Nutrients In Eggs

Eggs are a nutrient goldmine!

One large egg has varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals, high-quality protein, all for 70 calories.

While egg whites contain some of the eggs’ high-quality protein, riboflavin and selenium, the majority of an egg’s nutrient package is found in the yolk. Nutrients such as:

  • Vitamin D, critical for bone health and immune function. Eggs are one of the only foods that naturally contain vitamin D.
  • Choline, essential for normal functioning of all cells, but particularly important during pregnancy to support healthy brain development of the fetus.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that are believed to reduce the risk of developing cataracts and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a disease that develops with age.

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Leucine: Promoting Muscle Anabolism at Breakfast

Muscle Illustration

Protein is a critically important fuel source for muscles, and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs) are particularly so. Leucine is the most abundant BCAA found in muscles, and as the body of leucine research continues to grow, so does the evidence pointing to several benefits that leucine imparts, including the regulation of skeletal muscle protein synthesis. This was demonstrated in a study where leucine supplementation in a low dose of whey protein stimulated postprandial human myofibrillar protein synthesis as effectively as a much greater dose of whey protein (1). Similarly, a low-protein mixed macronutrient beverage supplemented with a high amount of leucine was found to be as effective as a high-protein beverage at stimulating muscle anabolism (2). Furthermore, results of another study on muscle recovery suggest that increasing the concentration of leucine in an essential amino acid supplement during moderate intensity exercise may increase post-exercise skeletal muscle metabolism (3). In addition to tissue protein synthesis, leucine in combination with vitamin B6 also increased fat oxidation and insulin sensitivity and reduced oxidative and inflammatory stress, thus suggesting a potential approach in the management of obesity (4).


Leucine is an essential amino acid, and as such, it must be obtained from dietary sources, since our bodies cannot produce it. Animal proteins in general are among the best sources of dietary leucine. Eggs contain 1.086g of leucine per 100g weight, which translates to approximately 9% of its total protein content (5). When compared to other foods commonly consumed for breakfast, eggs are not as high on a gram for gram basis as oats or cheese (see figure below). However, when a comparison of leucine content is made on a per calorie basis, eggs come out looking better than most other common food sources. At only 72 calories, with 6.3 grams of protein and a high leucine content, eggs are a nutritionally- and protein-dense food source, perfect for those trying to get a little more protein, leucine and other essential micronutrients in their diets.


As noted in the dialogue from the recent fourth meeting of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, protein is notoriously under-consumed at breakfast. Given their robust nutrient profile and leucine content, eggs can be an easy fix to this nutritional shortcoming and an important protein source to consider when helping patients and clients build healthful diets.


  1. Churchward-Venne TA, Burd NA, Mitchell CJ, West DW, Philp A, Marcotte GR, Baker SK, Baar K, Phillips SM. Supplementation of a suboptimal protein dose with leucine or essential amino acids: effects on myofibrillar protein synthesis at rest and following resistance exercise in men. J Physiol. 20012; 590(Pt 11):2751-65.
  2. Churchward TA, Breen L, Di Donato DM, Hector AJ, Mitchell CJ, Moore DR, Stellingwerff T, Breuille D, Offord EA, Baker SK, Phillips SM. Leucine supplementation of a low-protein mixed macronutrient beverage enhances myofibrillar protein synthesis in young men: a double-blind, randomized trial.Am J Clin Nutr. 2014; 99(2):276-86.
  3. Pasiakos SM, MClung HL, McClung JP, Margolis LM, Andersen NE, Cloutier GJ, Pikosky MA, Rood JC, Fielding RA, Young AJ. Leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplementation during moderate steady state exercise enhances postexercise muscle protein synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011; 94(3):809-18.
  4. Zemel MB, Bruckbauer A. Effects of a leucine and pyridoxine-containing nutraceutical on fat oxidation, and oxidative and inflammatory stress in overweight and obese subjects. Nutrients. 2012; 4(6):529-41.
  5. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory Website. Updated Dec 7, 2011. Accessed July 28, 2014.

