A few years ago, I somehow became scared of egg yolks. I know, not your typical phobia.
I’m not sure how it started, but I’m guessing I read somewhere on the Internet that egg yolks were high in fat and cholesterol, and interpreted that in my head to mean they would make me fat. I used to be somewhat of an idiot.
Anyway, I religiously avoided egg yolks for the next few years, sticking to egg white omelettes at brunch while secretly lusting after my friends’ poached eggs atop their Benedicts and the #foodporn that piercing the yolk led to. (Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?)
However, there’s recently been a backlash against the egg whites-only movement that I’ve subscribed to for so long (no doubt aided by how damn delicious poached eggs look in slow motion on Instagram). In a mission to upgrade my avocado toast game, I set out to find out exactly what is in egg whites and egg yolks and how that affects your body.
What’s in egg whites?
Egg whites are pretty straightforward. They’re mostly protein, with a little potassium and Vitamin B3 thrown in there. Protein is an important part of your diet, and eating it helps you stay full (especially if it’s in a post-workout snack).
So, egg whites are harmless. But what about those pesky yolks?
What’s in egg yolk?
Let’s start with the “bad” stuff. Ask someone what they associate with an egg yolk, and they’re likely to say “high cholesterol.” Yes, it’s true: egg yolks are high in cholesterol, with one egg yolk containing about 211mg of cholesterol. And back in the day, several studies linked high blood cholesterol to heart disease (quick science refresh: cholesterol is a waxy substance both found in food and made by your body). As a result, the American Dietary Association and several other world health organizations recommended limiting daily cholesterol intake to around 300mg.
Their thinking was that limiting dietary cholesterol would lower your blood cholesterol – the stuff that’s made by your body; specifically, your liver. In fact, the relationship between blood cholesterol and dietary cholesterol is the opposite: when you consume large amounts of cholesterol, your liver gets the signal to stop producing as much. Conversely, when you’re not eating much cholesterol, your liver ramps up its production.
And lest we forget, cholesterol isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s found in every one of your cell membranes. The good cholesterol (HDL) protects you from heart disease by taking the bad cholesterol (LDL) out of your blood, preventing it from building up in your arteries.
In January of 2016, however, the USDA dietary guidelines did not set a recommended upper daily limit for cholesterol intake. Does that mean go wild with the red meat and full fat dairy? No, not quite. It means talk to your doctor about your lifestyle, your genetics and your cholesterol levels, and then eat mindfully based on that feedback.
But cholesterol isn’t the only thing in egg yolks. Egg yolks contain tons of other nutrients like Vitamins A, D, E, B1, B3, B6, B9 and B12, as well as phosphorous, selenium, calcium, zinc and iron.
Bottom line? You can take A yolk
If you’re craving scrambled eggs like your mom used to make or a runny egg over your toast, you have our blessing. On the whole, eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can include in your diet on a daily basis. If your family has a history of high cholesterol, talk with your doctor to decide what’s the best nutrition for your body. In the meantime, we’ll be over here perfecting our poached egg yolk-piercing for the gram.