Okay friends, I got an email question the other day about why I eat egg whites instead of whole eggs, and it fits into our protein theme for the week so I wanted to address it. If you follow me on insta, you’ll notice I eat egg whites alot (almost every morning). So…why?
First off, what are the benefits of egg whites?
Egg whites are high in protein, which is hard to find in breakfast foods. Half a cup of uncooked egg whites has 15g of protein, which compares to about 5g in 1/2 cup of uncooked oatmeal or 2g in 1/2 cup of Cheerios. Even protein-packed Greek yogurt, which is a another good breakfast option, has 10g in 1/2 cup.
In addition to being high in protein, egg whites are also low-calorie. The majority of calories in an egg white come from the protein, and there are minimal calories from fat or carbs. If you’re looking for a naturally high-protein/low-calorie option for breakfast (or brinner if you love breakfast foods like I do), egg whites are one of the best.
Now, what about the yolks?
The yolk of an egg holds the majority of the egg’s calories (80 calories total in an egg: 65 calories in the yolk, 15 in the egg white). Most of the calories in the yolk come from the fat content.
In terms of protein, one whole egg has about 6g (4g comes from the egg white), so you would need about 2.5 whole eggs to total the protein in half a cup of egg whites. Those 2.5 eggs would put you at about 200 calories vs. 60 calories for the half cup of egg whites. Either way it’s not a ton of calories, but if you add mix-ins to your eggs (like cheese or meat) or want a side of toast or fruit, the calories can quickly add up.
On the other hand, if your goal is to get more nutrients, don’t get rid of the yolk! The yolk holds the majority of the good stuff outside of protein, including vitamins, phospholipids (major component of cell membranes), and antioxidants.
Yolks get a bad rap because of cholesterol, which studies have shown is not a totally valid argument. Egg yolks have cholesterol, yes, but very little of that cholesterol is actually absorbed into the bloodstream since eggs have no trans fat and very little saturated fat. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Most healthy people can eat up to seven eggs a week with no increase in their risk of heart disease…this level of egg consumption may actually prevent some types of strokes.”
So, what’s better- eggs or egg whites?
If you’re eating for fat loss, I would recommend egg whites. The trick, though, is to make sure you’re getting nutrients from other sources since you’re cutting out the nutrient-rich yolk. Consider mix some veggies into your egg whites (like broccoli or spinach) so you can add some extra vitamins.
If you’re focused on getting the most nutrient-dense foods, whole eggs are the way to go. When I don’t have an egg white carton and need to use whole eggs, I definitely use the yolk because I just hate throwing all that good stuff down the drain. If I have both whole eggs and egg whites, I’ll use a combo (1 egg + 3 egg whites).
Side note: Awhile back I looked up what the companies that make cartons of egg whites do with the leftover egg yolks…I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they re-purpose them for salad dressings, ice cream, mayo, etc. AND they use the shells for natural soil fertilizer 🙂
I choose to eat egg whites most of the time for a few different reasons. First of all, I like to have a quick, high-protein, post-workout meal in the car on my way to work to help with muscle recovery. Since I avoid supplements and protein shakes I need to make sure I’m getting enough protein from the foods that I eat.
I always make egg muffins at the beginning of the week during meal prep. The quick prep on Sunday is worth it because I look seriously forward to my post-workout breakfast on weekdays. And finally, the last reason I choose egg whites is pretty simple… I actually prefer the taste. Yolks don’t sing to my tastebuds.
So the verdict is that every part of the egg has value, you just have to decide what you want from it.
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When it comes to supplements, in general I believe less is more.
I would always rather eat whole, natural foods than a pill or a powder.
If your doctor is recommending a supplement because of a dietary deficiency (and it’s a doctor that you trust), it could be worth considering. But in most cases, these products are falsely advertised as a “quick fix” for a diet problem that could be corrected with real food.
The fitness world in particular is full of supplements that are unnecessary, and some are even harmful.
Most of the hype is around protein powders. Listen…I promise that you do NOT need to walk around the gym with a shaker cup full of protein mix in order to see progress.
Don’t get me wrong, protein is incredibly important.
It is found in every cell of the body and it is the main component of muscles, nerves, skin, hair, and nails. While protein is and should be a large part of our diet, taking it too far and overeating it could strain our kidneys leading to things like dehydration, kidney damage, and osteoporosis.
So why should you throw away that protein powder?
1. You probably don’t need it. Believe it or not, most people already get enough protein in their diets.
-The Recommended Dietary Allowance of protein for adults is 0.8 grams per kg of body weight (1kg = 2.2lbs). This means a 140-pound woman would need about 51 grams of protein per day, which equates to one medium-sized piece of chicken breast and 2 eggs.
-It’s worth noting that this recommended value is the minimum to prevent deficiency, so I would suggest more like 1.2- 1.4 grams per kg if you exercise a few times per week. This still wouldn’t be much more (add in another small piece of chicken breast).
2. It’s not sustainable. We should want to know how to eat REAL food in a way that works for our bodies. If you rely on supplements for nutrition and ignore the rest of your food labels, you’re probably missing a lot of nutrients in your diet.
3. These powders, in addition to all other supplements, are NOT regulated before entering the U.S. marketplace. Per the FDA website, “There are no provisions in the law for the FDA to ‘approve’ dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they reach the consumer.” That statement alone is scary, but the scarier part is that it’s easier for a dangerous product to enter the market than to be banned from it. To remove an unsafe product from the market, the FDA has to fully prove said product has caused illness or death. In other words, consumers will have to start having visible proof of bad side-effects before the product is reviewed for safety. To make things worse, the reports of these side-effects are only seen by the FDA if they are submitted by the manufacturers and distributors of the product.. So…yeah. No thanks. (If you don’t believe me, read this). Using these supplements once in awhile might not cause too much damage, but most people who use them have them at least once a day. In my opinion, ingesting a synthetic, non-regulated, potentially harmful compound every single day for months (or even years) seems insane, especially when there are so many whole food alternatives.
4. Protein powders are expensive! Some of the more popular brands cost over $100 for a month’s worth of servings (assuming 1 per day for 30 days). Chicken breast costs about $4/pound, so $100 equates to about 67 6-oz servings. Just another reason to go with real food….
5. You should know what you’re eating. Next time you pick up your protein powder, check the label and see how many of the ingredients you can actually pronounce. If it’s less than half, probably a better choice to get some meat, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt, etc.
More to come on this….hop on my email list if you to hear it.