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.

Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Eye Health

Recent news on the benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin caught my eye (pun intended). Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that can impact, among other things, visual health by decreasing the risk of macular degeneration, an age-related eye condition. Lutein and zeaxanthin can be found in green leafy vegetables – such as spinach, kale, collard greens, and broccoli – as well as eggs. However, research suggests that the lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs are more bioavailable than when from plant sources. This is probably due to the lipid matrix of the egg yolk, which facilitates absorption of the fat soluble carotenoids. And nutrient bioavailability is an important consideration for human health. It doesn’t much matter if a food is high in a given nutrient if that nutrient is inaccessible to the body upon consumption.

The amount of lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs is variable, and is largely dependent on the feed that the hen consumes. Some egg producers fortify the hens’ diet with marigold extract or purified lutein in an effort to raise the content of these vitamins in eggs. As a consumer you can get a rough idea of the lutein content of an egg by observing the color of the egg yolk. Lutein imparts an orange-yellow color to the yolk. Yolks from hens not supplemented with additional carotenoids tend to have a more yellow color.

For more information on lutein and zeaxanthin and their impact on eye health, the articles below are recommended. With an aging population comes a rise in age-related health conditions such as macular degeneration.  So you’re likely to hear more and more about these carotenoids in the future.

 

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;90:1272-9.

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.

Give Eggs the Company they Deserve

When observing focus groups around the country which included physicians, nurses, dietitians and personal trainers it was interesting to see how these health professionals viewed eggs and dietary cholesterol.  Most health professionals felt eggs were a healthy food choice especially compared to available alternatives. In fact, it was often heard that eggs got a bad rap and they did not feel that the food deserved to be the icon of indulgence. What we heard is that eggs offered many valuable nutrients lacking in their patient’s diets and suggested an egg is a better choice than sweetened cereals, breakfast bars or donuts. What concerned most health professionals were what other foods people choose to eat with eggs. They generally agreed that eggs need to choose new friends and could be considered healthy if they weren’t accompanied by the saturated fat and sodium found in other breakfast foods. This striking misperception is often exemplified in restaurant menus that list egg white omelets accompanied by high fat and high sodium bacon or sausage with white toast as the healthy choice, giving the impression that egg yolks are the unhealthy element.

In fact, scientific research has shown that the egg yolk supplies about 40% of the high quality protein in an egg important for muscle building and retaining muscle especially when aging or losing weight. The yolk is also known as a naturally good source of vitamin D, lutein and choline, all nutrients that are needed for health. What makes eggs especially healthy is that they can be a great vehicle for eating vegetables and whole grains that supply many other important nutrients making an egg breakfast done right a great way to start the day. To me, the recent research that showed eating eggs at breakfast did indeed keep one satisfied for longer than an isocaloric bagel breakfast confirmed that eggs at breakfast is the healthiest choice to make.

~ Marcia

New USDA Analysis: Egg are 14% Lower in Cholesterol

There are many who think our food supply is unhealthy and getting more so. But, according to new United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrition data, www.ars.usda.gov/nutrientdata many of our naturally produced foods are actually healthier than during our parent’s childhood. Beef and pork cuts are leaner, lower fat choices of milk and cheese are widely available and now the egg, already low in saturated fat, has been found to be lower in dietary cholesterol and qualifies as a good source of vitamin D. The USDA recently reviewed the nutrient composition of standard large eggs, and results show the average amount of cholesterol in one large egg is 185 mg, 14 percent lower than previously recorded.   The analysis also revealed that large eggs now contain 41 IU of Vitamin D, an increase of 64 percent.

