That’s All Yolks: Whole Egg Nutrition

Dr. Christopher McGowan
December 3, 2021

Of all the conflicting nutrition advice you can find, the swirl of confusion and conflicting advice over the years regarding eggs might take the cake. Since early research into the role of dietary  cholesterol in heart disease surfaced in the 1960s, some in the medical and nutrition worlds have demonized eggs due to their high cholesterol content. 

New research is beginning to challenge this conventional wisdom, though, and eggs are increasingly seen as healthy, nutritious, and even essential components of a healthy diet. On top of the nutritional debate, the proponents of non-meat protein have people running back to the convenience and taste of eggs for their undeniable nutritional value and lowered environmental impact compared to protein sources like beef or pork.  

What is the Yolk of an Egg?

The yolk is the nutrient-rich, bright yellow portion of the inside of an egg. The yolk contains the fats, proteins, and other nutrients that serve to feed the embryo of a fertilized egg. In the unfertilized eggs we eat, the yolk contains the balance of the calories and nutrients that make eggs an important part of the daily diets of people around the world. 

Chicken eggs are one of the most widely consumed sources of protein on the planet. Nearly every culture consumes them in some quantity. Eggs have found their way into every part of the meal from appetizers to delectable desserts like meringues, creme brulee, and even ice cream. 

Is Egg Yolk Bad for Health?

There are few natural, whole foods that are universally good or bad for anyone. Each person’s dietary needs are different, and some foods that can be good for certain people may not be advisable for others. Egg yolks certainly fall into this category. The higher fat and cholesterol found in the yolk of an egg makes them less appealing to individuals who are on severe caloric restrictions or who need to be careful about their cholesterol intake. 

One potential source of danger from eggs is food poisoning. You should be careful when consuming any products containing raw eggs, as there is potential for you to get sick. Salmonella contamination is a serious concern with undercooked eggs, and consuming raw eggs or products that contain them, such as cookie dough, carries the risk of potentially serious illness. 

Proponents of low-cholesterol diets or individuals worried about the fat content of egg yolks have long suggested eating only egg whites rather than eating whole eggs. While this does cut down on the overall calories you consume, recent research has suggested that there are distinct health benefits to eating the entire egg. This coincides with new research that suggests the level of cholesterol in your diet has less to do with heart disease than previous thought. Chronic inflammation and other dietary factors like sugar intake are now being considered as more significant contributors to the formation of arterial plaque that was previously thought to be linked to increased dietary cholesterol intake.

On the positive side, there are many, many reasons to put eggs on the menu. These reasons include carotenoids like zeaxanthin and lutein, which help with ocular health. The much-touted omega-3 fatty acids sought after in fish and seafood are also found in high levels in the yolk of eggs. 

Eggs are so much more than a convenient source of protein. In addition to being a balanced source of healthy fats, protein and calories, eggs are packed with important nutrients such as:

  • calcium
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin D
  • phosphorus
  • potassium
  • riboflavin
  • folate
  • selenium

Getting Egg Yolks Into Your Diet

Depending on your nutritional needs and limitations, eggs can be a great addition on their own. Egg yolks can find their way onto your plate in other surprising places. For the carb-friendly, traditional Italian pastas contain egg yolks, as does the egg wash brushed on top of many baked goods during cooking. Some Italian dishes such as spaghetti carbonara even contain egg in the sauce as well. Other sauces from European cuisine like mayonnaise, béarnaise, or hollandaise all contain egg yolks, and eggs can even be added to vinaigrette dressings as an emulsifier to prevent oils and vinegars from separating. 

Finding ways to make use of egg yolks can be handy, as many other recipes only call for the whites of an egg, potentially meaning you will have leftover egg yolks to spare. Meringue, macarons, and key lime pies are all known for the delicious, light textures, all of which contain egg whites but no yolks. 

When it comes to cooking whole eggs, it turns out that there is a sweet spot between cooing the whites of an egg to destroy certain proteins, and leaving the yellow egg yolk raw and runny to maximize nutrition. The solf, uncooked yolks of sunny side-up, poached, or soft-boiled eggs contain vitamins and nutrients that can be destroyed by the high heat of being cooked through. Do exercise caution, though, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends cooking the full egg thoroughly to minimize your risk of salmonella food poisoning. 

Egg Yolks and Weight Loss

If you are worried about the effects eating eggs could have on weight loss, it is important to remember that, like all foods, it is better to eat healthy and exercise as much as you can rather than depriving your body of the nutrients it needs. Knocking back egg-rich tarts or vanilla ice cream may not be a good way to get eggs into your diet, but a couple of large eggs made into an occasional omelet can be a great source of much needed protein as well as other important vitamins and minerals. It is often not the eggs but the condiments we put on them, such as hollandaise sauce, that can leave us with too many calories on our plates. 

Losing weight, and keeping it off, is no easy task. Cutting the yolks out of your eggs can deprive you of nutrients along with cutting your caloric intake. Many diets, exercise programs, weight loss procedures, and even weight loss surgeries all fall into this same category of needing to balance the tradeoffs to find what works for you. 

At True You, we help a wide range of individuals to find the right solutions for each and every person we work with. For some, procedures such as an endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty may be necessary to achieve necessary results. In still other cases, individuals who have already undergone a bariatric surgery find that the unwanted weight they lost has returned, meaning a bariatric revision may be needed. 

Wherever you are in your journey to find freedom from the challenges of excess body weight, True You is here to help. If you are ready to take the next step toward life at a healthy, sustainable weight, request a consultation with True You today.

Dr. Christopher McGowan
Dr. Christopher McGowan

Dr. Christopher McGowan, MD, a leader in endobariatrics, specializes in non-surgical obesity treatments and is triple-board-certified in Internal Medicine, Gastroenterology, and Obesity Medicine. Renowned for pioneering endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (ESG) with over 2,000 procedures, his global influence and research contributions define him as a top expert.

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