Health & Nutrition
Eggs are nutritional powerhouses that play an important role in maintaining a healthy diet! This means eggs contain a high percentage of vitamins and minerals in comparison to the energy they providei.
In fact, just one egg contains more than 10% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for over 11 essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B1, B2, B12, and E, iodine, selenium, iron, and folateii.
Unfortunately the humble Egg has copped a beating in the past, and we are not talking about the cooking kind of egg beating! In particular, the belief that eggs increase cholesterol levels, the “bad” fat content and food allergies. It’s time to unscramble the facts and myths about the health and nutritional benefits. Let’s look at the latest information on everything diet and egg-related.
The Great Myth – The link between egg consumption and high cholesterol
In healthy individuals, most population studies have shown no association between levels of egg intake up to six eggs per week and increased risk of heart disease. This is great news for all you egg enthusiasts!
The Heart Foundation’s latest review of the evidence surrounding the effect of dietary fats on health showed the main culprits for increased cholesterol levels are actually the ‘bad fats’ of the trans and saturated varietyiii. These ‘bad fats’ do directly influence the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream and cause levels to rise. Healthy fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated), however, are cleansing because they can actually help remove cholesterol from the bloodstream.
Eggs contain only three grams (less than a teaspoon) of saturated fat and contain nearly six grams of polyunsaturated and two grams of monounsaturated fats – good fats. This means you can enjoy eggs regularly as part of a healthy diet! In fact, research confirms many of the nutritional components of eggs – such as omega 3 fatty acids, protein, folate, and vitamin E – can actually help protect against risk factors of heart disease and play a role in the maintenance of good heart healthiv! If you are concerned about your blood cholesterol levels you should always talk to your doctor or dietician.
Eggs and nutrition
As you can see, eggs are a nutrient-dense food and provide a significant number of essential vitamins and minerals for the whole family. Listed below are the majority of vital nutrients found in just one serve of eggs:
|Nutrient||(2 XL eggs* = 104g)||RDI**|
|Sat Fat (g)||3.4||14%|
|Mono Fat (g)||5.3||-|
|Poly Fat (g)||1.7||-|
|Vitamin B12 (µg)||0.9||43%|
|Vitamin B5 (mg) (Pantothenic acid)||2.1||42%|
|Vitamin A (µg) (Retinol)||239||32%|
|Vitamin D (µg)||0.8||8%|
|Vitamin E (mg) (Alpha-tocopherol)||2.4||24%|
|Short chain Omega-3 (g) (ALA)||0.06||4-7% AI^|
|Long chain Omega-3 (g) (DHA/DPA)||114||71-127% AI|
|Omega-3 (total) (g)||0.18||12-20% AI|
|Omega-6 (g)||1.42||11-18% AI|
|Lutein + zeaxanthin (µg)||530||-|
* Edible portion only
** Proportion of Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI). Percentage Daily Intakes are based on an average adult diet of 8700kJ. Your daily intakes may be higher or lower depending on your energy needs.
^ National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Value for Australia and New Zealand, 2006. Adequate Intakes
Eggs and Protein
Protein is essential for practically every physiological process that occurs within our bodies – cell growth, maintenance and repair, metabolism, digestion, antibody production, and transportation of nutrients and oxygen in our bloodstreams.
Proteins found in eggs are considered to have high nutritional quality and are the nutritional standard against which all other proteins are comparedv. This is for two reasons:
- They contain all 9 essential amino acidsvi. Amino acids are considered the “building blocks for the body” because they help form protein.
- The amount of amino acids in eggs closely match human requirements. In other words, greater than 95% of egg protein is digestible, meaning eggs are classified as a highly digestible protein sourcevii.
One serve of eggs provides 12.7g of protein. This represents 25% of the DI for adults and 20-36% for children over 9viii.
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Eggs, fat and omega-3
Fats are required daily in the diet as they are a major source of energy (kilojoules), key component of cell membranes and assist in hormone synthesis and absorption of fat soluble vitamins.