This is wonderful news, since for a long time public health organizations have been continuing to advise people to restrict their dietary cholesterol based on old, less sophisticated research techniques than those used by scientists today. Unlike most countries around the globe who have looked at the science and decided that the evidence is lacking to continue to confuse people with guidance which restricts dietary cholesterol , the US continues to include a 300mg dietary cholesterol restriction in its dietary guidelines. The good news is that it is so much easier to include the many beneficial nutrients that an egg supplies in your diet daily without having to consider your dietary cholesterol intake. Unless of course, you often consume foods containing a great deal of solid fats and added sugar which unlike eggs and seafood that are naturally low in unhealthful fats and added sugars, can complicate your heart disease risk.  One look at the nutrition facts panel, and it’s easy to see why eating an egg daily is a healthy practice that our grandparents understood and valued.

-Marcia

2010 Dietary Guidelines: Focus on High Quality Protein

On January 31st, the USDA and HHS presented the 2010 Dietary Guidelines and thereby upheld their Congressionally mandated responsibility to provide science-based nutritional and dietary guidance to the general public in a document that serves as the foundation for federal nutrition education and promotion programs. This was the first time the dietary guidelines were based on an evidence based body of scientific knowledge, reviewed by an elite group of scientific advisors, and written to suggest best practices for the many stakeholders that produce and deliver food to the American public. This is no small task and those who participated should be widely commended.

A main focus of the guidance is to consume nutrient dense foods. Nutrient density, possibly an unfortunate term, defines a food by its nutrient content for the amount of calories it provides. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, individuals should “increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed” and “replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats”. Choosing foods that supply high quality protein with minimal solid or unhealthful fats would be an example of nutrient density. If seafood and fish were plentiful and affordable it would be easy to “increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed” as recommended. Milk, meat, poultry, and eggs in addition to seafood supply high quality protein along with many valuable nutrients in natural combinations that have supported life on earth and allowed mankind to evolve. Therefore, for optimal health it is important to vary lean protein foods including lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds to get a full complement of all the needed nutrients.

Although the 2010 Dietary Guidelines are correct in stressing the importance of incorporating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains into the American diet, it is still important to remember that high quality protein foods supply many nutrients such as heme iron, vitamin B12, calcium and zinc which are in short supply in fruits/vegetables and whole grains. If there are foods to be avoided, I would suggest the grain based desserts (pie, pastry, granola bars) which from the tables and charts within the guidance document appear to supply substantial amounts of both solid fats and added sugar without a sufficient nutrient balance.

– Marcia

Eggs are Nutrient-Rich; an Egg-A-Day is OK

As a registered dietitian I’ve always been asked about “healthy foods”. I know at parties people watch what I take from the buffet table and feel a little uncomfortable eating decadent foods when I’m around. This is strange since my philosophy is to enjoy foods but make a diet of those which supply the most nutrients whenever possible.

This is why I was happy to see the list of “The 10 most healthy foods” posted last week on the HealthKicker blog. This list offers a reasonable list of foods that are both delicious and nutrient rich. The list doesn’t mention only trendy foods that are examples of good marketing but instead foods that have stood the test of time. On the list are berries, dark leafy vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, dairy, beans/legumes, nuts, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and eggs. Not very radical but reasonable, these foods won’t make you stand out at parties but will help supply the nutrients needed for maintaining good health. In fact, just recently my youngest child who is now officially an adult came home from college and remarked at dinner that he never noticed that I always cook “healthy”. By this he meant, I offer a variety of vegetables at meals and I rarely fry foods or use gravies. I consider it a success that it took so long for him to notice that this was different than what he observed others eating. He hasn’t suffered, but learned to enjoy foods and preparations that are naturally healthy.

I mentioned trendy foods and this is a point worth repeating.  HealthKicker blog points out the various reasons natural foods are full of nutrients. For example, the nutritional content of an egg as a source of high-quality protein, choline, lutein and zeaxanthin is mentioned in relation to the role in pregnancy, eye health and the prevention of age-related macular degeneration.  This is very timely information considering the upcoming release of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines which is our government’s guidance for getting adequate nutrition from the American food supply. In fact, the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee concluded in their scientific report that the consumption of one egg a day is not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke in health adults. Now that’s a food trend that good to see is back in style.

– Marcia