How Do the Health Benefits of Egg Whites Compare to Whole Eggs?

Low in calories and rich in protein, egg whites have long been a bodybuilding staple. They're filling and easy to cook, making them a convenient snack when hunger strikes. Use them in omelets, soufflés, high-protein pudding and just about any recipe that calls for whole eggs. It's a great way to cut down on calories and fat without giving up your favorite treats.

Egg whites are a low-calorie alternative to whole eggs and can replace them in most recipes. (Image: Joseph_Fotografie/iStock/GettyImages)

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Due to their high protein content, egg whites curb hunger and increase satiety. They also contain high doses of riboflavin, a B vitamin that supports metabolic health, nerve function and energy production.

Egg Whites vs. Whole Eggs

Eggs are considered a superfood, thanks to their high nutritional value. The yolks, though, have a bad reputation because of their high cholesterol content.

Contrary to popular belief, though, dietary cholesterol has a negligible impact on blood cholesterol levels. A large egg has only 71.5 calories, 5 grams of fat and less than 1 gram of carbs, with over 6 grams of quality protein.

Every calorie counts when you're on a diet. That's why most dieters ditch the yolks. Egg whites are nutritious too, but contain less protein and nutrients per serving.

  • 15.8 calories
  • 3.6 grams of protein
  • 0.2 grams of carbs
  • 0.1 grams of fat
  • 9 percent of the DV (daily value) of selenium
  • 2 percent of the DV of potassium
  • 1 percent of the DV of magnesium
  • 9 percent of the DV of riboflavin

Whole eggs, on the other hand, boast more than 23 percent of the DV of selenium, 10 percent of the DV of phosphorus, 5 percent of the DV of iron, and high amounts of vitamins A, D, B-6 and B-12.

The whites are significantly lower in cholesterol. The USDA's 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines no longer limit cholesterol consumption to 300 milligrams per day, but recommend eating as little dietary cholesterol as possible.

Are Egg Whites Healthy?

Egg benefits range from improved blood lipids and better cardiovascular health to a lower risk of stroke. They're loaded with protein, keeping you full for hours. According to a 2014 study published in the Nutrition Journal, low-calorie, high-protein snacks are more filling and increase satiety to a greater extent than high-fat snacks. Both egg whites and whole eggs make a healthy snack between meals and keep hunger at bay.

The protein in egg whites can speed up your progress in the gym, helping you build and preserve muscle. Whole eggs, though, are more suitable for mass building and repair, according to a 2017 study featured in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers have found that eating whole eggs after strength training elicits a greater anabolic response compared to egg white consumption.

If you're on a low-fat diet, egg whites are a better choice. One cup contains 26 grams of protein, 0.4 grams of fat and just 117 calories. The same amount of whole eggs provides 30.6 grams of protein, 24.2 grams of fat and 347 calories. The latter has a similar protein content, but it's much higher in calories and fat.

Get Leaner and Fitter

Whether you want to build lean mass, lose a few pounds or boost your overall fitness, you can't go wrong with egg whites. Rich in protein, they suppress appetite and make weight loss easier. A 2015 meta-analysis published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition highlights the role of protein in weight loss and maintenance. Eating 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal has been shown to increase satiety and improve cardiometabolic risk factors.

Furthermore, protein has a greater thermogenic effect than carbs and fats. Your body uses approximately 20 percent to 30 percent of the calories in protein to digest it and break it down. If you eat 300 calories from protein, 60 to 90 calories will be used for digestion and other metabolic processes. By comparison, only 5 percent to 10 percent of energy will be spent digesting carbs and up to 3 percent digesting fat.

These findings confirm that protein increases metabolism, causing your body to burn more calories. Additionally, it helps preserve lean mass while on a diet, which further elevates your metabolic rate.

Another study, published in the Nutrition Journal in 2015, found that meals providing 30 or 39 grams of protein may help lower insulin and blood sugar levels, improve appetite control and reduce food intake later in the day.

Increase Your Energy Levels

Feeling tired and worn out? Egg whites can help. Riboflavin, one of their key nutrients, supports metabolic health and energy production. Also known as vitamin B2, this nutrient helps your body break down the nutrients in food and convert carbs to ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which generates energy for your cells and tissues.

Riboflavin also plays a vital role in liver health, hormone production, nerve function and amino acid synthesis. Your body needs it to absorb and activate other B-complex vitamins, as well as iron. According to the National Institutes of Health, riboflavin deficiency is more common in pregnant and nursing women, vegetarian athletes, vegans and people with a rare disease called Brown-Vialetto-Van Laere syndrome.

Low riboflavin levels have been linked to cataracts, hair loss, swelling of the mouth and throat, anemia and other conditions. This nutrient regulates cellular metabolism, so even the slightest deficiency can lead to weakness and fatigue. A single egg white gives you 9 percent of the daily recommended need for riboflavin and thus may help prevent deficiencies and keep you energized.

Are There Any Side Effects?

You've heard about athletes and bodybuilders who drink egg whites as part of their daily menu. Unfortunately, this practice poses serious health risks. Egg whites may be contaminated with salmonella and cause foodborne illnesses. Each year, more than 80.3 million cases of salmonella poisoning are reported worldwide. The only way to prevent this bacterial infection is to cook the eggs before consumption.

Additionally, certain proteins in egg whites and whole eggs can trigger allergic reactions. Common symptoms include nausea and vomiting, repetitive cough, breathing problems, abdominal pain, dizziness and hives. If you're allergic to eggs, you may also experience nasal congestion, skin inflammation and even anaphylaxis.

The side effects of eating too many eggs shouldn't be overlooked either. As Medscape points out, egg whites contain avidin, a protein that binds to biotin and inhibits its absorption in the bloodstream. In the long run, it can lead to biotin deficiency. Your body needs this vitamin to break down carbs and fats, build new cells and synthesize amino acids.

Consume egg whites in moderation to avoid these potential risks.

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