Egg Myth-Information


Today’s post comes from Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, an award-winning nutrition expert and author of Read It Before You Eat It. As a health influencer, media spokesperson and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants, LLC, Bonnie advises global corporations and food companies and has been featured in thousands of TV, radio, print and web interviews. She blogs for US News & World Report & Everyday Health, and you can find her on twitter @eatsmartbd or visit her website at

In the 1980s, the word, “cholesterol” was treated as a curse word. Like a billboard in Times Square, “No Cholesterol,” became a hot display on the front of food packages, including on products that never contained cholesterol to begin with, such as vegetable oils. Demonization of cholesteroland fat often led to fats in food being ditched and replaced with sugars, helping to bolster the rise in obesity rates instead of slashing them. Media sensationalism seemed to supersede science.

Researchers later showed that it wasn’t necessarily the cholesterol within a food that increased cholesterol levels in our bodies, rather, harm arose from the saturated and trans fat contents of food (1). In fact, we need fats in our diet, and more recent studies have even pointed out that saturated fats may not deserve the bad boy reputation bestowed upon them (2-4). And an even bigger surprise was the TIME Magazine story that grabbed attention when author Bryan Walsch highlighted that, “Our demonization of fat may have backfired in ways we are only just beginning to understand.” He went on to say, “Saturated fat also raises levels of the so-called good HDL cholesterol, which removes the [bad] LDL cholesterol that can accumulate on arterial walls.” Therefore, “Raising both HDL and LDL makes saturated fat a cardio wash.” If you’re confused by now, you’re not alone, and just imagine how your clients and the average consumer feel. The saturated fat story is perhaps just beginning to hatch, with more research warranted.

Serving only to augment your clients’ confusion about food and nutrition, it seems that shocking media messages take precedence over scientific studies. One food that seems to clearly be misunderstood is the egg. So now it’s time to clear up the confusion surrounding egg nutrition for your clients, particularly when it comes to some of the most popular myths and facts that need to be better eggs-plained:

Myth: Eggs are high in cholesterol and can raise cholesterol levels.

Fact: The Harvard School of Public Health notes, “moderate egg consumption—up to one a day—does not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals and can be part of a healthy diet” (5,6). In fact,eggs provide a host of benefits that override their cholesterol content including the reduction of risks of developing macular degeneration, the main cause of blindness, and cataracts, both diseases of the eye, aided by eggs’ content of lutein and zeaxanthin (7). Rich in choline, eggs also play a role in brain and nervous system regulation (8).

Myth: Brown eggs are healthier than white eggs.

Fact: Eggs are not like bread, where the darker grains are more nutrient-dense. The only reason some eggs are brown and others are white is because the chickens that hatch the eggs have different colored feathers! There’s no nutritional difference between brown and white eggs; all eggs are a good source of the highest quality protein that exists.

Myth: Eggs contain too much fat.

Fact: Aside from the fact that we are way too fat phobic…it’s important to mention that eggs contain the right kind of fat. One egg contains just 5 grams of fat, with only 1.5 grams of which are saturated fat. The fat content of an egg may help delay digestion, thereby making it a perfect breakfast food to squelch hunger and welcome satiety (9).

Eggs are often associated with new life and birth. Perhaps it’s time to look at eggs in a fresh, new light. With bodies of scientific evidence to showcase their nutritional benefits, eggs’ versatility and value can’t be beat!



1)      Fernandez ML. Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006; 9(1):8-12.
2)      BMJ-British Medical Journal. “Low saturated fat diets don’t curb heart disease risk or help you live longer.” ScienceDaily, 5 March 2014. <>.
3)      University of Cambridge. “New evidence raises questions about the link between fatty acids and heart disease.” ScienceDaily, 17 March 2014. <>.
4)      Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, Crowe F, Ward HA, Johnson L, Franco OH, Butterworth AS, Forouhi NG, Thompson SG, Khaw K, Mozaffarian D, Danesh J, Di Angelantonio E. Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2014; 160(6):398-406.
5)      Hu FB, Stampfer MJ, Rimm EB, Manson JE, Ascherio A, Colditz GA, Rosner BA, Spiegelman D, Speizer FE, Sacks FM, Hennekens CH, Willett WC. A prospective study of egg consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease in men and women. JAMA. 1999; 281:1387-94.
6)      Fernandez ML. Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006; 9:8-12.
7)      Vishwanathan R, Goodrow-Kotyla EF, Wooten BR, Wilson TA, Nicolosi RJ. Consumption of 2 and 4 egg yolks/d for 5 wk increases macular pigment concentrations in older adults with low macular pigment taking cholesterol-lowering statins. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009; 90(5):1272-9.
8)      Zeisel SH. Choline: Needed for normal development of memory. JACN. 2000; 19(5):528S-531S.
9)      Kozimor A, Chang H, Cooper JA. Effects of dietary fatty acid composition from a high fat meal on satiety. Appetite. 2013; 69:39-45.

