We love our morning omelets and scrambles, but eggs seem to have gotten a bad reputation over time, and we're not sure what that means for our diets. But as eggs have gone on the chopping block (er, scrambling pan?) in consideration of heart-healthy diets, do they really deserve a bad rap? Experts say not really: moderate egg consumption (about an egg per day) has recently been vindicated by several studies citing that they have no effect on serum cholesterol and the risk of congenital heart disease or stroke. However, the story isn't always that rosy.
"There is still a good deal of saturated (unhealthy) fat in an egg — 1.5g, or about 7 percent of your recommended daily intake," says Amanda Dale, an ACE-certified personal trainer, AFAA-certified exercise instructor, Precision Nutrition (Pn)-certified sports nutritionist, and health coach. An egg white has about 2/3 of the protein of an entire egg without any of the fat, "making egg whites a healthy choice for anyone concerned with overall fat consumption," says Dale.
For healthy adults with no history of heart disease and who lead active lifestyles, eggs are actually fantastic providers of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and the vision-enhancing compound called lutein. "Eggs are a great source of easily digestible protein, loaded with healthy fats to help stabilize blood sugar and a great source for hard-to-find B vitamins like choline!" says Brooke Alpert, RD, author of The Diet Detox.
Eggs Are Full of Nutrients
If you're looking for a nutritional powerhouse, crack open an egg. "One large egg has 70 calories and provides more than 13 essential nutrients, including iron, vitamin D, iron, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and choline," says Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., CSSD, at Appetite for Health. Eggs also pack in six grams of high-quality protein and antioxidants.
Eggs Are Versatile and Budget Friendly
At an average cost of well under a dollar per serving, eggs are the least expensive source of high-quality protein, based on the average cost of a dozen eggs. "Eggs are also one of nature's most versatile foods. From hard-boiled, scrambled, and perfectly poached, to quiches, soufflés, omelets, and meringues, there's no limit to the ways you can use eggs in everyday cooking and baking," says Upton.
But Watch the Cholesterol
"I don't believe eggs are bad for you, but like any food, should be consumed in moderation," says Amanda Baker Lemein, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian. The old theory of dietary cholesterol influencing serum cholesterol has been disproven, but watching saturated fat intake is still important. "Overall, mixing one whole egg with two egg whites is my general recommendation for clients in order to keep overall calories and saturated fat in check," Lemein told POPSUGAR.
Eggs Are Good For Weight Control
The high-quality protein in eggs can help you feel full longer and stay energized, which can help you maintain a healthy weight. "Studies show that eating eggs for breakfast reduces hunger and decreases calorie consumption at lunch and throughout the day. In an egg versus bagel challenge, dieters who ate an egg breakfast versus the same-calorie breakfast of bagels lost 65 percent more weight and significantly more belly fat compared to those who ate the bagel breakfast," says Upton.
But It Matters Where You Get Those Eggs
Not all eggs are created equal. Don't just buy whatever eggs are on sale and think they are all the same. "As a nutritionist, my only issue with eggs is the quality. Factory-farmed eggs will not have as good of a nutrient profile," says Alpert. Free-range eggs contain more omega-3 fatty acids, more vitamin A and vitamin E, and up to seven times as much more beta-carotene, says Alpert, which is an important antioxidant that may slow cognitive decline and is linked to a lower risk of developing cancer or heart disease.
Ultimately, eggs can be a great part of a healthy diet, but enjoy in moderation — too much is not a good thing.