- Using only egg whites instead of consuming whole eggs became trendy over the past decade as low-fat diets grew in popularity.
- The bulk of scientific research on nutrition suggests that this kind of thinking was misguided.
- Whole eggs can be part of a healthy diet because they’re more filling, high in protein, and contain several key vitamins and minerals.
In reality, the best nutritional guidance is more straight-forward and hasn’t budged in decades: eat mostly vegetables, which are high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber; avoid overeating red meat and refined treats like pastries and sweet cereal; and indulge in healthy fats like olive oil and nuts, which keep us feeling full.
But you may be wondering where eggs – an animal product high in cholesterol, fat, protein, and several key vitamins and minerals – fit in.
Whole eggs are high in a handful of key vitamins and minerals that you can’t get from many foods like vitamin B12 and phosphorus. They’re also rich in muscle-fueling protein and satiating fat, which makes them filling and unlikely to be overeaten. Plus, the cholesterol eggs contain does not appear to lead to high cholesterol levels in healthy people. Just as eating fat does not translate into being fat, recent research has shown that eating cholesterol doesn’t necessarily translate into having high cholesterol.
If you’ve already been told you have high cholesterol, that’s a good reason to be careful about ordering something like a three-egg omelette, but one or two whole eggs every so often probably won’t hurt. (As with any serious health condition, it’s best in these cases to talk directly with your doctor.)
Throwing out yolks also creates unnecessary waste. Roughly a third of the US food supply gets wasted every year, according to estimates from the Department of Agriculture. That corresponds to roughly 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food.
Given what we know about eggs, several leading diets have recently tweaked their recommendations.
Weight Watchers – one of the oldest dieting companies in the world – introduced a new program in December that allows users to spice up their daily meal plans with 200 “zero-point” foods that they can eat as much as they want. That list includes whole eggs, along with other filling and nutritious items like salmon and beans.
“Eggs have been extensively studied because they’re relatively high in cholesterol but low in saturated fat and also are an excellent source of protein. What else do eggs bring to the table? High-quality protein, people like to eat them, and they’re at a relatively low risk for overeating,” Foster said. “What are the chances that someone will have an eight- or 10-egg omelette?”