fat and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, which is relatively low. The fat content should not be a factor in avoiding eggs entirely.
Cholesterol is an interesting nutrient. Since high levels of LDL cholesterol have been said to lead to heart disease, people view cholesterol as a substance to eliminate. However, your body needs cholesterol to function. Your body can and will produce this nutrient if you do not consume it, so it is not an essential nutrient. But cholesterol aids in the production of certain hormones, including estrogen and testosterone. It is also vital in maintaining healthy cell membrane function and bile production. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee issued a statement that dietary cholesterol is not a “nutrient of concern” (Time). This supports the belief that consuming cholesterol through food does not necessarily increase the risk of heart disease. An article from Harvard’s School of Health states that in most individuals, the dietary cholesterol in eggs has little effect on total blood cholesterol and levels of LDL cholesterol. Consuming eggs may even lower LDL cholesterol and raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels, which is considered “healthy cholesterol” (Jillian Michaels). It also mentions that people who have a difficult time controlling their blood cholesterol, especially people with heart disease and/or diabetes, may not want to eat too much egg yolk, because the cholesterol may potentially negatively impact their health. If you do not have any of these issues, egg yolk’s cholesterol shouldn’t have any negative effects on your body.
Conclusion: Eat the Whole Egg (In Moderation)
As you can see, egg yolks have many health benefits, as do egg whites. It depends on your personal preference, but eating egg yolks is not bad for you at all. Even if you do have known issues with blood cholesterol, you can still enjoy whole eggs in moderation. Eggs still contain saturated fat, so you may not want to eat too many per day, depending on your goals and meal plan. Personally, I eat two whole eggs most mornings as a part of my breakfast, and sometimes I’ll have another hardboiled egg later on. It’s up to you how many eggs you eat, but rest assured, egg yolks contain many benefits and is a healthy substance. There is no reason to avoid it completely. Give yolks a chance!