Nutrition Close-Up, Summer 2014

Nutrition Close-Up, Summer 2014 (pdf, 1.5 MB)

Articles in this Issue…

The role of the brain, ‘food cues,’ in overeating

By Kerri Boutelle, PhD

Obesity is a serious and refractory problem that is associated with multiple medical and psychological comorbities and risks. Recent data suggest that in the United States, two out of every three adults are overweight or obese, and one out of three children is overweight or obese. Obesity is associated with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, psychological impairment, poor quality of life, and all-cause mortality.

Vitamin D: a stronger link to health

By Taylor C. Wallace, PhD, CFS, FACN

Getting adequate vitamin D and calcium is essential for children, who need to grow strong bones, and for adults, who need to maintain strong bones and prevent bone loss. New findings
from the Women’s Health Initiative, the largest clinical trial of >36,000 postmenopausal women, confirm the safety and synergistic benefits of these two nutrients, showing a 35-38 % reduction
in hip fracture incidence 1. If you don’t get enough vitamin D, you are less likely to efficiently absorb calcium in the gut and may lose bone as you age. The development of low bone density
and/or osteoporosis later in life, which affects approximately 54 million Americans over the age of 50 years 2, is highly linked to suboptimal nutrition and physical activity patterns during young adulthood. After the age of 20-25 years, when bone growth reaches its full genetic potential, bone “withdrawals” can begin to exceed “deposits” (except in the skull, which increases in mass throughout the lifespan).

Complexity of individual variability in nutrition

By Tia M. Rains, PhD

One size does not fit all when it comes to health. Be it diet, exercise, or prescription medications, what works wonderfully for one person may produce little effect or even the opposite
effect in others. This is not surprising given metabolic differences between individuals. I remember observing this first-hand as an undergraduate student in a clinical chemistry course. Each
student underwent some basic blood tests and we compared results across the class. For some tests (e.g., liver enzymes), there was little variability among the students. But in others, there was quite a bit of diversity in results. For example, the blood glucose and insulin responses to an oral glucose tolerance test varied dramatically student to student.

New research in fight against childhood obesity

By Jamie I. Baum, PhD

The prevalence of obesity in the United States has more than doubled in adults and more than tripled in children and adolescents since the 1970s. Roughly one in three children ages 2-19 years is overweight or obese. Obese individuals have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), hypertension, and dyslipidemia. Once restricted to adults, these metabolic diseases are now being diagnosed in children. Increasing protein in the diet has been linked to improvements in glucose and insulin control, blood cholesterol, body composition, energy metabolism, as well as increased weight loss in adults. However, very little research has been focused on determining if increasing protein in the diet of school-aged children has comparable health benefits.

Low-carb training getting mileage with endurance athletes

By Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS

Training low” has nothing to do with altitude and everything to do with intentionally training with low glycogen stores to enhance fat metabolism. It is the latest craze for endurance athletes who seek to preserve glycogen stores by optimizing utilization of fat stores through an adaptive process during their training. This is typically accomplished by lowering carb feed rates to <3 g / kg / d for five days or more 1. Fat intake is increased to compensate for lower carb calories with the idea that intramuscular triglyceride stores go up along with enzymes necessary for fat oxidation.

Save Your Sight: Keep an Eye on Your Diet

N-Cochran-torsoToday’s post comes from Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD. Cochran is a nutrition communications consultant, appearing regularly in national and local media to discuss nutrition topics. Cochran is a long-standing nutrition contributor for Woman’s World Magazine, as well as a member of ENC’s Health Professional Advisory panel.

