The Free Press, Mankato, MN

March 11, 2014

Dietitian column: From choline to protein, egg benefits outweigh cons

By April Graff
Hy-Vee Registered Dietitian

---- — Q: What's the story on eggs? Are they a good choice, or should I avoid them?

A: Healthy adults can enjoy an egg a day without increasing their risk for heart disease, particularly if individuals opt for low cholesterol foods throughout the day. One egg has about 70-80 calories and is relatively low in fat; a single egg contains only about 1.5 grams of saturated fat. Egg whites are an excellent source of protein and the yolks contain a wealth of nutrients including iron, lutein, choline, and vitamins A,D,E and K. Some eggs contain omega-3 fatty acids. So, in general, eggs can be pretty good for you when eaten in moderation.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association recommend that individuals consume, on average, less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day. A single large egg contains 185 mg cholesterol. While most research suggests that cholesterol intake from eating eggs has less impact on your cholesterol levels than eating foods high in saturated fat (like butter and red meat), it’s still important to watch your cholesterol intake, particularly if you have cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

Eggs are all-natural and provide one of the highest quality proteins of any food available. One egg provides more than six grams of protein, or 13 percent of the recommended Daily Value (DV), and nearly half is found in the yolk. In fact, the protein quality in an egg is so high that the scientists often use eggs as the standard for measuring the protein quality of other foods.

The all-natural, high-quality protein, like the protein in eggs, helps build muscles and allows you to feel full longer and stay energized, which can help you maintain a healthy weight. In fact, eating eggs for breakfast reduces hunger and decreases calorie consumption at lunch and throughout the day. The protein in eggs provides steady and sustained energy because it does not cause a surge in blood sugar or insulin levels, which can lead to a rebound effect or energy “crash” as blood sugar levels drop. In addition to being a nutrient-rich source of high-quality protein, eggs provide varying amounts of several B vitamins required for the production of energy in the body, such as thiamin, riboflavin, folate, B12 and B6. And not only does the protein in eggs help kids and active adults build muscle strength, high-quality protein may help older adults prevent age-related muscle loss.

Dietary protein intake directly influences muscle mass, strength and function in people of all ages. The six grams of high-quality protein in eggs can help active individuals build and preserve muscle, and help adults prevent muscle loss. Consuming protein foods, like eggs, following exercise can maximize muscle repair.

Eggs are an excellent source of choline, a little-known but essential nutrient that contributes to fetal brain development and helps prevent birth defects. The National Academy of Sciences recommends increased choline intake for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Two eggs — including the yolks — contain about 250 milligrams of choline, or roughly half the recommended daily amount. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that pregnant women consume 450 milligrams of choline per day and that breastfeeding women consume 550 milligrams per day.

April Graff, MS, RD, LD, is a reg­istered dietitian at both Mankato Hy-Vee stores and can be reached at or call 625-1107 or 625-9070. Send her ques­tions about food and nutrition, recipes, meal planning and healthy shopping.