Health Benefits of Eggs
For breakfast, lunch or dinner, eggs pack a healthy punch.
For breakfast, lunch or dinner, eggs can make meals that are not only easy and affordable but also good for you. But conventional wisdom suggests eggs should be eaten sparingly. There's been a lot of conflicting information about whether or not eggs are good for you recently, so we're breaking a few eggs to explain their benefits.
Eggs are more than a good source of protein, they're considered a complete protein. They contain all but two amino acids, nine of which are the essential amino acids that our bodies need and can't synthesize. That's what makes them a high-quality protein.
Protein is the foundation for all of the body's functions: it helps make hair, build muscles, strengthen bones and make enzymes and hormones. In all, one large egg has 6 grams of protein and the recommended daily allowance for adults is 46 to 71 grams, depending on your age and physical state.
To figure out how much protein you need in a day (along with other macronutrients, vitamins and minerals), you can use this calculator. It uses your height, weight, age and activity levels to tell you how much of each nutrient you need in a day.
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The reputation of eggs as a "healthy food" has been sullied in the last few decades because of their high cholesterol content. To give you some perspective, the same large egg that provides all those essential amino acids also delivers 207 milligrams of cholesterol (most of which is in the yolk). If you're watching your cholesterol, that number might blow your mind, but there are some things to consider about the cholesterol in eggs.
LDLs and HDLs
While too much cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease, it's also something our bodies need. Cholesterol helps us digest food, make hormones and produce vitamin D. Your liver makes cholesterol, but you also get cholesterol from meat and dairy (dietary cholesterol). That said, understanding the two types of cholesterol—LDLs and HDLs—may help you figure out how to get the most out of your eggs:
Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDLs) are known as "bad" cholesterol. LDLs carry the cholesterol out of the liver and into the bloodstream. They're responsible for the plaque that clogs arteries.
High-Density Lipoproteins (HDLs) are known as "good" cholesterol. HDLs clean up after the bad cholesterol. That means HDLs help lower LDLs.
Over the last few decades, there have been dozens of studies with conflicting results about cholesterol and eggs. The recommendation of limiting dietary cholesterol to 300 milligrams/day was removed from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans because there wasn't enough evidence to support the theory that dietary cholesterol contributes to cardiovascular disease risk. However, a 2018 study published in the journal Circulation showed the more eggs you eat, the greater chance you have of developing cardiovascular disease. The authors of the study suggested re-evaluating the dietary guidelines.
But, that research is just one study. A large body of evidence shows that eating cholesterol won't significantly impact your cholesterol numbers. You can avoid most of the cholesterol by just eating the egg whites, but you'd also be missing out on a lot of the nutrients found in the yolk.
Most people can eat eggs and not worry about the cholesterol in them. If you have high cholesterol or are worried about heart disease, talk to your doctor about how many eggs you eat to get more personalized medical advice.
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Eggs are a good source of vitamin B12. Your body uses B12 in DNA and red blood cell production as well as to keep your nerves functioning properly. Most people get enough B12, but people who follow a vegetarian diet may have low levels, and eating eggs can help.
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Eggs are an excellent source of choline. If you're not familiar with choline, know that it does a body good from head to toe. It's important to your memory, mood, muscle control and keeping the nervous system functioning. Your body doesn't make quite as much choline as it needs, but one egg contains 30% of the Daily Value you need.
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If you're looking for new ideas for what to eat when you have diabetes, you might want to add eggs to your menu. Several studies show eggs may help with type 2 diabetes.
One study published in the journal Nutrition Research and Practice found that eating one egg per day was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes in men.
Another study used omelets for breakfast to show that eating a high-fat, low-carb breakfast may help with controlling blood sugar levels throughout the day. Researchers say people with type 2 diabetes typically get the highest blood sugar spike after breakfast, and the egg breakfast seemed to prevent it.
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Eggs may be good for eye health. Egg yolks contain the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. They're also typically found in colorful vegetables, and they accumulate in the eye.
Studies show you may lower your risk of age-related vision loss if you get more lutein and zeaxanthin in your diet.
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Eggs contain a lot of nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy. There may be some downsides to eating too many eggs (truly, there are downsides to eating too much of any one food), but if you eat eggs in moderation and incorporate them into a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, you can benefit from them. They're a good (and cheap) source of protein and many other essential nutrients.