Health Benefits with Eggs

Eggs are cheap and  nutritious, containing vitamins, healthy fats, trace nutrients, minerals, and  proteins. They also   have relatively few calories. But, as with most foods, some ways of cooking and eating them are healthier than others. While they can be eaten raw and many people do, cooking them destroys any potentially dangerous bacteria and makes them safer for consumption and some of their nutrients like protein become more easily digestible. Eggs also contain the important nutrient biotin (known too as vitamin B7 or vitamin H) used in fat and sugar metabolism. Biotin helps with hair and nail health and is only activated and absorbed when fully cooked. It cannot be digested in the body when eating raw eggs because a protein in the egg whites called avidin binds to it.  But when the eggs are cooked, the avidin binds less to the biotin making the latter easier to absorb by the body.

Cooking eggs at high heat for long periods of time however can result in the reduction of some nutrients like vitamin A and antioxidants. When eggs are baked they can lose over 60% of their vitamin D content compared to 18% when they are fried or boiled for a shorter period of time. Shorter cooking times preserves more of the nutrients overall.  

Egg yolks are high in cholesterol and large eggs can contain over 200 mgs of cholesterol which is about 70% of the recommended daily intake of 300 mgs per day. When eggs are cooked at high temperatures however, the cholesterol may become oxidized and produce compounds known as oxysterols which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and are therefore a concern. Oxidized cholesterol is also found in commercially fried foods like chicken, fish, and French fries. Cholesterol that is oxidized in the body is considered more harmful than oxidized cholesterol that is consumed as in the case of eggs. The good news is that studies have not linked eating eggs to an increased risk of heart disease in healthy people. According to nutritionist Kris Gunnars of Authority Nutrition, eggs contain ‘good’ cholesterol and reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol, meaning that dietary cholesterol does not negatively impact on blood cholesterol levels.

There are many ways of eating eggs. They can be baked, fried, scrambled, boiled, poached, and made into an omelette. To get the most benefit out of eating them the following suggestions are recommended.

  1. For weight watchers trying to cut down on calories, poached or boiled eggs are the way to go. They contain less calories than fried or scrambled eggs and omelets. If the eggs are being poached then the yolks should be fully cooked so as to get the nutritional benefits of the biotin they contain. When eggs are boiled the cholesterol is not damaged as the yolk is not exposed to air. Both forms of cooking eggs offer a low-carb, high protein alternative.
  2. Combine the eggs with vegetables as they complement each other well. Mixing vegetables into an omelette or scrambled eggs makes a nutritious meal. Or the eggs can be cooked in the other ways mentioned with the vegetables as a side dish. If scrambling eggs, use small amounts of oil and eat them as soon as they are ready. If they are left for a while before being eaten, the cholesterol in the yolks may be damaged as alluded to in point 1).
  3. Use organic or pasture-raised eggs if possible as they are nutritionally superior to caged and conventionally produced eggs.
  4. While the fat found in yolks is not detrimental to health, some people may want to avoid them if they are consuming other high-fat foods on a regular basis. Egg whites (without the yolk) contain no fat and offer a solution in these instances. However the flip side of this is that they contain no nutrition as all the vitamins and minerals in eggs are contained in the yolks according to nutritionist Brian St. Pierre.
  5. Avoid over-cooking them so as to preserve as many of the nutrients as possible and avoid oxidized cholesterol.
  6. For fried eggs, use oils that remain stable at high temperatures and do not oxidize easily to form damaging free radicals. Healthier choices include extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and butter for high heat cooking.

In conclusion, the healthy way to eat eggs is to use shorter and lower heat cooking methods to preserve as many of the nutrients as possible and to limit the oxidation of cholesterol. Poached and boiled eggs are the healthiest alternatives but the other methods of cooking them offer nutritional benefits as well.