Why Eggs Really Are Incredible (Yolks and All)

Should we eat whole eggs, only the whites, or avoid eggs altogether? Get the latest info on this incredible protein source from STACK Expert Chris Costa.


The age-old question of "what came first, the chicken or the egg?" is almost as puzzling as the question of whether we should even eat eggs.

The confusion dates back to studies in the 70s and 80s, which suggested that consuming egg yolks raises serum cholesterol levels. Today, we still wonder what to do—eat the whole egg? avoid the yolk and eat only the white? or skip eggs altogether?

I don't agree with that last option. The basics of nutrition tell us that the human body requires a diet filled with protein. One of the most soluble forms of protein is called albumin. When a protein is soluble it means it's found in blood plasma. This helps maintain osmotic pressure between the blood vessels and tissues, which is necessary to control fluid in the tissue and promote blood clotting. Egg whites are one of the cheapest and most readily available forms of albumin. So we definitely shouldn't be skipping eggs. (See Eggs: A Great Source of Muscle-Building Protein.)

As for the tricky question about those cholesterol-rich yolks, it turns out we need them too. Cholesterol is a key to the biosynthesis of other necessary steroids within the body. Without it, we risk problems. With too much of it, we are at risk for clogged arteries, which can lead to increased blood pressure and other cardiac complications. Unfortunately, there are no RDA guidelines on what daily intake should be, so this is where it gets tricky. (See Should You Ditch the Yolk?)

The American Heart Association recommends limiting to 300mg of cholesterol a day, and one egg yolk contains around 186 mg. This is a lower number than what was previously believed. According to a 2011 analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, eggs have 14% less cholesterol and 64% more vitamin D than the last time they were analyzed, in 2002. The USDA stated this in an article for WebMD. According to Jacob Exler, Ph.D., a nutritionist with the Nutrient Data Laboratory at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, we should practice moderation: "one egg a day."

With the USDA backing them, unless you have high cholesterol and a doctor has advised you to avoid them, do not avoid eggs altogether. And there is no need to completely eliminate the yolk. Your safest and best bet is to stick to one whole egg and mix it with the whites of one or two more. Until some new research finding prove that eggs are detrimental, scramble away!

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