One serve of eggs provides 10.3g of total fat. Of this, 3.4g is saturated, 5.3g is monounsaturated and 1.7g is polyunsaturated. This means that 68% of the fat in eggs is the healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated types.i
Eggs also provide a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 in eggs represents 12% of the omega-3 Adequate Intake (AI) recommendation for men and 20% for womenix. Of this, 114mg is the long chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and DPA, which represents 71-127% of the adequate intake (AI)ix.
Omega-3 is essential for the body as it plays a major roles such as regulating blood pressure and blood clotting, helping to maintain a healthy immune system, and assisting in brain and spinal cord functionx. Unfortunately, the average intake of omega-3 fats in Australia is well below the levels recommended for preventing chronic diseasei. Most Australians would benefit from increasing their intake of omega-3 fats.
Eggs and vitamin A
One serve of eggs provides 239µg of vitamin A as retinol. This represents 32% of the RDI for adults. Eggs are a good source of vitamin A and contain the right type of components to maximise absorption of this vitamin into the bodyi. Vitamin A is needed for healthy skin and eyes and for a strong immune system.
Eggs and vitamin D
One serve of eggs provides 8% of the AI for vitamin D. Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. This vitamin assists with the enhancement of calcium and phosphorus absorption, development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth and of a healthy nervous and immune system. Two eggs provide 20 times as much vitamin D as an average glass of full cream milk and 30 times as much as a glass of reduced fat milkxi.
Eggs and vitamin E
As vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin, it requires fat for absorption and fat is naturally provided in eggs. Fortified eggs can also provide more than the RDI in one serve. One serve of eggs provides 2.4mg of vitamin E, which is 24% of the RDIi.
Eggs and folate
Eggs are a good source of folate as they are highly bioavailablei. One serve of eggs provides 97mg of folate, which is 49% of the RDI for adults. Eggs also provide vitamin B12 along with folate, which can have advantages over folate-fortified foodsi. This is because folate works in combination with vitamin B12 to protect and develop the nervous system.
Eggs and thiamine
Thiamine is essential for the functioning of the heart, muscles, and nervous system and helps the body cells convert carbohydrates into energy. One serve of eggs provides 0.12mg of thiamine, which is 11% of the RDI for adults.
Eggs and riboflavin
Riboflavin assists in the release of energy from carbohydrate, protein and fat as well as assisting in cell respiration. One serve of eggs provides 0.15mg of riboflavin, which is 29% of the RDI for adults. In other words, eggs provide almost a third of the recommended dietary intake for riboflavini.
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Eggs and vitamin B5
Vitamin B5 assists with the synthesis of amino acids, fatty acids, sterols, steroid hormones and vitamin D. It is also aids the formation of red blood cells. Eggs are a very rich source of vitamin B5 with one serve of eggs providing 2.1 milligrams of vitamin B5, which is 42% of the RDI for adultsi.
Eggs and iron
Eggs provide a valuable source of iron for groups at risk of iron deficiency including vegetarians, toddlers, pregnant women and athletesi. However, eggs are classified as a food that has a low iron bioavailability. One serve of eggs provides 1.7mg of iron, which represents 14% of the RDI for adults.
Eggs and zinc
One serve of eggs contains 0.5mg of zinc, which is 4% of the RDI. This may be particularly useful in a vegetarian diet where animal sources of zinc are restricted. Zinc in eggs may also be particularly useful in the diet of older Australians as many do not meet recommended dietary intakesi.
Eggs and selenium
Eggs are an excellent source of selenium, a trace mineral required for many functions in the body. They include synthesis of thyroid hormones, which regulate basal metabolic rate and work with vitamin E as part of a key antioxidant enzyme. A serving of eggs provides 41µg of selenium, representing 59% of the RDIi.
Eggs and iodine
A serve of eggs contains 43µg of iodine, 29% of the RDI, making eggs an excellent source. In fact, eggs are one of the few natural sources of iodinei. Iodine is a mineral essential for normal thyroid function and production of thyroid hormones, which are involved in regulating metabolism and development and differentiation of cells.
