Why are eggs healthy?
The health benefits of eggs
Are eggs good for you? This question has long been a subject of debate, the reason being that many people associate eggs with harmful cholesterol and its negative effects on the body. However, studies have shown that eggs contain many valuable nutrients important for our body’s health.1 This makes chicken eggs a valuable addition to our diet.
What nutrients can an egg provide?
Eggs are a true powerhouse of essential nutrients: Along with large amounts of high-quality protein, they also contain numerous vitamins, minerals and trace elements.2 Eggs are also one of several foods with a high biological value. Biological value is an index that specifies how effectively the proteins in food can be converted into the body’s own proteins. Eggs score top marks in this area with a peak biological value of almost 100%,3 meaning that nearly all the protein in an egg can be converted into the body’s own proteins.
The biological value of raw eggs is slightly lower,4 meaning that cooked eggs are even healthier, as they allow the highest proportion of protein to be converted into the body’s own proteins.
Beneath the eggshell lie all the essential vitamins for the human diet: Just a single egg packs a whole bunch of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, B2 and B12.((https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6470839/)) The nutrients in an egg vary between the white and yolk. The egg yolk contains considerably more nutrients than the white of the egg. The egg white is rich in sodium, potassium and of course, protein,5 and while the yolk contains fat and cholesterol, it is also rich in valuable vitamins such as vitamin D.5 So those who choose to ignore the yolk in order to avoid the fat and cholesterol are also missing out on many beneficial nutrients.
Purely in terms of quantity, vitamin A is the main vitamin in chicken eggs.5 Vitamin A contributes to the maintenance of normal vision and normal mucous membranes. In addition to vitamin A, eggs also contain many B vitamins, including the essential vitamin B12, which is important for many processes in the body. Vitamin B12 contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system and the immune system.
And it’s not just the vitamin A and B12 content that makes eating eggs healthy. They also support the body by providing many other vitamins:5
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) helps to maintain normal vision and a normal energy metabolism and protects the cells from oxidative stress.
- Vitamin B6 contributes, among other things, to normal functioning of the nervous system and the immune system. Vitamin B6 also contributes to a normal protein and glycogen metabolism.
- Vitamin D plays a role in the normal utilisation of calcium and phosphorus, supports the maintenance of normal bones and normal muscle function.
Compared to other vegetarian foodstuffs, a chicken egg contains a large amount of vitamin D, with one egg yolk containing 5.4 micrograms.5
- Vitamin E helps protect cells from oxidative stress.
- Vitamin K contributes to normal blood clotting and bone maintenance.
Minerals & trace elements
Eggs not only supply the body with almost a full complement of vitamins, but also provide many essential minerals. Minerals don’t directly provide the body with energy from food, but are vital for the development of tissues, cells, bones, and teeth.6 Calcium and phosphorus, for example, are important building blocks of teeth and bones. Including eggs in our diet therefore ensures a sufficient supply of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and sodium. Phosphorus contributes to the normal function of cell membranes and the maintenance of normal bones and teeth.
Trace elements also fall under the definition of minerals, but are substances that only occur in very tiny quantities in the body and are only absorbed in very small amounts. Major trace elements include iron, zinc, copper and iodine.7 Eggs therefore also offer health benefits as they contain many important trace elements, primarily iron and zinc.5 Zinc is an important trace element for the body as it supports the maintenance of normal skin, hair and nails, and the normal functioning of the immune system.
In addition to zinc, copper and iodine, eggs also contain iron as a valuable trace element. Iron is particularly important for our blood as it contributes to the normal formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin, In addition, iron contributes to the normal transport of oxygen in the body.
Protein & amino acids
Egg whites and yolks contain the same amount of protein.5 Proteins help increase and maintain muscle mass. A protein-rich diet is therefore favoured among athletes due to its role in supporting the building of muscle. But protein is more than just a nutrient for fitness fans. Protein, together with fats and carbohydrates, is classified as a macronutrient, which means the body needs it in large quantities, while micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, though still important, are only needed in smaller amounts.8
The balanced profile of proteins in an egg makes it particularly beneficial to health: Eggs contain all nine essential amino acids5 that the body can only absorb through food. When food is consumed, the whole protein is broken down into its individual components, the amino acids. It can only be used by the body in this form. The action of amino acids is essential, particularly in the process of muscle building, which is why they play such a major role in the diet of athletes.