No doubt everyone has heard since childhood that carrots are good for the eyes. And carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, a phytonutrient that is converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A promotes eye health, particularly helping to prevent night blindness, or the inability to see clearly when going from bright to dim light. According to recent research, however, there are several other nutrients that can reduce the risk of vision problems associated with aging, like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are powerful antioxidants that protect the macula, a spot near the center of the retina of the eye, from free radical damage. High dietary intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce the risk of cataracts by up to 20% and macular degeneration by up to 40% (1). Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in egg yolks as well as dark green and orange fruits and vegetables like spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, peas, corn, squash, melon, nectarines, oranges, papaya, guava and bell pepper. The lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs may be more bioavailable than that in fruits or vegetables because eggs contain fat, which enhances absorption of these fat-soluble compounds. Indeed, research has demonstrated that eating one egg a day increases blood lutein and zeaxanthin levels (2, 3).

Vitamins A, C, E and Zinc
As antioxidants, vitamins A (beta carotene), C and E protect the lens of the eye from free radical damage, while zinc is required for the production of melanin, a pigment that helps protect the eye. In the Rotterdam study, Dutch researchers found a diet with foods high in beta-carotene, vitamins C, E and zinc was linked with a 35% reduced risk of AMD (4, 5). Milk, yogurt, eggs and some breakfast cereals provide vitamin A, and in the form of beta-carotene, sources are dark green and orange fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is plentiful in citrus fruit, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, bell pepper, broccoli and potatoes, while beef, pork, oysters, fortified cereals, milk and eggs supply zinc.

The Women’s Health Study showed that participants who consumed the most vitamin E were 14% less likely to develop cataracts (6). Vitamin E-rich foods include vegetable oils, nuts, sunflower seeds, wheat germ and sweet potato.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Evidence suggests that inflammation plays a role in AMD, and omega-3 fatty acids may help regulate inflammatory and immune responses in the retina to reduce risk. Omega-3s are most plentiful in deep water fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines, while soybean and canola oil, flaxseed and walnuts provide a plant form of these fats. Eating fish just once a week reduced early AMD by 40% in a group of over 3500 subjects (7). Other studies have also confirmed omega-3s’ protective effect against AMD (4, 8).

The bottom line: eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods with plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean meats, low-fat dairy, eggs, whole grains and healthy oils will help promote good vision and protect against age-related vision conditions.

Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD



  1. Moeller SM, Jacques PF, Blumberg JB. The potential role of dietary xanthophylls in cataract and age-related macular degeneration. J Am Coll Nutr 2000; 19: 522S-527S.
  2. Goodrow EF, Wilson TA, Houde SC, Vishwanathan R, Scollin PA, Handelman G, Nicolosi RJ. Consumption of one egg per day increases serum lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations in older adults without altering serum lipid and lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations. J Nutr 2006; 136: 2519-2524.
  3. Ata S, Barona J, Kopec R, Jones J, Calle M, Schwartz S, Luz Fernandez M. Consumption of either one egg or lutein-enriched egg per day increases HDL cholesterol, reduces apolipoprotein B while increasing plasma carotenoids and macular pigment density in adult subjects. FASEB J 2010; 24: 92.4
  4. Ho, L et al. Reducing the Genetic Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration With Dietary Antioxidants, Zinc, and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Arch Ophthalmol 2011; 129:758-766.
  5. van Leeuwen R, Boekhoorn S, Vingerling JR, Witteman JC, Klaver CC, Hofman A, de Jong PT. Dietary Intake of Antioxidants and Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. JAMA 2005: 294:3101-3107.
  6. Christen, W, Liu, S, Glynn, R, Gaziano, J, Buring, J. Dietary Carotenoids, Vitamins C and E, and Risk of Cataract in Women. Arch Ophthalmol. 2008; 126:102-109.
  7. Chua, B et al. Dietary Fatty Acids and the 5-Year Incidence of Age-Related Maculopathy. Arch Ophthalmol. 2006; 124:981-986.
  8. Seddon J, George, S, Rosner B. Cigarette Smoking, Fish Consumption, Omega-3Fatty Acid Intake, and Associations With Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Arch Ophthalmol. 2006; 124:995-1001.