Eggs are a nutrient powerhouse, but overall diet is a critical consideration

Jen - NHANES - Overall Diet Blog

The average American diet does not align with the recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.1,2 With evidence that lower diet quality can impact health,3 research is needed to better understand how substituting nutrient-dense foods within typical eating patterns might improve nutrient intake and diet quality across various population subgroups.  A recent analysis of dietary data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) indicate eggs can contribute significantly to nutrient intake, but consideration of the total dietary pattern is essential.

Using 2001-2014 NHANES dietary data, a recent modeling study evaluated the diet quality of food secure and insecure individuals when eggs were added to the diet.  It was hypothesized that substituting egg dishes for other commonly consumed dishes at certain eating occasions (breakfast, lunch, dinner) could improve daily nutrient intake among vulnerable populations.  The diet model replaced the most commonly consumed main dish (e.g., breakfast cereal) with the most commonly consumed egg dish (e.g., scrambled eggs) on a gram per gram basis.4

The data from this study indicate that food secure individuals were more likely to meet recommendations for many nutrients compared to food insecure individuals.  Substituting eggs as a main dish at breakfast, lunch or dinner did not influence total nutrient intake, regardless of food security status.  There was a meaningful decrease in the prevalence of vitamin D inadequacy when eggs were substituted at lunch or dinner for both food secure and food insecure non-participants and increased choline intake for all subgroups.  Of note, when eggs were substituted as the main dish at breakfast, the prevalence of folate inadequacy increased.  Overall, regardless of food security status, these data indicate that when eggs are substituted for other foods in the diet, consideration of the impact on other foods and nutrients is required.

These recent observational data continue to support that eggs can contribute beneficial nutrients to all subgroups of the U.S. population.  Eggs are affordable and are a good or excellent source of eight essential nutrients, including choline which is under-consumed by most Americans.5 Importantly, the associations found in these NHANES analyses indicate there may be opportunity to educate about total dietary patterns to best meet dietary recommendations.

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 2015.
  2. Hiza, H.A., et al., Diet quality of Americans differs by age, sex, race/ethnicity, income, and education level. J Acad Nutr Diet, 2013. 113(2): p. 297-306.
  3. Murray, C.J., et al., The state of US health, 1990-2010: burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors. Jama, 2013. 310(6): p. 591-608.
  4. Conrad, Z., et al., Nutrient intake disparities in the US: modeling the effect of food substitutions. Nutr J, 2018. 17(1): p. 53.
  5. Wallace, T.C. and V.L. Fulgoni, Usual Choline Intakes Are Associated with Egg and Protein Food Consumption in the United States. Nutrients, 2017. 9(8).