Egg White: If you’ve ever tracked macronutrients and found yourself short on protein, you may have loaded up on an extra serving or two of egg whites for a protein boost. Egg whites are good for you—they contain more than 26 grams of protein per cup, along with 126 calories, less than two grams of carbohydrates, and negligible fat. There’s no denying egg white nutrition when it comes to clean, vegetarian protein.
However, egg whites are technically more water than anything: They’re made up of about 10 percent protein and 90 percent water, says Emma Newell, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian with NourishRX based in Salem, Mass. When you look at a whole egg, the majority of the protein comes from the egg white—which is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids (great for vegetarians!). But overall, other than protein, egg white nutrition is minimal, says Newell.
Comparing the Nutritional Value of Egg Whites vs. Whole Eggs
If you’re wondering if whole eggs are healthy, the answer is a resounding yes. Eggs are one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there, provided you eat the whole thing, whites and yolk. Nutrient density refers to a food’s nutritional value relative to its calorie count. Nutrient-dense foods pack in a ton of macro- and micronutrients for how few calories they are. Case in point: From one large egg, you’ll get 13 essential vitamins and minerals and 6 grams of protein for a small 70 calories.
Egg Yolk Nutrition
It’s true, the yolk of an egg contains about 5 grams of fat and 211 milligrams of cholesterol, which may be two reasons some opt for egg whites over the whole egg. But by not eating the egg yolk, you’re missing out on key micronutrients, says Newell. These include lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids essential to eye health; choline, which has been shown to improve memory and performance (eggs are one of the few food sources of choline); and folate, known to reduce neural tube defects in fetuses. Yolks are also high in vitamin B12, riboflavin, and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K, adds Newell.
The Bottom Line on Egg White Nutrition, According to an RD
Eating egg whites alone may not provide adequate nutrition, and even though they are full of protein, eating them alone without other macro- and micronutrients can detract from the overall satiety and satisfaction at mealtime, says Newell.
Unless it’s just your personal preference, “I wouldn’t recommend consuming egg whites over the whole egg,” she says. “Egg whites solely provide a protein source, and if you’re not including the egg yolk, you’re missing out on key nutrients and overall satisfaction that the whole egg can provide.”
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Some people also talk anecdotally about egg whites causing constipation. While there’s not much research out there showing this, Newell says it could be due to the fact that eggs don’t contain dietary fiber, which is helpful for consistent bowel movements.
Newell adds that while egg yolks do contain dietary cholesterol, studies have shown that overall saturated fat has a greater impact on cholesterol levels in the body, and therefore heart disease risk, than dietary cholesterol. Translation? “Those at risk for heart disease can safely consume whole eggs while following an overall balanced diet [incorporating] whole grains, fruits, and vegetables,” Newell adds.
Healthy Ways to Eat Egg Whites
The classic way to use egg whites is to replace some or all of the whole eggs with them in an omelet, adding lots of fresh vegetables, a little cheese, and some potato hash or whole-grain toast on the side for a balanced, satisfying meal, Newell suggests. You can also use egg whites in nontraditional ways, such as baking it into your granola (one egg white is the perfect way to get it extra crispy!) or mixed into homemade protein bars (it’s tasteless, but adds a protein boost to the final product).
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Of course, whipped egg whites are essential to baked treats such as meringues, souffles, and angel food cake. (Learn how to master whipped egg whites here.) You’ll get the best results with these recipes using egg whites separated from the whole egg rather than boxed egg whites sold at supermarkets.
You may also find dried egg whites on store shelves. It can be more convenient than fresh or liquid egg whites, as the dried version has a longer shelf life and doesn’t need to be stored in the fridge, says Newell. (But did you know you can actually freeze egg whites?) You simply reconstitute the store-bought, dried egg whites with water and use as directed. Some companies, such as Naked Nutrition, also produce protein powder made from egg whites as an alternative to whey or casein proteins. This is a good option for those with dairy allergies to add to things like smoothies or to use in baking, says Newell.
If you do prefer to eat egg whites, here are some of our favorite healthy recipes to try.
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