Eggs and choline
Choline helps cholesterol and fat metabolism, and transport of fat from the liver. It also helps in the production of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which is involved in nerve and brain functioning and memory. Eggs are one of only a few food sources of choline and they provide more choline per kilojoule compared to most other foodsi.
Eggs and antioxidants
Consuming eggs results in higher antioxidant levels in the bodyi. Eggs contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. Increased intakes of these antioxidants have been associated with eye health and may provide protection against age related eye diseasei.
Eating around one egg a day results in increased antioxidant concentrations in the macular region of the eyei. Research indicates that high intakes of antioxidants from eggs are associated with a reduced risk of cataract and age-related macular degenerationi. Furthermore, the bioavailability of lutein and zeaxanthin is higher from eggs than from other plant sourcesi.
Eggs also contain the amino acids tyrosine and tryptophan which have antioxidant properties.
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Why you should eat eggs if you’re pregnant
- Eggs are an excellent way for pregnant women to meet their increased nutritional requirements during pregnancy. One serve of eggs provides almost 100% of the additional protein requirements and around a third of the extra kilojoules required during pregnancy and lactationi.
- Eggs provide useful amounts of nutrients that assist in reaching the increased nutritional requirements of pregnancy such as iron, folate and zinci.
- Eggs can be a particularly helpful in the diet of pregnant vegetarian women as they provide the ideal complement of all essential amino acids needed for growth and developmenti.
- One serving of eggs provides over 30% the daily requirements for vitamin B12 during pregnancyi.
- Choline is particularly useful in the diet of pregnant and lactating women. Eggs are therefore highly recommended at this time of lifei.
- Pregnant women are at risk of mild to moderate iodine deficiencyi. One serve of eggs provides 20% of the iodine RDI during pregnancyi.
People with health concerns should seek dietary advice from their doctor or dietitian.
Why you should eat eggs if you’re a kid
- Eggs are a nutritious food for children, fitting well within the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents.
- Eggs improve the nutrient content of children’s diets.
- One serve of eggs provides around a third of the recommended dietary intake of folate for childreni. Folate is essential for the growth and maintenance of healthy cells.
- One serve of eggs provides around half the recommended dietary intake of vitamin A for childreni. Vitamin A is essential for growth and eye health.
- Eggs are a valuable source of omega-3 fatty acids which are commonly lacking in the diets of Australian childreni.
Why you should eat eggs if you’re a teenager
- Eggs provide a broad range of important nutrients essential to meet the needs of growing teenagers.
- Many teenagers fall short of vitamin A, folate, iodine, zinc, iron and phosphorus requirementsi. Eggs provide useful amounts of these nutrients and may help boost intakes closer to RDI levels.
- Due to the wide range of nutrients found in eggs, they are a particularly useful inclusion in the diet of teenagers who may be following special diets.
- Many teenagers skip breakfast and due to the variety of nutrients and protein found in eggs, they can provide a nutritious start to a teenager’s day.
Why you should eat eggs if you’re a vegetarian
- Eggs can play a significant role in a vegetarian diet due to the levels of high quality protein, vitamin B12 and iron – nutrients that are often low in a vegetarian eating pattern.
- Eggs can be a particularly valuable source of omega-3 fatty acids in a vegetarian diet as intakes are often particularly low in this group of people. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the health of the heart and blood vessels.
- One serve of eggs contains useful amounts of selenium (59% RDI), vitamin B12 (40% RDI) and iron (14% RDI), all nutrients that can be low in a vegetarian diet.
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Why you should eat eggs if you’re an athlete
- Protein requirements are often higher than average for athletes and eggs provide a valuable source of high quality protein for this group.
- Eggs provide a range of valuable nutrients in the diets of sports people including iron, folate and vitamin B12, all required for healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen to the working musclesi.
- Eggs provide a range of valuable antioxidants which may assist recovery after exercise by reducing muscle and cell damagei.
