If your breakfast isn't breakfast without eggs, you're not alone. Whether scrambled, hard-boiled or worked in to sweet or savory dishes, eggs are becoming increasingly popular. According to the American Egg Board, Americans are consuming, on average, four additional eggs per year, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts an average of 255 eggs eaten per person in 2014. While they were once touted as an artery-clogging food, eggs are healthier than you may think -- certain varieties in particular. Read on to learn more about this protein-rich powerhouse and what you might gain from it.
1. Size Matters…Somewhat
Eggs come in multiple sizes in the U.S., from medium to extra-large. This is actually based on the weight of the egg, not the volume. While the size doesn't alter the nutrients contained, the larger the egg, the more nutrients you'll reap -- along with more calories. Most recipes call for large eggs; using medium or extra-large instead could alter the consistency of certain dishes, such as soufflés and cakes. To be precise when using eggs of a different size than what is called for in baked goods, "Fine Cooking" magazine suggests measuring by the tablespoon. One large egg is equal to three-and-a-quarter tablespoons (two-and-a-quarter tablespoons of egg white and one rounded tablespoon of yolk). Egg size doesn't matter in skillet dishes like scrambled eggs and frittatas.
2. Packed With Nutrients
Due to the yolks' cholesterol content, eggs have been singled out as a contributor to heart disease, but more than 40 years of research has shown that eggs can be part of a healthy diet. This is good news because at just 70 calories, eggs offer up high-quality protein, lutein and zeaxanthin (two antioxidants that help with eye health), vitamins A, D, B12, riboflavin, phosphorus and folate. They also provide choline, which helps with brain function in adults and brain development during pregnancy.
Related: 2 Magical and Easy Egg Recipes
3. A Weight-Friendly Choice
Incorporating eggs into a balanced diet may help you better manage your weight. "Protein from foods like eggs helps keep us feeling full and satisfied throughout the day," says Jennifer Christman, a registered dietitian at Medifast Inc. in Baltimore. "It also plays an important role in maintaining lean muscle mass during weight loss," Christman adds, "and muscle tissue increases your metabolism." One large egg contains about 70 calories and six grams of protein, making it a relatively low-calorie protein source. This is important because weight loss requires consuming fewer calories than you burn through activity. Replacing a three-ounce serving of sausage with a hard-boiled or poached egg at breakfast saves you about 200 calories.
Related: The 20 Best Ways to Use Eggs
4. A Great Fitness Food
Getting sufficient protein is particularly important after workouts, is where it counts. It helps rebuild and repair your hardworking muscle tissue and makes the right amino acids -- the building blocks of lean tissue -- available to your muscles. "When they're looking to get in shape, I always encourage clients to include a source of protein in every meal and snack," says Carissa Bealert, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer in Orlando, Florida. And she describes eggs as a nutritious and convenient means of doing so. For a nutritious post-exercise snack, have a hard-boiled egg with fresh fruit or whole-grain crackers.
Related: Eggs and 16 Other Post-Workout Foods
5. A Source of Vitamin D
Your body absorbs vitamin D through sun exposure and by consuming certain foods, but meeting your daily needs through food alone is difficult. Because eggs are one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D, incorporating them into your diet routinely could help stave off deficiencies. "If you're not in the sun a lot or your body doesn't efficiently absorb vitamin D, then eggs can be a great place to get your daily dose," says Carissa Bealert, registered dietitian. One large egg yolk provides 41 international units of vitamin D, fulfilling 10 percent of an adult's daily needs although some experts argue intakes should be higher, around 1,000 to 2,000 IUs daily.
6. Color Doesn’t Affect Nutrients
Many people believe brown eggs are healthier than white, but the color of the shell has no influence on eggs' quality or cooking properties, says the American Egg Board. The color of the yolk can vary based on the feed of the hen, but that doesn't reflect nutritive content greatly, although there might be small variations in vitamin A and lutein. Regardless of color, the yolks are a significant source of vitamins, minerals and fat, while the white provides rich amounts of protein and riboflavin. One large poached egg provides about six grams of protein, nearly five grams of fat and 0.2 milligrams of riboflavin, which is more than 20 percent of a woman's daily need for the B vitamin.
7. The Fat Breakdown
A large egg contains 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 1.8 grams of monounsaturated fat and one gram of polyunsaturated fat. Some eggs are fortified with omega-3 fats by providing an omega-3-fortified diet to the hens; this will be noted on the carton. A large egg also supplies 185 milligrams of cholesterol.
Related: The 20 Best Ways to Use Eggs
8. Fresh Is Best
You might be throwing out your eggs a bit prematurely. Eggs can be used within three weeks of the "sell-by" date if stored properly in the refrigerator. They age faster at room temperature, so don't leave them sitting out too long. Store eggs in the main section of your fridge to keep them at their best and discard them after two hours at room temperature or one hour in warmer temperatures. For the highest quality, eat eggs by the best-by or use-by date, and prepare them with clean hands and utensils.
9. Balance Is Key
Like all foods, moderate intake as part of a balanced, healthy diet helps ensure your nutritional wellness. Choose other healthy proteins as well, such as fish and legumes, and pair all protein sources with nutritious carbohydrate and fat sources when possible. Important foods the American diet tends to lack, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, include whole grains; fruits; vegetables; calcium-rich foods, such as fish and fortified dairy products; and healthy fat sources, such as nuts and seeds.
Related: 10 Convenient Low-Carb Snacks
What Do YOU Think?
Do you eat eggs regularly? What's your favorite way to prepare eggs? Do you have any egg recipes you'd like to share? Which fact surprised you most? Let us know by leaving a comment below!
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- American Egg Board: Egg Industry Facts Sheet
- Harvard School of Public Health: Eggs and Heart Disease
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Metabolism Myths and Facts
- U.S. Department of Agriculture - National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Egg, Whole, Cooked, Poached
- U.S. Department of Agriculture - National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Sausage, Smoked Link Sausage, Pork and Beef
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Timing Your Nutrition
- Whole Foods Market: Eggs
- University of Michigan Health System: Healing Foods Pyramid
- National Institutes of Health - Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin D
- American Egg Board: Specifics About Eggs
- Carissa Bealert, RD, CPT
- Jennifer Christman, RD
- American Egg Board: Fast Facts