Nutritional Components of Eggs
One large egg is a rich source of protein, containing over 6 grams. You need to get between 10 and 35 percent of your daily calories from protein, depending on factors such as gender, weight and activity level, according to the Institute of Medicine. An egg is considered a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids your body needs for muscle and tissue development and support. One large egg supplies just 72 calories, almost 5 grams of fat and less than a gram of carbohydrate. It also contains 186 milligrams of dietary cholesterol. MayoClinic.com advises healthy adults to keep their daily cholesterol intake below 300 milligrams. If you have heart disease, diabetes or high cholesterol, limit yourself to 200 milligrams daily. You can also opt to eat only the egg white, which has less protein at 3.6 grams, but no cholesterol.
Eggs are an excellent source of several key nutrients, including vitamins A and D. Vitamin A is needed for healthy eyes and tissues, while vitamin D works with calcium to support the health of your bones. Egg yolks are also one of the best food sources of choline, a B vitamin. Choline is especially important for the detoxification of your liver through the processing of fats and cholesterol. If you choose to eat only egg whites, however, you lose all of these vitamins.
Pastured vs. Conventional
While raising chickens in pastures is more humane than caging them, the jury is still out on whether eggs from cage-free hens are more nutritious. Tests by Mother Earth News in 2008 found that pastured chickens produced eggs with one-third less cholesterol, one-fourth less saturated fat, two-thirds more vitamin A and four to six times more vitamin D than eggs from caged hens. However, the parameters of the tests, including sample size and methods, were not disclosed. A 2010 study released by the USDA used a metric to test the amount of thick albumen in eggs from cage-free, conventional and organically fed hens. The thicker the albumen, the scientists said, the higher the nutritional quality; but the study found “no meaningful differences” in the albumen of the different types of eggs.
When including this food in your daily diet, remember there’s more than one way to crack an egg. Simple scrambled eggs are a good option when you’re in a hurry, but eggs can be a supremely creative food. Try a poached egg on a grilled slice of tomato, sprinkled with basil and a little Parmesan cheese. Mix up a frittata with asparagus or artichoke. Enjoy a hard-boiled egg on spinach salad. Be judicious about the ingredients for your egg dishes, since additions like cheese and creamy sauces boost the caloric, fat and cholesterol content. A quarter-cup of shredded cheddar cheese, for example, contains 114 calories, 9 grams of fat and almost 30 milligrams of cholesterol. Eating eggs alongside high-fat meats like bacon also contributes to the fat and calorie content of your meal. In addition, be sure to cook your eggs to cut the risk of salmonella poisoning, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About the Author
Paula Martinac holds a Master of Science in health and nutrition education from Hawthorn University, with an emphasis on healthy aging, cancer prevention, weight control and stress management. She is Board Certified in holistic nutrition and a Certified Food and Spirit Practitioner, and has written extensively on nutrition for various websites.