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The Incredible Edible Egg

So much fuss has been made over the poor little egg. Eggs have pretty consistently gotten a bad rap in recent dietary history. Are they good for you, bad for you, neutral, or really good for you? New research points to the latter.

When talking about the “egg” from here on out I’ll be mostly talking about standard white chicken eggs, but most bird eggs have a similar nutritional profile, and are equally delicious (although I have a particular fondness for duck eggs).

Who, besides Zooey Deschanel[1], doesn’t enjoy eggs for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? For me, the three most beautiful words in the English language are “breakfast served anytime.”

Yolk It Up

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While there are numerous parts of an egg, when we talk about eggs as food we generally discuss only two parts: the yellow egg yolks and egg whites[2], known scientifically as the albumen. Nutritionally the whites are a good source of protein… and little else. Given the cholesterol scare of the past half century many people have started eating egg white omelets or otherwise avoiding the yolk. Why so much fuss about such a tiny little yellow embryonic sac?

Is it because of the saturated fat? A single egg yolk contains only 1.5g of saturated fat, and contains about 80% of the calories of both the yolk and white combined, since the egg white consists of about 90% water, which has zero calories. An average large egg white has around 17 calories, whereas a whole egg (white + yolk) is between 70 and 100, depending on size (for calorie counting purposes I always record a 100 calorie egg regardless of whether I’m eating large or extra-large eggs).

While an egg’s protein is split nearly an even 50/50 between the yolk and the white, the yolk contains dozens of nutrients, and is rivaled only by wheat grass juice in packing a nearly complete nutritional profile for humans in such a small package. The only major nutrient you can’t get from eggs is Vitamin C. So drink a glass of orange juice with your breakfast (or better yet, eat an orange, the fiber is better for you than the juice).

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Eggs are one of the most perfect sources of protein available to the human diet, supplying all nine essential amino acids necessary for proper health. They’re high in Vitamins A, D, B12, E, riboflavin, folic acid, iron, calcium, potassium, and choline, an essential nutrient for brain development, especially in fetuses and babies. Some eggs are “fortified” with omega–3 fatty acids (the same found in avocados and fish oil) by feeding the laying hens kelp meal, whose nutrients are then passed through to the eggs.

The Vitamin A in the yolk actually helps your body to better assimilate the protein, so when you make an egg white omelet you’re doing yourself a disservice both in missing the nutrients present in the yolk, but also in degrading your body’s ability to process the protein you get from the whites, which we should once again mention is the only real nutrient in the egg white.

Is it an added bonus that egg yolks are delicious on just about anything? Drop a poached egg onto just about any sandwich and you’ll greatly improve the quality of that sandwich. I can’t remember the first time I ate a burger with a fried egg on top, but my pupils dilated like in Requiem For A Dream.

Shell Game

Most eggs produced in the United States are white, although in New England brown eggs are more common than elsewhere in the country. There is no difference in taste between different colored eggs, whether they’re uniform in color or speckled, or even their size. Different colored eggs are nutritionally all the same. I’ve noticed that brown eggs in my local supermarkets tend to be more expensive than plain white eggs, so unless you want brown eggs for their aesthetic properties, you may as well stick to the cheaper and more plentiful white eggs.

Health Scares Aren’t All They’re Cracked Up To Be: Egg Myths Debunked

Myth: Cholesterol in eggs raises your blood cholesterol.

British researchers have determined that there’s little evidence to support the common wisdom that the cholesterol found in eggs has any effect on raising blood cholesterol in people who consume them.

From the British Nutrition Foundation’s publication:

The egg is a nutrient-dense food, a valuable source of high quality protein and essential micronutrients that is not high in SFA or in energy. In the current difficult financial climate, eggs can play a useful role as a relatively inexpensive source of nutrition for all and especially for people on low incomes. The high protein content of eggs may help with weight maintenance or loss, a significant factor in the context of the current fight against obesity. It is high time that we dispelled the mythology surrounding eggs and heart disease and restored them to their rightful place on our menus where they can make a valuable contribution to healthy balanced diets.

That’s why I eat eggs but pass on Egg Beaters™. Given the choice, I’d rather consume a food made by nature than one manufactured by a giant corporation[3]. You don’t always have that choice, at least not without the tradeoff of convenience or price, since locally grown eggs from chickens who haven’t been raised on a diet of corn feed and growth hormones are not as readily available at the supermarket as those from mass chicken farms, and even when they are available they can cost several times more (although many would argue that they’re worth it, as they taste better).

Dr. Uffe Ravnskov has written a number of books on the subject of cholesterol myths, and quotes Dr. George V. Mann, research participant of the famous decades-long Framingham Heart Study:

The diet-heart hypothesis [that suggests that high intake of saturated fat and cholesterol causes heart disease] has been repeatedly shown to be wrong, and yet, for complicated reasons of pride, profit and prejudice, the hypothesis continues to be exploited by scientists, fund-raising enterprises, food companies and even governmental agencies. The public is being deceived by the greatest health scam of the century.