- Evidence suggests sportspeople have increased antioxidant requirementsi. Eggs provide a range of antioxidant nutrients.
Why you should eat eggs if you’re 65+
- Due to age related changes in the functioning of the digestive system, nutrient requirements can be higher in older Australiansi. Due to the variety of nutrients found in eggs, they can play a particularly valuable role in the diet of this group.
- The majority of older Australians do not meet their RDI for vitamins A and E, and eggs can provide a useful contribution to meeting requirements with one serving providing 27-34% RDI for vitamin A and 24-34% RDI for vitamin Ei.
- The incidence of heart related problems are highest in older Australiansi. Eggs are a source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to be beneficial for the heart and blood vesselsi.
- Eggs contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are associated with lower rates of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of blindness in older Australiansi.
Eggs fit well within a range of weight loss diets, providing significant amounts of vitamins, minerals and protein, while only contributing 581kJ per serve (2x60gram eggs).
It is also well known that eggs are high in good quality protein. Protein has been shown to contribute to greater feelings of satisfaction after eating – people feel full for longer! This may therefore help people to stick to a weight loss diet for longer. So eating eggs as part of a low fat meal may assist in reducing food intake over the next 24 hours, therefore helping weight management.
Research has shown that eating breakfast is associated with a lower body weighti. Eggs should be a healthy inclusion at breakfast with one serving (two eggs) providing around the same amount of kilojoules as 2 thin slices of toast. In fact, consuming eggs for breakfast increases satiety and results in lower energy intake during the remainder of the day compared with a cereal or croissant breakfasti.
However, when on a weight reduction diet it can be common for muscle loss to occur. This may be minimised by including higher amounts of protein rich foods, such as eggs, as part of the eating plani. Finally, when eggs are included as part of a low kilojoule or low carbohydrate diet, they do not increase blood cholesterol levels and, in fact, have been shown to lead to improvements in HDL levelsi.
Eggs and allergies
Egg allergy is one of the most common allergies in children and may be as high as 9%i. However, the good news is that approximately 85% of children will grow out of their egg allergyi.
Parents with egg allergy should be particularly careful to avoid the presence of eggs around their infants to minimize sensitivity via the inhalation routei. Healthy infants with no family history of egg allergy may eat egg yolk from 6-8 months of agei.
People with an allergy to egg should avoid all types of eggs including duck, goose and quaili.
People with health concerns should seek dietary advice from their doctor or dietitian.
i Food & Nutrition Australia Pty Ltd. (2013). Literature Review of the Nutritional and Health Benefits of Eggs (9th ed.). Sydney, Australia : Australian Egg Corporation Limited. (Original work published 2004).
ii Australian Egg Corporation Limited. (2011). Egg-cyclopaedia. Eggs Easy As, 1-28.
iii National Heart Foundation of Australia. Position statement. Dietary fats and dietary sterols for cardiovascular health (2009).
iv Gray, J. & Griffin, B. Eggs and dietary cholesterol -dispelling the myth. Nutr Bull 34, 66-70 (2009).
v Chernoff, R. Protein and Older Adults. J Am Coll Nutr 23, 627S-630S (2004).
vi Mann, J. & Truswell, A.S. Essentials of Human Nutrition, Oxford University Press, New York,(2002).
vii Millward, D.J. Macronutrient intakes as determinants of dietary protein and amino acid adequacy. J Nutr 134, 1588S-1596S (2004).
viii Food Nutrition Australia. Literature Review of the Nutritional and Health Benefits of Eggs. 3.2 Protein, p15. 2013.
ix National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand including Recommended Dietary Intakes (NHRMC, Canberra, 2006).
x Department of Health and Ageing. (2010). Nutrition . Retrieved May 5,, 2013, from http://www.measureup.gov.au/internet/abhi/publishing.nsf/Content/Nutrition-lp
xi Stanton, R. Vitamins. What they do and what they don’t do., (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1999).
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