From celebrity diets to post-race breakfast offerings, egg whites dominate health food menus. The whites have more protein and less fat, a match made in heaven according to conventional dietary wisdom. But, are we missing something when we toss the yolks?
Fat in Eggs
Eggs yolks contain saturated fat and cholesterol, both of which have been implicated by the National Institutes of Health and other public health organizations in elevating blood cholesterol levels and consequent heart disease and stroke risk. However, according to science journalist Gary Taubes, the correlation between saturated fat intake and disease risk has been overblown to support previously held assumptions about dietary fat. “In clinical trials, researchers have been unable to generate compelling evidence that saturated fat in the diet causes heart disease,” he said in a January 2008 op-ed for the New York Times.
Moreover, an even greater percentage of the fat in egg yolks is monounsaturated, which elevates HDL, “good cholesterol,” and has overwhelming evidence to suggest its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Protein in Eggs
Egg whites offer more protein in fewer calories than egg yolks, 4 grams per 17-calorie white versus 3 grams per 55-calorie yolk. If you believe that a high-protein, low-calorie diet is your ticket to a slimmer waistline — and this has been the message of the fitness industry for decades — you would likely opt for egg whites. (Conveniently, if you didn’t find rubbery egg white omelets appealing, those same fitness companies offered dozens of egg white protein powders to get your daily dose.)
Vitamins and Minerals
From a nutrient-density standpoint, however, egg yolks come out on top. Egg whites contain just a smattering of vitamins and minerals, riboflavin and selenium, whereas egg yolks offer at least 5 percent of the recommended daily dose for vitamins A, D, folate, B12, pantothenic acid, as well as the minerals calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.
Choose Cage-Free Eggs
Compared to commercial eggs, those lain from free-range hens contain significantly more vitamin A and E and less cholesterol and saturated fat. They also contain as much as seven times more beta carotene, which you have probably noticed when you crack open a free-range egg to discover a deep orange yolk. For more help choosing a healthy egg, check out our guide to unscrambling the egg aisle.