Are Egg Whites Healthy? Benefits, Nutrition, Risks

Are Egg Whites Healthy? Benefits, Nutrition, Risks

Egg white is the clear liquid inside eggs that form around the yellow yolk. Both egg whites and egg yolk are healthy as they are highly nutritious. Egg whites in particular are high in protein. This is especially noteworthy because egg whites can offer a protein source at any time of the day.

Here are the potential health benefits of egg whites as we dive into research findings, comparing them to whole eggs, examining potential risks, and providing practical tips for integrating them into your diet. It’s important to note that research on egg whites is limited and involves small human groups. Further research is necessary to validate findings and fully comprehend the potential health benefits of egg whites.

Daily consumption of egg whites fermented in lactic acid (which helped improve its flavor) for eight weeks (equivalent to 8 grams of egg white protein daily), combined with regular exercise, notably boosted muscle weight in the arms and legs of women over 55. Additionally, it enhanced muscle strength for activities like knee extensions.

However, it’s worth mentioning that some studies indicate that whole egg protein, which includes the yolks (which also contain some protein)—maybe even more effective at increasing muscle mass and strength than egg white protein alone.

In a study with 37 adults having a BMI (body mass index) of 25 or higher, egg whites fermented in lactic acid (equivalent to 8 grams of egg white protein daily) were compared to a control for 12 weeks. Those who consumed the fermented egg whites experienced a notable decrease in visceral fat (fat around organs) and showed significant improvements in the ratio of visceral to subcutaneous fat (fat beneath the skin) compared to both their initial measurements and the control group.

In a 2017 study, 88 adult men with mildly high cholesterol were divided into three groups consuming different amounts of lactic acid-fermented egg whites. Each group consumed either 4 grams, 6 grams, or 8 grams of egg whites for eight weeks. Those consuming 8 grams saw a significant drop in total cholesterol levels compared to their baseline and a notably greater decrease than the 4-gram group.

Additionally, the 8-gram group experienced a significant reduction in LDL or “bad” cholesterol compared to both their baseline and the 4-gram group. Daily consumption of 8 grams of egg white protein may reduce LDL and cholesterol levels in men with mildly high cholesterol, potentially preventing heart disease.

A study with student-athletes examined the effects of an egg white protein supplement on their antioxidant capacity and mental fatigue. Antioxidants are linked to reduced fatigue post-exercise.

The results of the first part of the study, which involved 19 participants, revealed that, compared to a placebo, those who consumed the egg white supplement showed significantly increased antioxidant capacity. Additionally, in the second part of the study with 74 participants, two weeks of egg white supplementation significantly reduced mental fatigue compared to the placebo group.

These are the nutrition facts for the egg white of one large, grade A egg (34 grams):

  • Calories: 17.7
  • Protein: 3.64 grams (g)
  • Fat: < 0.08 g
  • Carbohydrate: 0.802 g
  • Selenium: 6.09 micrograms (mcg), or 11% of the daily value (DV)
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2): 0.133 milligrams (mg), or 10% of the DV

Egg whites are commonly recognized as a pure protein source thanks to their high protein content, and amino acid score of 100. This score means that egg whites supply all the essential amino acids vital for human health, which the body cannot produce independently and therefore must obtain from the diet. The amino acids that the body can produce are termed non-essential amino acids.

Amino acids serve as the fundamental building blocks of protein, which the body needs to build bones, muscles, and skin. Amino acids also form the backbone for compounds such as hormones and neurotransmitters (messengers in the brain).

Egg whites are low in most vitamins and minerals, but they are a good source of selenium, a nutrient important for reproduction, thyroid function, and DNA production. Selenium also helps protect the body from infection and cellular damage.

Egg whites are also a good source of riboflavin (vitamin B2), which is important for proper growth and development and for turning food into energy.

When comparing egg whites to whole eggs, it’s clear that egg whites are primarily known for their high protein content, offering little else in terms of nutrients.

On the other hand, a whole large egg with its yolk provides a variety of essential nutrients. A single large whole egg contains approximately 72 calories, 6 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat. Moreover, whole eggs serve as a good source of iodine and riboflavin.

Whole eggs are also rich in selenium, choline, and vitamin A, with amounts that fulfill at least 20% of the daily recommended intake. Choline is essential for the brain and nervous system, supporting mood, memory, muscle control, and other functions. Vitamin A is crucial for proper growth, development, and immune and eye health.

Additionally, whole eggs contain lutein and zeaxanthin, types of carotenoids (plant pigments) that can protect against eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

Eating only egg whites could lead to missing out on various nutrients. However, if you’re aiming to increase your protein intake without the additional calories and fat from the yolk, then egg whites might be a good option.

Eggs are generally safe to eat, but they do come with some risks.

An egg allergy develops when the body’s immune system becomes sensitive or overreacts to the protein in egg whites and/or egg yolks. It’s estimated that 2% of children have an egg allergy, though about 70% of them outgrow it by the age of 16. Symptoms of an egg allergy include rash and stomach pains. If you have felt sick after eating eggs or suspect you may have an allergy, it’s important to see an allergy specialist.

Eggshells can become contaminated with Salmonella bacteria from bird droppings after the eggs are laid. The inside of eggs can also be contaminated if the egg is formed inside a chicken before the shell is made.

Salmonella can cause symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. These symptoms can be especially serious in young children, elderly adults, and those with weakened immune systems. It’s important to handle eggs properly, which includes inspecting eggs you’ve purchased, discarding cracked ones, and keeping them refrigerated at 40 degrees or colder. Cooking egg whites and egg yolks until firm can reduce Salmonella risk.

Additionally, consuming large amounts of raw egg whites can lead to biotin (vitamin B7) deficiency, also known as “egg white injury.” Raw eggs contain avidin, which can bind to biotin in the gut and prevent its absorption.

In addition to separating egg whites from yolks in whole eggs, you can also find egg whites available in cartons containing just the whites, as well as in the form of dried egg whites or egg white powder. Cooking with dried egg whites involves mixing with water as instructed on the package before cooking.

Here are some delicious ways to enjoy egg whites:

  • Scramble with veggies like bell peppers and onions
  • Bake in muffin trays with broccoli and cheese
  • Add cooked egg whites to salads, sandwiches, or wraps for protein
  • Spread mashed avocado on a rice cake or toast and top with sliced hard-boiled whites, seasoning, and a dash of hot sauce
  • Fill a tortilla with scrambled egg whites, diced tomatoes, onions, and a sprinkle of cheese
  • Make pancakes using egg whites instead of whole eggs for a low-calorie, high-protein breakfast option

Consuming egg whites may offer health benefits such as increased muscle mass and strength and potentially reduced cholesterol levels. However, it’s important to be cautious of risks associated with eggs, such as salmonella and allergies, by handling and cooking them properly and seeking medical attention if you suspect an egg allergy.

Egg whites offer a low-calorie, low-fat, and high-protein option. They can be incorporated into various meals and snacks. But it’s essential to acknowledge that the yolk provides a wide range of nutrients.

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