Are "Just Egg" Products Healthy? Here's What Dietitians Have to Say About the Plant-Based Egg Trend
Vegans, plant-based eaters and people with egg allergies have long turned to pantry-staple solutions as a stand-in for eggs. Our Vegan Banana Bread, for example, features a flax "egg," which is made with flaxseed meal and water. Our Vegan Meringues call for another versatile plant-based egg substitute: whipped aquafaba (the liquid found in a can of chickpeas).
Today, many more Americans of all dietary preferences are turning to egg-replacement products, be it due to environmental concerns, animal welfare worries, the rising cost of eggs, nutrition or even curiosity. That's where products like Just Egg come in. Just Egg is a plant-based vegan egg substitute that can be used as an ingredient in recipes that call for eggs, as well as scrambled and eaten on its own.
But what is Just Egg made of, really, and are Just Eggs healthy? Let's get cracking.
What Are Plant-Based Eggs?
When you look at the category of plant-based eggs as a whole, the ingredients in these products vary widely, says Roxana Ehsani, M.S., RD, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Las Vegas and a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "A plant-based egg has a lot more ingredients than a regular egg, which has just one: egg," she adds.
Just Egg is a definite market leader in terms of popularity and availability. Just Egg resembles real liquid eggs with its golden color. The product's ingredients include: water, mung bean protein isolate and canola oil, plus a variety of spices, natural flavors and thickeners to yield an egg-like texture. (Mung bean is a legume.)
A 3-tablespoon serving of Just Egg equals one egg. Here are the Just Eggs Nutrition Facts per serving:
- 70 calories
- 5 g fat (0 g saturated)
- 1 g carbohdydrate
- 0 g fiber
- 5 g protein
- 0 g sugars
- 170 mg sodium
- 0 mg cholesterol
For comparison, 1 large egg offers:
- 72 calories
- 5 g fat (< 2 g saturated)
- 0.5 g carbohydrate
- 0 g fiber
- 6 g protein
- 0 g sugars
- 65 mg sodium
- 207 mg cholesterol
Are Plant-Based Eggs Healthy?
Despite what many were led to believe during the low-cholesterol craze of the '90s, we now know that there are some serious health benefits to eating eggs—even daily—as long as you don't have an allergy to them. Worries about the dietary cholesterol contained in eggs and recommendations to limit dietary cholesterol have led to people actively avoiding whole eggs.
Cholesterol is one of the biggest factors that sets Just Egg apart from chicken eggs, as both have similar amounts of total fat and protein. Dietary cholesterol is only found in animal foods. On the other hand, "Plant-based eggs are cholesterol-free, while a single egg contains about 200 mg cholesterol," says Alex Caspero, RD, a St. Louis-based registered dietitian and the owner of Delish Knowledge.
While eggs contribute about one-quarter of the dietary cholesterol, on average, in the American diet, eating eggs has not been found to increase the risk of heart disease, according to a 2020 science advisory from the American Heart Association, published in the journal Circulation. The AHA says that it's safe to eat one whole egg per day in a heart-healthy diet.
In general, if you're worried about your blood cholesterol, your focus should be on limiting saturated fats, not dietary cholesterol. See our top 8 diet tips to help lower high cholesterol for more. "Foods high in saturated fat are the ones that directly raise your bad cholesterol. These include animal products like fatty cuts of meat or poultry, bacon, sausage and full-fat dairy," Ehsani says.
"Eggs get a bad rap, but they are nutrient-dense and provide you with a high-quality source of protein and one of the most budget-friendly protein options you can find at the grocery store," Ehsani adds. "A regular egg contains loads of nutrients, like vitamins A, D, E, B12, B5, B2, choline, iron, folate, phosphorus, selenium and antioxidants."
So if you're reaching for Just Egg because you're worried that regular eggs aren't healthy, this simply isn't the case. Eggs, in moderation, can be part of a healthy diet.
Potential Benefits of Just Egg
Just Egg exists as more than simply a zero-cholesterol egg option. "It's great that plant-based eggs are available to those who are vegan or for those with egg allergies or intolerances," Ehsani says.
From a nutrition standpoint, Caspero gives Just Egg and all plant-based eggs a strong thumbs-up: "There are health benefits that come from swapping out higher-fat animal products and swapping in heart-healthy plant foods. While whole plant foods will always be a gold standard for me, I love the convenience of grabbing items like Just Egg for breakfast instead of an egg every so often."
For omnivores, this doesn't mean you have to swap out eggs completely, but adding in other protein-rich foods, like mung beans and tofu, is a good way to incorporate plant-protein diversity, Caspero continues. If you don't have an egg allergy or aren't vegan, you could put this mindset into practice by alternating Just Egg and regular eggs.
Plant-based eggs also offer another benefit beyond personal health: Environmental health. The egg industry has made strides to reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions, but producing eggs still uses more resources than growing most plants. Many prominent animal organizations, including the Humane Society, are also worried about the treatment of chickens in production facilities.
"It's becoming harder to look at the nutritional impact of food without examining environmental impact. In terms of water consumption, eggs have a smaller footprint than many other animal products, but not as small as soy, lupin beans or mung beans, the substitutes used in many plant-based eggs," Caspero says. "Animal welfare is another issue. While that doesn't affect nutrition, I think understanding our food systems and where our food comes from is important."
According to Just Egg, their plant-based eggs are a good choice for those who wish to consume a more sustainable egg option, as the company estimates that it takes 98% less water and 83% less land to produce their product.
Related: Egg-Free Recipes
Is Just Egg a Processed Food?
Just Egg is made with several different ingredients, and is a processed food product. But that doesn't raise concern for Caspero. "While these plant-based egg products do contain additives and flavorings, I don't think that a food being 'processed' automatically makes it an unhealthy choice; that's a wellness narrative that's been pushed too easily over the past decade or so. That isn't fair when looking at the totality of nutrients in the diet," Caspero says. After all, some processed foods should stay in your diet. "None of the Just Egg ingredients are questionable to me from a nutrition perspective," she says.
The Bottom Line
Just Egg is a great plant-based egg. "I think that many people are nervous about trying these swaps because they think they will have to compromise on taste or nutrition. As someone who has enjoyed Just Egg for years, that's not the case," Caspero confirms. "The main downside to plant-based eggs, in my opinion, is that eggs are currently cheaper than these products.
As for Ehsani, she adores that plant-based eggs expand the options for those who are vegan or for those with egg allergies or intolerances, but is planning to stick with eggs herself. The final answer about which is best is up to you. Both options can be healthy in moderation.