Total vegetarians or vegan diets eat only plant foods, but lacto-ovo vegetarian and semi-vegetarian diets include eggs and dairy food. Eggs contain protein, as well as certain vitamins and minerals not adequately consumed on a vegetarian diet. Eggs provide important nutrients. Once considered unhealthy because of their high cholesterol content, studies now reveal, for most people, eating up to one egg per day does not contribute to heart disease and stroke, two major risks previously attributed to egg consumption.
With 210 milligrams of cholesterol, one large egg supplies more than two-thirds of the recommended daily cholesterol limit of 300 milligrams of cholesterol. However, according to a study by Ying Rong et al, published in the January 7, 2013 issue of the "British Medical Journal," eggs provide nutrients that lower the risk for heart disease, such as minerals, proteins and unsaturated fatty acids. In their analysis of studies conducted from January 1966 to June 2012, researchers determined that eating up to one egg a day did not increase the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke in non-diabetics. Diabetics who eat up to one egg per day have an increased risk for heart disease, but a decreased risk of a hemorrhagic stroke. Because of the limited number of studies with diabetics, researchers caution that long-term follow-up of diabetics will confirm the impact of egg consumption on future incidents of stroke. Because you do not eat meats following a vegetarian diet, limit your whole egg consumption to one per day, since you get some additional cholesterol from baked goods and dairy foods.
Calories and Macronutrients
One large egg provides 72 calories, according to the Egg Nutrition Center. Most of the calories come from fat, a concentrated energy source with 9 calories per gram. Eggs have nearly 5 grams of fat each, totaling 45 calories from fat. Yolks provide fat in an egg, while the white part contains most of the protein. The Institute of Medicine recommends 56 grams of protein per day for adult males ages 19 to 70+, and 46 daily grams of protein for adult females ages 19 to 70+. A whole egg has about 6.28 grams of protein, often lacking in vegetarian diets. With 4 calories per gram, the protein in one egg provides about 25 calories. Lastly, eggs have minimal amounts of carbohydrates, about 0.5 grams each. Carbs also have 4 calories per gram, providing about 2 calories in an egg.
Vitamins and Minerals
Eggs have abundant levels of B-vitamins, usually limited in a vegetarian diet. You can get some B-vitamins from whole-grain foods and eggs. B-vitamins help red blood cell formation, as well as carbohydrates, protein and fat metabolism, explains the Office of Dietary Supplements. Eggs contain B-vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, folate, B-6 and B-12. They also contain 0.88 grams of iron, a mineral often limited in vegetarian diets. Iron helps transport oxygen to cells, tissues and organs. While you can get some iron from plant foods, your body more easily absorbs heme iron from animal foods. Additionally, eggs provide some of the zinc you need for the day. This important mineral, found in dairy foods and meat, boosts your immune system by fighting off invading bacteria.
The egg yolk contains all the cholesterol found in eggs. You can get the protein you need without the cholesterol by eating only the egg white. Primarily from egg whites, egg substitutes do not have all the fat and cholesterol found in whole eggs. Use egg whites or egg substitutes in baking to reduce fat and cholesterol.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protein; February 2011
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheets
- National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Egg, Whole, Raw, Fresh
- Colorado State University Extension: Vegetarian Diets
- Advances in Nutrition: Exploring the Factors That Affect Blood Cholesterol and Heart Disease Risk: Is Dietary Cholesterol as Bad for You as History Leads Us to Believe?
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: The Impact of Egg Limitations on Coronary Heart Disease Risk: Do the Numbers Add Up?