Eggs are among the healthiest foods you can eat. Packed with vitamins, minerals and protein, they make a nutritious and versatile addition to any meal. But whole eggs are also high in fat and calories, which doesn't make them the best diet food. If you skip the yolks and load up on the whites, you'll still get all the benefits without going over your daily calorie goal.
Egg White Calories and Fat
There are two main goals for any healthy weight loss diet:
- eating fewer calories
- making sure the calories you eat have high nutritional value
Eggs definitely fit the bill for nutrient value, but if you eat too many whole eggs you risk going over your calorie quota for the day.
- 143 calories
- 9.5 grams of fat
- 34 calories
- a trace of fat
For the same amount of calories in two whole large eggs, you could eat eight egg whites. By weight, you're getting nearly three times the amount of food for the same number of calories. Eight egg whites weigh approximately 9.7 ounces, compared to two whole large eggs, which weigh only 3.5 ounces.
Protein in Egg Whites
Eggs top the list of high-quality protein-packed foods. In fact, eggs are the most biologically available source of protein, second only to mother's milk. Biological availability is a measure of how efficiently your body can use the protein and its components — amino acids — to aid growth and development.
When it comes to egg whites vs. whole eggs, egg whites are almost 100 percent protein. Ounce for ounce, egg whites have almost three times the amount of protein as whole eggs. Eight egg whites have 29 grams of protein, compared to two whole eggs, which have 12.5 grams of protein. You'll get a lot more bang for your buck when you eat just the whites.
Egg White for Weight Loss
Eating more protein while you're dieting may help you lose more weight more quickly, and help you stay satisfied on less food. A study in Obesity Facts in 2017 compared the effects of two different calorie-restricted diets on weight loss in a group of adults with metabolic syndrome. Both groups ate diets that were 500 calories below their resting metabolic rate.
One group's diet provided the standard recommended intake for adults of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, while the other provided 1.34 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. At the conclusion of the six-month study, participants who had followed the high-protein diet had lost significantly more weight than those who ate the normal-protein diet.
- Protein digests slowly. It stays in the stomach and intestines longer, which creates a lasting feeling of fullness. Eating more protein will help you stay satisfied until your next meal, so you're not tempted to snack.
- Because it digests slowly, protein keeps your blood sugar steady. Foods that raise blood sugar quickly — such as simple carbohydrates — lead to a quick rise and then steep drop in blood sugar. When your blood sugar levels drop, you may feel fatigued, moody and hungry again soon after eating. Maintaining steady blood sugar leads to steady energy and mood, and fewer food cravings in between meals.
- Protein requires more calories for digestion than carbohydrates or fat, which increases your total daily energy expenditure, or TDEE.
Protein for Lean Muscle Mass
In addition to dieting, it's important to engage in both aerobic exercise and strength training. Aerobic, or cardio, exercise helps you burn extra calories while you're doing it, which can keep you in a calorie deficit for weight loss. Strength training burns calories too, but not as many as aerobic exercise while you're doing it.
However, building lean muscle mass increases your resting metabolism, because muscle takes more calories to build and maintain than fat. According to Paige Kinucan and Len Kravitz, Ph.D., of the University of New Mexico, muscle tissue accounts for about 20 percent of your TDEE compared to fat, which only contributes 5 percent. The more muscle you build, the easier it will be for you to burn calories throughout the day so you lose more fat.
To support muscle gain while you strength train, it's important to get enough protein. According to the National Academy of Medicine, the recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, is 46 grams per day for women and 56 grams for men. A more individual recommendation is the same amount the control group in the Obesity Facts study consumed: 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
However, as the Obesity Facts study showed, increasing your protein intake above the RDA can have added weight loss benefits. And if you strength train, you need more protein to support muscle repair and growth. Eating as much as double the RDA poses no health risks.
Eating Egg Whites for More Protein
The good thing about egg whites is that you can eat a lot of them to increase your protein intake without going over your calorie budget. In addition, unlike beef and other fatty sources of protein, egg whites don't contain saturated fat. All the saturated fat in an egg is concentrated in the yolk.
According to the American Heart Association, controlling your intake of saturated fat is good for your heart. Although weight loss is your primary goal, it's important not to lose sight of your overall health. Making sure you get all the nutrients you need and moderating your intake of less healthy substances will keep you in top physical shape and ward off disease, both while you're dieting and in the future.
Egg White Serving Suggestions
Many people are put off by egg whites because they lack the flavor of whole eggs. While this is true, there are many tasty and low-calorie ways to prepare them. An egg white omelette with fresh spinach, mushrooms and spices is a flavorful go-to dish. As long as it fits in with the calorie count of your meal, you can add an ounce of either feta, goat or mozzarella cheese, all of which are lower in calories than cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan.
You can also use egg whites to make protein pancakes with whole-grain flour or a substitute such as oat, coconut or almond flour. Although baked goods aren't typically part of a weight loss diet, using egg whites for weight loss instead of whole eggs in your recipes can significantly lower the fat and calorie content.
- USDA: Basic Report: 01123, Egg, whole, raw, fresh
- USDA: Basic Report: 01124, Egg, white, raw, fresh
- The Incredible Egg: Biological Value
- Obesity Facts: Effect of a High-Protein Diet versus Standard-Protein Diet on Weight Loss and Biomarkers of Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial
- Harvard Health: Protein, carbs, and weight loss
- University of New Mexico: Controversies in Metabolism
- Harvard Health:How much protein do you need every day?
- American Heart Association: Saturated Fat
- USA Today: Cheddar, feta, mozzarella: The most nutritious cheeses you can eat