Eggs, a budget-friendly protein option, were once demonized because of their high cholesterol content, but they are finally making a comeback for good reason — they’re a nutrient powerhouse!
Did you know one large (50 grams) egg contains 70 calories, 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of total fat? Plus, they’ve got 13 vitamins and minerals found inside, too.
The caveat, though, is when people nix the yolk and consume only the low-calorie egg-white portion.
Here’s why that’s a problem, especially for athletes.
The majority of the nutrients found in eggs are located within the yolk.
For instance, eggs contain the following:
An important fat-soluble vitamin for bone health and immune function, eggs have 6 percent of one’s daily vitamin D values within the yolk. Plus, eggs are also one of the few whole foods that naturally contain vitamin D.
A B vitamin important for skin, hair, nail, liver and nervous system health, biotin is abundant within egg yolk and makes 35 percent of the Daily Value. Plus, biotin also plays an important role in producing energy within the body through metabolizing protein, fat and carbohydrates.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Known as heart-healthy fats, omega-3 fatty acids are also found in egg yolk. Since this can get a little confusing depending on the package label and marketing tactics, I spoke to expert to get the facts. “Standard eggs do have some omega-3 fats, but it can vary from hen to hen, depending on their feed,” Amidor says. “When flaxseed, fish oil or algae oils are added to the hen’s diet, it will make those eggs higher in omega-3s.”
Zeaxanthin and Lutein
Important antioxidants for your eye health and keeping your vision strong, zeaxanthin and lutein are found in egg yolk. Research has even shown that these nutrients help slow macular degeneration, which can occur with age. While antioxidants are traditionally thought to be found within fruits like berries and vegetables like purple potatoes, it’s important to note that protein-based foods like eggs also contain these functional nutrients, which may help rid the body of free radicals that can damage a person’s health over time.
Selenium, found in egg yolk, is an important trace mineral that works in conjunction with enzymes that function as antioxidants within the body. However, selenium is found in the soil, so the 25 percent Daily Value contained in one egg is directly related to the feed of the chicken. Thus, consumers who eat eggs are more likely to get this nutrient in their diet even if they live in a region with poor selenium soil content because of the transportation into their markets from regions higher in selenium.
Choline, a B-like vitamin, has nearly 147 milligrams, or 25 percent of the Daily Value, in just one egg yolk. Choline is not only important for promoting cell function and fetal brain development, but it also plays a big role in performance nutrition. Choline helps improve workouts by optimizing nitric oxide, which in turn increases nutrient delivery to muscles.
Studies also have found that less than 9 percent of Americans are meeting their daily needs for this important nutrient. Given choline plays a key role in keeping the body energized through its function with carnitine as well as its role in managing homocysteine (an amino acid), it’s very important for athletes to ensure they aren’t in that 9 percent if they want to focus on keeping their performance strong.
As you can see, egg yolk is a healthy part of a balanced diet.
But if you’re thinking you’ll just eat the yolk and forgo the white, not so fast. A recent study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effects of consuming a whole egg versus egg whites in healthy young men following a workout. Interestingly, though both groups received 16 grams of protein, the participants who consumed the whole egg experienced significantly greater muscle protein synthesis. Point being, the whole egg boasts the complete package for optimum health. While low-calorie may still seem alluring, don’t give in. Instead, focus on fueling your performance with the whole egg.