Eggs are an incredibly versatile food. From scrambled to poached, there are many ways to cook an egg exactly the way you like it.
And they’re not just for breakfast either. Eggs are found in baked goods, salads, sandwiches, ice cream, soups, stir-fries, sauces, and casseroles. Since you might be eating eggs on a regular basis, any health-conscious person should know about their nutrition.
Fortunately, eggs are healthier and lower in calories than most people think!
There are about 72 calories in a large egg (50 grams). The exact number depends on the size of an egg. You can expect a small egg to have slightly less than 72 calories and an extra-large egg to have slightly more.
Here’s a general breakdown by size:
- small egg (38 grams): 54 calories
- medium egg (44 grams): 63 calories
- large egg (50 grams): 72 calories
- extra-large egg (56 grams): 80 calories
- jumbo egg (63 grams): 90 calories
Keep in mind that this is for an egg with no added ingredients. Once you start adding oil or butter to a frying pan to cook the egg or serve it alongside bacon, sausage, or cheese, the calorie count increases dramatically.
Whites vs. yolks
An egg’s nutrition profile is about more than just its calorie count. Eggs are an incredibly well-rounded food and contain a wealth of healthy nutrients. Like calories, the nutritional content varies greatly between the yolks and egg whites.
Protein is essential for growth, health, and repair. It is also needed to make hormones, enzymes, and antibodies. There are 6 grams of protein in one large egg. The majority is found in the egg white. This is a lot of protein!
The recommended dietary allowance for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For example, a person who weighs 140 pounds (63.5 kilograms) needs about 51 grams of protein per day. A single egg would provide nearly 12 percent of this person’s daily protein needs! You can use this handy calculator from the United States Department of Agriculture to figure out how much protein you need each day to stay healthy.
Egg yolks also contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The exact amount of omega-3s varies depending on the specific diet of the hen that produced that egg. Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the body and may lower your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and arthritis. They are highly concentrated in the brain and have been shown to be important for brain performance (cognition) and memory. Some hens are fed a diet supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids. Look for eggs labeled omega-3 or DHA (a type of omega-3) in the grocery store.
You may have heard that egg yolks have a lot of cholesterol. The average large egg contains 186 milligrams of cholesterol. It is a common misconception that eggs are “bad for you” because of the cholesterol content. Not all cholesterol is bad. Cholesterol actually serves several vital functions in the body. Most people can eat an egg or two every day without having a problem with their cholesterol levels.
If your cholesterol is already high or you have diabetes, you can still eat eggs in moderation (four to six per week) without any problems, as long as you don’t consistently eat other foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, or cholesterol.
Eggs contain very little carbohydrate (less than 1 gram per egg), so they are not a source of sugar or fiber.
Eggs are a great source of B vitamins, especially vitamins B-2 (riboflavin) and B-12.
Vitamin B-12 is used by the body to make DNA, the genetic material in all of our cells. It also keeps our body's nerve and blood cells healthy, protects against heart disease, and prevents a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia.
Only animal foods contain vitamin B-12 naturally, so if you are a vegetarian who doesn’t eat meat, eggs are a good way to make sure you still get some B-12.
Choline is an important vitamin for the normal functioning of all cells in your body. It assures the functions of cell membranes, especially in the brain. It’s needed in higher amounts during pregnancy and breast-feeding. An egg has roughly 147 milligrams of choline.
Eggs are also a good source of selenium, calcium, iodine, and phosphorous. Selenium, an antioxidant, is helpful to protect the body against fee radical damage that has been associated with aging, heart disease, and even some types of cancer.
Eggs are one of the eight types of foods considered to be a major food allergen. Symptoms of an egg allergy that might appear right after eating one include:
- hives on the face or around the mouth
- nasal congestion
- coughing or tight chest
- nausea, cramps, and sometimes vomiting
- a severe, life-threatening emergency called anaphylaxis (rare)
Raw eggs aren’t considered safe to eat. This is because of the risk of contamination with harmful bacteria known as Salmonella. Some people do eat raw eggs, as the risk of Salmonella contamination is very low in the United States. Still, it may not be a risk worth taking.
Salmonella is the most common cause of hospitalization and death from food-borne illness. Salmonella poisoning can cause fever, cramps, and dehydration. Infants, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are at an increased risk for serious illness.
The best way to prevent Salmonella poisoning is to refrigerate store-bought eggs as soon as you get home and to make sure to cook your eggs thoroughly, to at least 160°Fahrenheit, before eating. If you’re going to eat raw or undercooked eggs, opt for pasteurized eggs.
Eggs may be cooked many different ways. You can boil them in their shell to make a hard-boiled egg. You can fry eggs, make an omelet, frittata, or just have them scrambled, poached, or pickled.
Eggs can be used in recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert too! Here’s just a handful of the countless ways to cook with eggs:
- Frittatas are perfect for a quick dinner or weekend brunch. Include vegetables like spinach and zucchini. Leave out the yolks for a lower-calorie version, like this recipe from “The Healthy Chef.” View the recipe.
- The combination of egg with avocado is pure bliss. Try this recipe for baked eggs in avocado with bacon from “White on Rice Couple” for your next hearty breakfast. View the recipe.
- Eggs are a big part of this prepare-ahead creamy corn gratin side dish from the author of “From Brazil to You.” View the recipe.
- Egg salads can get old quickly. Go off the beaten path with this spiced-up version of the classic egg salad from “Homesick Texan.” View the recipe.
- No recipe list is complete without a dessert! Flourless chocolate cake is both gluten-free and relatively high in protein. Plus, there are only three ingredients in this recipe from “Kirbie’s Cravings.” View the recipe.
A single large egg contains roughly 72 calories: 17 in the whites and 55 in the yolks. From a calorie standpoint, an egg counts as less than 4 percent of a 2,000-calorie diet.
Eggs are a rich source of:
- B vitamins, including B-12
- omega-3 fatty acids, depending on the diet of the hen
The vitamins, nutrients, and minerals found in eggs can help you:
- build and repair muscles and organs
- enhance your memory, brain development, and function
- protect against heart disease
- prevent anemia
- grow healthy and strong hair and nails
In general, the white part of the egg is the best source of protein, with very few calories, while the egg yolk carries the cholesterol, fats, choline, vitamins, minerals, and the bulk of the overall calories. If you’re looking for a way to add some protein, vitamins, and healthy fats to your diet without adding too many calories, eggs are an excellent choice.