It’s not uncommon to ditch the yolks when preparing a plate of eggs. In 1968, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended consuming no more than three egg yolks per week in order to reduce cardiovascular disease. A back-and-forth battle followed about whether it’s egg whites or the whole egg that’s the heart-healthy breakfast choice. And people are still very confused.
In recent years, the egg yolk has slowly made a comeback. First, the AHA’s 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans dropped the daily limit on dietary cholesterol and included eggs in all three of its recommended healthy eating patterns. Then, earlier this year, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found those who ate seven or more eggs per week actually had better cardiovascular health than the participants who only ate one or less egg per week. Is an egg white omelette one of the biggest healthy-eating myths out there? Kinda seems like it.
“It used to be said that egg yolks raise cholesterol and increase our chances for heart disease and stroke. But the current research shows that eggs do not have a link to increasing blood cholesterol and can actually help raise good cholesterol, aka HDL,” says registered dietitian Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD. “Dietary cholesterol from food has very little effect on blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol is formed in the liver, and is much more affected by the consumption of trans and saturated fats than by the consumption of dietary cholesterol.”
According to Beckerman, if you’re only eating egg whites, you’re missing out on a lot of what the whole egg has to offer. “We discovered that the majority of the nutrients coming from an egg are lurking in the yolk, meaning we should eat the whole egg,” she says. “I often refer to eggs as nature’s multivitamin. They’re a cheap, satiating, easy to find, and they’re an excellent source of high-quality protein. They contain all the essential amino acids your body needs. Plus, your body is fully able to absorb all the protein from the eggs to help lower blood pressure, optimize bone health, and help increase muscle mass.”
Amy Gorin, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian in the New York City area sides with the yolk in the egg whites versus whole egg battle, too. “Please, please eat the whole egg. The majority of an egg’s vitamins and minerals are found within the egg yolk. These include choline, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B6, iron, vitamin E, zinc, folate, phosphorus, selenium, riboflavin, lutein and zeaxanthin, and protein,” she says. “Choline is a nutrient that helps brain health, and lutein and zeaxanthin are beneficial for eye health.”
But what does a cardiologist think? According to Nieca Goldberg, MD, the medical director of New York University’s Women’s Heart Program, there are only a few exceptions to the “eat the whole egg” rule. “Egg whites are a healthier option for people who have to lower their fat intake. They’re also a healthy choice if you have to lower your saturated fat due to high cholesterol,” she says. And if either of those instances make sense for you, don’t worry—you’re still reaping plenty of nutritional benefits from the egg whites. “An egg white from a large egg has no fat and 4 grams of protein,” she says. Now who’s ready for breakfast?
Try this vegetarian cauliflower fried rice recipe: