For one of the most ubiquitous foods, we have many and varied views about eggs.
I like eggs. I’ve always liked eggs. But my relationship with the protein-packed ovum is not without conflict. As the field of nutritional science has advanced and expanded, the recommendations regarding egg consumption have wavered from one extreme to another. I’ve heard everything from, “Don’t eat eggs. They’re high in cholesterol and fat and that’s bad for you” to “You’re crazy if you don’t eat eggs. There’s so much nutritional value, especially in the yolk!” It’s confusing and frustrating and enough to make a well-intentioned, health-minded person say “Forget it! Just give me a pop tart!”
But I like eggs so I’ve always eaten them in some capacity. They’re relatively inexpensive. They taste good. You can add vegetables for extra nutrients and taste. Plus, they’re quick and easy to make. There have been times when, depending on what my goals were, I’ve eaten more whites than whole eggs thinking that’s what was necessary (i’m not sure it was but that’s a different story). In all, I was feeling quite secure in my relationship with eggs when a client mentioned a nutritional seminar she attended where the speaker said, unless the yolk remained intact during the cooking process, specifically hardboiled or poached, the nutritional value of the yolk was void. Wait just a second! Is that possible? I like my eggs fried, scrambled, and in omelette form. Are you telling me I’ve eaten all these yolks and I haven’t been getting ANY nutrients from them? No, just….no.
So I called up Madison Wright, M.S. to get some further clarification. She explained it like this “Many nutrients are sensitive to oxidation, heat, and various methods of preparation. When one comes up with a question like, ‘Will I lose more nutrients to boiling or pan frying an egg?’ … Well you can assure yourself that your nutrition knowledge is a cut above the rest of the humans out there. One thing us humans lose sight of sometimes (starting with the nutrition industry itself) is that we don’t eat nutrients – we eat food. Nutrients are found in our foods and it’s important to choose your foods wisely on a daily basis so that the congregate of those foods at the end of the day are enough to meet your individual nutrient needs. I say this because it is simply preposterous to think that anyone (including dietitians) are going to go around with a clipboard tallying up all their macros and micros all day, everyday to make sure that no microgram of nutrient was left behind…. No way.”
She went into further detail stating that, “The incredible, edible egg is rich with nutrients (see below for details.) Of these nutrients, the egg is a good source of riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin D, phosphorous, and selenium (and of course protein). In general, the water-soluble vitamins (specifically here: riboflavin and B12) are more sensitive to heat and fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin D) are more heat stable. Nutrient analysis data shows that whether you hard boil or pan-fry an egg, negligible amount of these nutrients are lost – and most will still remain “good sources” after being cooked. However, this all depends on time and temperature. If you cook something for an extended period of time and/or use high heat during it’s preparation – you will lose more of both types of vitamins (water-soluble and fat-soluble).
My best advice to a consumer is to try to control your time when hard boiling an egg (ever try a 6 minute egg?? They are delicious with a soft, slightly runny middle!). And try using low heat when frying an egg. This will not only render a perfect pair of eggs, but also help you preserve nutrient content. And if you use olive oil as your cooking fat, you will increase the omega-3 punch of these eggs! (just FYI – eggs contain a very small amount of omega-3s).”
Whew….It looks like I might be able to ride off into the sunset with my beloved after all.
Madison Wright's Bio:
Madison has been working in the health and wellness space since 2009 as a nutritionist, barre teacher, and personal trainer. She holds an undergraduate and graduate degree in nutrition science. Madison is currently completing her Masters of Education and Dietetic Internship at Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves to eat (she moved to NYC for the restaurants!), salsa dancing, paperback books, and WWII documentaries. She has a deep disdain for cold food and would love to eat churros at every meal (if there were no health consequences). Instagram: @madfitnutrition