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There’s been some confusion about eggs. First, we were told to eat them sparingly, and then dietary guidelines changed and eggs were given the green light (Soliman, 2018).
Now that the nutrition professionals have given them a thumbs up, you might wonder how to track them––especially if you’re counting calories or practicing CICO (calories in/calories out).
How many calories are in an egg?
Eggs contain essential vitamins and minerals and are a high-quality source of protein that’s easily used by our bodies.
The calories an egg contains depend on what size it is:
- A small egg has 50 calories
- A medium egg has 60 calories
- A large egg has 70 calories
- An extra-large egg has 80 calories
- A jumbo egg has 90 calories
The yolk is the nutritional powerhouse of the egg, which is why it contains most of the calories. So if you’re eating only egg whites for extra protein, your caloric intake will be different. For example, one large egg white has just 17 calories, while the yolk contains the remaining 53 calories (USDA, 2019).
Egg macronutrients: are eggs healthy?
Eggs are made up of protein and fat. Like meat products, they do not contain carbohydrates.
The egg white (also called the albumen) boasts most of the egg’s protein with very little fat. The yolk is the opposite, containing mostly fat––a mixture of saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and omega-3 fatty acids––and little protein.
Your body is good at breaking down the protein in eggs, making them a solid choice if you want to up your protein intake. Eggs contain all of the essential amino acids we require, which is why they’re such a reliable source of protein (Lopez, 2021).
How to lower cholesterol: medication and lifestyle
That said, our bodies use some proteins more efficiently than others. Cooked eggs are 91% digestible by our bodies, meaning we can readily break them down and use their nutrients (Evenepoel, 1998).
Studies have shown that eating up to three whole eggs a day is safe for otherwise healthy people.
Vitamins and minerals
Eggs are also a source of several B vitamins, which play many essential roles in the body. Most of these vitamins are found in the yolk.
Just one large egg provides 20% of your daily vitamin B12 needs, which works to keep your nerves and red blood cells healthy (USDA, 2019; NIH, 2021-b). Eggs also provide over a third of your daily choline, a nutrient that’s involved with memory, mood, metabolism, and muscle control (NIH, 2021-a).
Eating eggs also moves you closer to hitting your daily requirements of vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin D, vitamin E, and folate (USDA, 2019).
Eggs are rich in selenium, a mineral that acts as an antioxidant to prevent damage to your cells (USDA, 2019). Selenium kickstarts thyroid hormone production, which bolsters the immune system and protects cells against damage (Nessel, 2021).
Eggs and cholesterol
For many years, medical professionals believed eating a diet high in cholesterol led to high levels of cholesterol in the blood, as well as heart disease. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) even included suggestions in their dietary guidelines reports to limit how much cholesterol Americans got from food.
How many calories are there in a banana?
Dietary cholesterol doesn’t deserve the bad reputation it had for many years, though, but it is still wise to limit high cholesterol foods. This is because these foods also tend to be high in saturated fat, which may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
There are two major exceptions to this: shrimp and eggs (Soliman, 2018). These foods contain saturated fat, but only small amounts of it.
Role of eggs in a healthy diet
Eggs can play different roles in people’s diets. One study found that people who ate three whole eggs a day had more good cholesterol and less bad cholesterol compared to those who consumed a yolk-free egg substitute (Blesso, 2013).
Another study found that eating a whole egg each day does not increase the risk of heart disease or stroke in healthy individuals. While research shows up to three eggs a day can be beneficial for some, it may not be suitable for others.
If your healthcare provider advises you to limit dietary cholesterol for medical reasons, you should follow their directions. Those with conditions like type 2 diabetes should consult with a healthcare provider about the right diet for them (Rong, 2013).
If you’re otherwise healthy, eating eggs every day is perfectly safe. It’s also an inexpensive way to get essential nutrients and protein.
- Blesso, C. N., Andersen, C. J., Barona, J., Volek, J. S., & Fernandez, M. L. (2013). Whole egg consumption improves lipoprotein profiles and insulin sensitivity to a greater extent than yolk-free egg substitute in individuals with metabolic syndrome. Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental, 62(3), 400–410. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2012.08.014. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23021013/
- Evenepoel, P., Geypens, B., Luypaerts, A., Hiele, M., Ghoos, Y., & Rutgeerts, P. (1998). Digestibility of cooked and raw egg protein in humans as assessed by stable isotope techniques. The Journal of Nutrition, 128(10), 1716–1722. doi:10.1093/jn/128.10.1716. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9772141/
- Lopez, M. J. & Mohiuddin, S. S. (2021, March 26). Biochemistry, Essential Amino Acids. StatPearls Publishing. Treasure Island, FL. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557845/
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2021-a, March 29). Office of dietary supplements – choline. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Choline-HealthProfessional/
- National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2021-b, July 7). Office of dietary supplements – vitamin b12. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-Consumer/
- Nessel, T. A. & Gupta, V. (2021, April 19). Selenium. StatPearls Publishing. Treasure Island, FL. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557551/
- Rong, Y., Chen, L., Zhu, T., Song, Y., Yu, M., Shan, Z., Sands, A., Hu, F. B., & Liu, L. (2013). Egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: Dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. BMJ, 346, e8539. doi:10.1136/bmj.e8539. Retrieved from https://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.e8539
- Soliman, G. A. (2018). Dietary Cholesterol and the Lack of Evidence in Cardiovascular Disease. Nutrients, 10(6), 780. doi:10.3390/nu10060780. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024687/
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). (2019, December 16). FoodData central search results – Eggs, Grade A, Large, egg whole. FoodData Central. Retrieved from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/748967/nutrients