Are Egg Whites Or Whole Eggs Healthier?

Eggs sunny side up in a slice of bread accompanied by bowl of eggs and tomatoes
Eggs sunny side up in a slice of bread accompanied by bowl of eggs and tomatoes

You've tried so hard to be healthy. You watch your calories, exercise regularly and always toss out the yolks when you make your veggie omelet. Well, it may be time to reconsider! (At least when it comes to your eggs.) Whole eggs don't raise your risk of heart disease -- in fact, according to nutrition coach Liz Wolfe, NTP, author of Eat The Yolks, it may be worse for your health to not eat them.

The Scrambled Facts
Egg yolks, along with other sources of saturated fat and cholesterol, came under fire in the wake of research by Nikolai Anichkov at the turn of the 20th century. Anichkov fed rabbits pure cholesterol and noted that their arteries clogged up with plaque, leading to a hypothesis that cholesterol promotes heart disease. But since then, there have been questions raised about how closely the two are related. Wolfe counters: “Rabbits have nothing in common with human bodies ... and cholesterol isn't part of their diet anyway.”

Nevertheless, the findings gave rise to a witch hunt that demonized foods high in fat and cholesterol. Researcher Ancel Keys made headlines in the 1950s with his Seven Countries' Study, which almost single-handedly set the line of thinking on saturated fat that prevails today. Keys claimed that after looking at the average diets of populations in seven different countries, he was able to determine that those who ate the most animal fat had the highest rates of heart disease. But his analysis was flawed. Although Keys' data did show a connection between fat and heart disease, he couldn't demonstrate that the relationship was causal. Furthermore, while mortality rates for heart disease were higher in the countries that consumed the most animal fat, deaths from nearly ever other cause were lower -- and overall life expectancy was higher.

The Sunny Side Of Things
Thankfully, more concrete findings have come to light in the years since. In 2010, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a meta-analysis -- the collected findings of 21 different studies -- which stated that "saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke or coronary vascular disease."

Earlier this year, Time magazine reversed the argument it made in a 1984 cover story claiming eggs and other high-fat foods were dangerous, and even encouraged readers to eat butter over margarine.

So what is the real cause of heart disease? Wolfe suggests it lies in the inflammation caused by "chronic stress levels, and the overconsumption of vegetable oils and processed carbohydrates." In other words: "Limit foods that come in boxes and bags."

The Hard-Boiled Truth
Meanwhile, if you've been avoiding egg yolks, you've been missing out on a world of good nutrition. According to Wolfe, "They're a great source of vitamin A, which is good for skin, B vitamins for energy and choline, which supports brain health, muscles and is necessary for a healthy pregnancy." The saturated fat in yolks is also necessary for hormone production and the body's absorption of vitamins and minerals.

As long as you control your overall calories, whole egg consumption won't cause weight gain, despite its fat content. However, if you're trying to hit certain macronutrient numbers for a diet, or just want to restrict calories, having a few white-only eggs can be appropriate. When in doubt, check in with a nutritionist to see how well your current food choices stack up against your health and fitness goals.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that egg whites block biotin absorption. This is only true of raw egg whites.

The 3-Minute Burrito That'll Keep You Going For Hours
While so many breakfast wraps include eggs, this one relies on black beans for protein. Fill a whole wheat tortilla with a half-cup each of cooked black beans and sliced, roasted peppers, along with a sprinkling of shredded cheese, salsa and chopped cilantro. Roll up and store in the freezer, wrapped in plastic. In the morning, remove plastic, wrap loosely in a damp paper towel and microwave 3 minutes.
The All-In-One Rev-Er-Upper
Sang An
Get your caffeine fix and your morning meal all in one with this frothy smoothie, which incorporates a double shot of espresso, vanilla soy milk, cashew butter and a frozen banana. The shake contains 6 grams of protein, which is about the same amount you'll find in 1 egg. Get the recipe: Get-Up-and-Go Protein Smoothie
A Savory Mix You Can Nibble On All Morning
Trail mix can be healthy -- if you make it yourself and keep the portions reasonable. This combo is packed with good-for-you ingredients, and will keep your energy up until lunch. Mix together a cup each of unfrosted, shredded Mini-Wheats and popcorn, and an eighth-cup each of toasted pumpkin seeds and cashews (plain are fine, but Trader Joe's Thai Lime & Chili Cashews are even better).
The Veggie Scramble That's As Hearty As Any Blue-Plate Special
Vegan and vegetarian cooking instructor Colleen Patrick-Goudreau knows that preparing tofu can be tricky -- especially with the dizzying range of textures and styles available at supermarkets -- but she promises that if you start with the right kind, you'll get delicious results. The secret to making a perfectly fluffy, non-watery scramble, Patrick-Goudreau says, is using extra-firm tofu (and squeezing out some of the water before you begin cooking). It's perfect in a tortilla with salsa, or topped with fresh herbs. Get the recipe: Tofu Scramble
A Sandwich With Some Heft
Instead of making a traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich, try apple slices and almond butter on a toasted whole wheat English muffin or flat bagel. The fruit contains less added sugar than jelly -- and it also provides a nice crunch to contrast the smooth nut butter.
The Brunchy, Meaty -- And Healthy! -- Casserole
Ben Fink
This big breakfast bake is made from grits, instead of the usual cheese, but it's no less comforting. It'll energize you, too, since it includes turkey kielbasa, which is lower in calories and saturated fat than pork sausage yet still high in protein. You can make a batch, and when it's cool, cut it into individual portions and refrigerate to eat later, either at room temperature or reheated. Get the recipe: Tomato Grits and Sausage
A Dessert-Inspired Way To Start Your Day (With No Sugar Crash)
We're all for indulging in cheesecake for breakfast, if only it didn't come with a sugar high, and then hunger pangs an hour later. Not this tasty meal: It delivers creaminess and a sweet hit, thanks to skim ricotta cheese and sliced strawberries. Spread a few spoonfuls of cheese on large fiber crispbreads, add fresh mint leaves if you like, top with the fruit and you'll stay sated all morning.