This article was written by Maria Cruz, RD, LDN, the nutritionist for Williams College. She is passionate about helping people find joy and ease with food, and when she is not working she enjoys gardening, yoga, movies, and spending time with her family.
Egg whites are a standard breakfast option in many restaurants and cafeterias these days, and are mysteriously deemed as the “healthier” option to eat over whole eggs. While the whole egg, yolk and all, is feared as an evil fat and cholesterol-containing demon, most of the nutrition that is in an egg is actually in the yolk. And, it just so happens that our bodies need both fat and cholesterol to be healthy. In fact our livers make cholesterol out of fat in order for our bodies to manufacture cell membranes, brain and nerve tissue, and hormones. Our livers have the ability to adjust the amount of cholesterol they make to balance out the cholesterol in our diets. In general, the liver makes about 80% of the cholesterol in our bodies and we receive about 20% from the food we eat. The fat composition of the yolk can depend on the hen’s diet and can provide a great source of omega 3 fatty acids. These fats actually prevent inflammation and disease.
But egg yolks are not just fat and cholesterol. The egg yolk has only 1 gram of protein less than the egg white. So if you eat the whole egg vs. just the white, you get almost double the protein. The yolk is also packed with 17 vitamins and minerals, while the white has 12 of these same nutrients, but mainly in much smaller amounts. And guess what else! Vitamins A, D, and E, all found only in the yolk, need fat in order to be absorbed, which makes the nutritional environment of the yolk perfect for these essential ‘fat soluble’ nutrients to be taken in and used by your body.
Let’s face it, if ½ of each egg (and most of its nutrients) are chucked into the garbage every time we eat eggs, then we are not only throwing away good nutritious food but we’re throwing away money. If a dozen of eggs cost $3.00, and we only eat the whites, then we throw away at least $1.50/dozen. Because all of the fat and almost ½ of the protein in a whole egg is in the yolk, you also throw away most of the calories (aka energy) in the egg and you will most likely need to eat twice as many eggs for their egg whites, or more of something else to be satisfied.
So, the next time you have the urge to choose egg whites over whole eggs, reflect on whether this comes from a dieting voice or whether you really never liked eggs until you had just the whites. Of course, if you truly like the whites only and have always hated yolks then by all means just eat the whites. But if you stopped eating whole eggs to try to lose weight or to cut out fat in your diet, then go for it, eat the whole egg! The ‘incredible edible (whole) egg’ is more nutritious and satisfying than just the white so you will get significantly more for your money.
A friend of mine loves her eggs soft boiled (she’s from Europe), and they are super easy to make once you get the hang of cooking them the way you like them.
(If you’re into eggs, you may want to check out this blog post.)
Soft Boiled Egg Recipe
2 slices of bread
Butter for your toast
Salt and Pepper to taste
Bring a pan of water to a boil and gently lower the eggs into the water (I use a slotted spoon to do this step). Cover the pan and lower the heat to a low boil or simmer. Set a timer for 5 min for runny yolks and 6 min for thicker yolks. (You may have to experiment with the timing to get your eggs the way you like them.)
Place the bread in the toaster and toast to your liking. Butter the toast. When the timer goes off gently remove the eggs from the pan and run them under cold water just long enough to cool the shells. Peel the eggs carefully and enjoy them with your toast!
Kirubakaran A, Narahari D, Ezhil Valavan T, Sathish Kumar A. (2011 Jan). Effects of flaxseed, sardines, pearl millet, and holy basil leaves on production traits of layers and fatty acid composition of egg yolks. Poult Sci. 2011 Jan;90(1):147-56. doi: 10.3382/ps.2008-00152.
Takeda S, Kimura M, Marushima R, Takeuchi A, Takizawa K, Ogino Y, Masuda Y, Kunou M, Hasegawa M, Maruyama C. (2011). Mayonnaise contributes to increasing postprandial serum β-carotene concentration through the emulsifying property of egg yolk in rats and humans. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 57(3): 209-15.