People have been arguing about eggs since chickens first came about… or was it eggs? Whatever the case, the bickering has turned toward whether or not eggs are healthy in more modern times, and what a long-winded flip-flop it’s been. This CNN timeline does a good job of showing exactly how and when scientific research both demonized and idolized eggs over the years, but the gist is, we still continue to be unsure about what eggs mean for our health.
“The controversial egg is still controversial,” confirms Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. “Some research indicates there’s no need to worry about cholesterol, but many of those studies are funded by the egg industry or egg-supporting industries, and other studies indicate than even an egg a day increases the risk of death from all causes.”
The main problem with eggs, as Hunnes hinted at, is that they boast a heavy dose of cholesterol, and high cholesterol levels are a significant risk factor for all kinds of deadly ailments, ranging from heart attack to stroke. The most recent research argues that eating more than three or four eggs a week is indeed associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, despite what some other studies have said in the past. Eating the occasional egg, however, might actually be beneficial to heart health, so as with most things we humans put in our bodies, just watch your intake.
Hunnes, though, stands firm on avoiding eggs altogether. “I still suggest not eating eggs. The new movie The Game Changers does a great job at explaining why any animal proteins — including the egg — are unhealthy,” she says. The film follows body builders, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, who promote plant-based diets after seeing amazing results in competitions and life in general. While vegetarian diets are arguably as divisive as the research around eggs, science does show that eating plant proteins, as opposed to meat and the like, is at least much less likely to result in cardiovascular disease.
Now, everything covered so far has been regarding the classic chicken egg, but there are a couple other options, some of which could be considered better choices. Quail eggs, for instance, boast much more vitamins and minerals than chicken eggs, and they have a similar number of calories and about the same protein content. Goose eggs, meanwhile, are about three times bigger than chicken eggs, and they generally contain more nutrients as a result. The downside, though, is that they also contain more unhealthy fats, and since moderation is necessary with eggs, eating a gigantic goose egg is probably a bad choice. Then there are duck eggs, which have twice as much cholesterol as chicken eggs, but significantly more vitamins and minerals.
Obviously, any kind of egg besides chicken eggs are hard to come by, so while quail and duck eggs could be considered healthier choices due to their high vitamin and mineral contents, unless you know a guy with the egg hookup, replacing your normal chicken eggs with something else slightly better might not be worth the trouble.
What could be worth the trouble, though, is changing up how you cook those chicken eggs, since some preparations are healthier than others. To find out which those are, I asked Hunnes to help me rank all the common ways we cook our eggs by how healthy they are — from yolktastic to naw bro.
1) Poached and Hard Boiled (tied): These are the healthiest methods for one simple reason: They require no oil to cook, meaning you get the egg in its absolute purest, most unadulterated form. Unfortunately, though, poaching an egg is one of the most frustrating tasks ever for the novice home chef, as I can attest to, so watch the video below and try not to waste too many good eggs.
3) Egg Whites: Egg whites cooked — scrambled, fried, whatever — in oil are the next healthiest choice, according to Hunnes. The one important note about egg whites is, while they’re high in protein and low in calories, fat and cholesterol, making them a good choice for weight loss, they lack the nutrients otherwise packed in the yolk. However, paired with a side of some veggies, egg whites provide some nice protein and you still get a good dose of the good stuff.
4) Baked, Fried and Scrambled (tied): These come next, because they all include the cholesterol-filled yolk. Hunnes does, however, suggest cooking them in healthy oils, like olive oil or peanut oil, which contain monounsaturated fats that lower cholesterol, and therefore, reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, a risk that eggs themselves seem to increase. “Conversely,” Hunnes says, “cooking them in butter or lard will increase the unhealthfulness, because you’d be adding more saturated fats.” While science tends to flip-flop in regard to saturated fats, similar to how it does with eggs, they’ve traditionally been linked to heart disease.
7) Deviled: “Deviled eggs are essentially a hard-boiled egg with a little mayonnaise and some spices added to the yolk,” Hunnes explains. “So I’d probably place deviled eggs right after baked, fried and scrambled eggs cooked in oil, and before those cooked in butter or lard.” That’s because mayo is somewhat healthier than butter, since it contains a little less fat and cholesterol.
8) Frittata: This is more like a casserole, and therefore, whatever you put in it decides how healthy it will be. That said, the more common frittata ingredients would earn this dish the eighth spot on our list. “It really depends on what the additional ingredients added to the frittata are,” Hunnes confirms. “But if you add cream, cheese or butter, that significantly increases the unhealthfulness, whereas the addition of vegetables might slightly increase the healthfulness. Still, this will be less healthy than scrambled eggs alone.” That’s primarily because a frittata tends to require more oil, and honestly, can you really even call it a frittata without a heavy sprinkling of cheese?
9) Eggnog: “Eggnog is quite unhealthy and is primarily cream, alcohol and maybe a small amount of egg tempered into the cream for consistency,” Hunnes explains. It also typically contains enough sugar to make a whole sack of Halloween candy jealous: One serving of Horizon Organic Eggnog, which is a laughable half a cup, contains a whopping 22 grams of sugar, or nearly six teaspoons. For reference, the American Heart Association recommends men consume no more than 36 grams and women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar a day — and that doesn’t include sugar found naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables, either.
10) Cadbury Eggs: Speaking of sugar, Cadbury Creme Eggs boast a massive 20 grams of sugar per egg. They also contain six grams of fat and have virtually none of the nutritional benefits — vitamins, minerals, a decent amount of protein — that come in normal eggs, and even to some small extent in eggnog. (I’m starting to suspect, in fact, that this thing may not be a real egg at all.)
11) Raw Eggs, Rocky Style: Rocky — the man, the myth, the legend — is famous for waking up early and slamming five(!) raw eggs to bolster his tough training regimen. But sadly, this method almost certainly did the opposite: Research shows that there’s more digestible protein available in cooked eggs (approximately 91 percent) than in raw eggs (about 51 percent). Not to mention, consuming raw eggs could easily increase your risk of contracting salmonella. “I wouldn’t advise eating raw egg due to high risk of bacterial contamination,” Hunnes emphasizes.
Moreover, eggs contain a protein called avidin, which is partially destroyed when cooked. When consuming raw eggs, however, avidin enters the body and reduces your levels of biotin, a vitamin important for skin, hair and nails. Now, you’d have to consume a ton of raw eggs to develop a biotin deficiency, but it has happened.
All right, that’s all for now, egg fanatics. In the meantime, we can all wait for the next big study so we can finally find out how eggs are affecting our health. Until yet another study says the exact opposite, of course.