Consider also that Japan[4], the country with the highest consumption of eggs in their diet also has one of the lowest rates of heart disease. That can’t be a coincidence.

Myth: Eggs cause type2 diabetes in adults.

It was once thought that eggs (specifically the yolk) was a cause or major contributor of type 2 diabetes in adults, but that myth was also recently debunked.

Myth: Egg pasteurization reduces their nutritional content.

Nope. Eggs are pasteurized through applying a little heat to a simple water bath. Unlike many vegetables, eggs lose none of their nutrients through cooking (although runny yolks are delicious on just about anything).

Myth: Raw or undercooked eggs may contain salmonella.

Okay, this one’s real. While getting salmonella from eggs is rare, it still does happen. Salmonella is a dangerous (to humans) bacteria that is found in many chickens. You can reduce your risk by:

  • Only eating eggs where both the white and yolk are fully-cooked.
  • Ensure that the raw egg doesn’t touch anything else that you plan to eat.
  • Eat only pasteurized eggs (most eggs from the supermarket are pasteurized, but read the label).

Granted, while we tend to buy pasteurized eggs I love a good runny yolk, and will even order over-easy eggs at a restaurant.

If you want to be scared about egg safety, though, you can read Scrambled Eggs a publication produced by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI, which sounds like a government agency, but isn’t) which describes both the problem and suggested solutions for how the government can help to reduce our risk of contamination, like requiring more frequent inspections of egg-producing farms and requiring that farms refrigerate eggs sooner.

The Egg and I

I enjoy eating eggs. I’m an egg-enthusiast. If I’m going to eat a bunch of vegetables together, I’d rather wrap them in some ovum protein in an omelette than eat them any other way. Omelette possibilities are endless – you can basically stuff them with anything – vegetables, cheese, meats, or any combination of the three. I tend to not add more than three fillings to keep the flavor from becoming too much of a melange, and of course some things go better together than others. Add some spinach, tomato, olives, and feta cheese for a Mediterranean flavor. Bacon, tomato, and cheddar make for a nice burgery sensation. Avocado, shallots, and goat cheese and you’ll eat like a Californian (provided all of the ingredients are local, sustainable, and organic).

Sometimes I just want to experience the pure joy of eggs themselves. For my money, the perfect expression of the egg is poached. I even bought a fancy egg poaching spoon produced by celebrity chef Michael Rhulman for easier separating of the white and then retrieval of the eggs from the poaching liquid.

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If you’re looking for ways to introduce more eggs into your diet, indulge me on a Bubba from Forrest Gump exploration of the various ways eggs may be prepared:

  • hard-boiled
  • soft-boiled
  • poached
  • scrambled
  • coddled
  • shirred
  • fried
  • over-easy
  • over-hard
  • sunny-side-up
  • pickled
  • omelette
  • frittata
  • eggs benedict
  • spanish torta
  • strata
  • french toast
  • soufflĂ©
  • custard
  • quiche
  • croque madame
  • egg salad
  • mayonnaise
  • hollandaise
  • meringue
  • egg foo young
  • huevos rancheros
  • loco moco
  • toad in the hole / egg in the basket / bird in the nest / one-eyed jack
  • scotch egg
  • eggs in purgatory
  • migas
  • shakshouka

So now that we know that eggs are both delicious and nutritious, won’t give you high cholesterol or diabetes, you can eat your unfertilized chicken embryos without guilt, apology, or having to worry about getting any metaphorical egg on your face.


  1. She’s allergic to eggs. Alas, it would never work out between us.  ↩

  2. The egg white is actually comprised of two parts, a more solid protein and another watery part. When you make scrambled eggs you usually just crack the whole thing into a bowl, but most chefs will actually separate out the two parts of the egg white before poaching an egg as it makes for a prettier finished product (and you don’t end up with little strands of the thinner albumen in your poaching liquid).  ↩

  3. I’ll concede the point that the eggs we buy at the supermarket also arrive there by way of a large corporation and are as much a product of chemistry as cultivation, but given the two evils, I’ll take the one with the shorter ingredient count. Plus, I try to avoid things that are known to cause death in rats.  ↩

  4. In 2006 a group of Japanese researchers studied over 90,000 subjects and found that cholesterol was actually higher in the group that consumed fewer eggs.  ↩

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Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I'm just some guy who lost a lot of weight and studied up on nutrition, diet, and exercise in order to improve my personal fitness. The contents of this site in no way contains medical advice. You should visit your doctor before making any dramatic changes to your diet or activity. While I make every attempt to be as accurate as possible regarding current knowledge and scientific studies (please feel free to let me know when I'm wrong about something), and may from time to time post updates to correct inaccuracies in previous entries, the information on this site is provided "as-is" for entertainment purposes only. Don't do something stupid and then sue me. I'm just trying to help. Thanks.