It is important to consume healthy sources of protein every day, and chicken eggs are ideal for this. In addition to a superior macronutrient profile—low carbohydrates, healthy fat and a high protein content—their ideal combination of important nutrients means that eggs also offer numerous additional health benefits.
Micronutrients choline & biotin
The important nutrients in eggs also include the micronutrients choline and biotin,5 which are involved in many major processes in the body. Choline can be found in large quantities in chicken eggs. Although the body is able to produce choline itself, it can’t do this in large quantities. Choline must therefore be primarily absorbed through food. Choline contributes to normal homocysteine and lipid metabolism and helps maintain normal liver function.
Besides choline, eggs are also rich in biotin. Eggs are therefore also good for the skin and hair, as biotin contributes to the maintenance of normal hair and skin. It also supports the normal metabolism of macronutrients and normal functioning of the nervous system.
Fact or myth? Eggs & cholesterol
Are eggs good for you? As mentioned above, the cholesterol content of eggs is always discussed in this context. Because chicken eggs contain a large amount of cholesterol, eggs have long been considered an unhealthy option. Elevated cholesterol levels are suspected of having a negative effect on the cardiovascular system and contributing to diseases in this area.9 As a result, people were long recommended to minimise their egg consumption in order to prevent an increase in cholesterol levels. However, because cholesterol performs many valuable functions in the body, such as in the production of hormones and vitamin D, the body is able to make its own cholesterol. For this reason, it’s not essential to consume cholesterol in our diet.4
Meanwhile, studies have shown that eating eggs has very little effect on the cholesterol level.10 In a healthy person, the blood cholesterol level is regulated by a mechanism that maintains it at a relatively constant level. This mechanism functions independently of whether additional cholesterol is consumed via the diet.4 In healthy people, however, there is no risk associated with eating eggs, in fact they are recommended for a healthy diet. After all, eggs not only contain numerous vitamins and valuable nutrients, but also lecithin. Lecithin is a substance that binds cholesterol, thereby inhibiting its uptake by the body. Eggs can therefore be healthy despite their cholesterol content and can be integrated in a balanced diet with a clear conscience.4
How many eggs is a healthy amount?
Another question often asked is how many eggs is a healthy amount. Current research demonstrating the modest effect of eggs on cholesterol levels would suggest that even daily consumption of eggs would not be considered problematic. However, the German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends eating up to three eggs per week.11 In general, it can be summarised that eggs are healthy, as long as they are eaten in moderation.4
Healthy recipes with eggs
It’s easy to include eggs in your diet in combination with healthy foods of your choice. When it comes to eggs, as with all foods: healthy eating means variety. And eggs are truly versatile in the kitchen, offering endless possibilities for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. So many healthy egg-based recipes not only taste great but are also very quick to prepare. They also have the advantage that the levels of many nutrients in eggs are only slightly reduced by cooking. It can nonetheless be practical to use as little heat as possible when cooking eggs.
The classic boiled egg
Boiled eggs are an old favourite, particularly at breakfast. Depending on personal preference, they can be either hard-boiled or soft-boiled. Boiled eggs are not only healthy, but also highly versatile. Hard-boiled eggs are not only an ideal ingredient in a wide range of salads, but also go well with wholemeal bread for a healthy and delicious sandwich filling. Eggs are also a healthy alternative as a perfect snack for on the go, keeping you fuller for longer while also being low in calories.
Scrambled eggs and fried eggs
No mention of classic egg dishes would be complete without scrambled eggs and fried eggs. Whether you prefer to whisk your eggs first and eat them scrambled or add them to the pan whole, both these types of egg are healthy options. Both recipes can also be adapted to suit your personal preferences, and the options are endless. Fried eggs can be cooked as a classic “sunny side up” (i.e., with the healthy yolk facing upwards) or cooked on both sides. There are also several different variants for cooking scrambled eggs. You may choose to add milk or add other ingredients such as onions to taste.
Omelettes and frittatas
To make omelettes and frittatas, the eggs are whisked in a bowl and then fried gently over a low heat until cooked. The difference between these and scrambled eggs is that the mixture is not stirred during cooking. Vegetables are often added to frittatas. Combined with the egg, this then results in a healthy meal that keeps you full for longer. The recipe can be easily adapted, making omelettes and frittatas ideal for using up leftover vegetables.
Eggs are healthy and important for a balanced diet
Whether strengthening the immune system, supporting muscle growth or in terms of our personal performance, eggs contain many nutrients that benefit our whole body. Once we know how to use eggs as part of a balanced diet, eating them can support our health in many ways.