Eggs at one of the most popular breakfast food staples around the world. They are relatively inexpensive, a complete source of protein, and packed with vitamins and certain minerals.
Furthermore, eggs are extremely versatile, and there are many ways to prepare them, almost all of which do not take very much time, which makes eggs an efficient and simple breakfast.
From fried to poached, over easy to hard-boiled, there are likely a dozen common ways to cook and eat eggs.
While you might have a favorite way to enjoy eggs, what is the healthiest way to eat eggs?
Perhaps not surprisingly, the method you use to cook your eggs can affect how healthy your breakfast will be.
In this article, we will answer the question: What is the healthiest way to cook eggs, and give you tips on what the best way to eat eggs is.
We will cover:
- Are Eggs Healthy?
- Benefits of Cooking Eggs
- Downsides to Cooking Eggs
- What Is The Healthiest Way To Eat Eggs?
- Tips to Make Eggs Healthier
Let’s dive in!
Are Eggs Healthy?
Before we delve into the healthiest way to eat eggs and how the egg cooking method you use can alter the nutritional profile of the eggs, let’s look at the basic nutrition in a regular chicken egg.
Eggs are generally considered to be a healthy food since they are natural, high in protein, and contain numerous vitamins and minerals.According to the USDA’s FoodData Central, one large, whole, hard-boiled chicken egg contains 78 calories, 6.3 grams of protein, 5.34 grams of fat, negligible carbohydrates and sugar, and small amounts of sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and selenium.
Eggs also contain a decent amount of vitamin A, vitamin D, folate, and the antioxidants choline, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which support eye health.
Although considered to be “nature’s perfect food” or a “superfood” to some people, there is also some nutritional criticism of eggs due to the fact that one whole egg contains 186 mg of cholesterol.
The opinions and evidence about the impact of dietary cholesterol are mixed.
Some people have concerns about consuming a lot of cholesterol due to some evidence pointing to an association between cholesterol intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
For example, a massive study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association investigated whether consuming dietary cholesterol from eggs is associated with an increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
Researchers pooled the data from 29,615 adults across six prospective cohort studies in the United States with a median follow-up of 17.5 years.
Results indicated that there was indeed a dose-dependent response for cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality.
According to the findings, each additional half an egg consumed per day was associated with a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.
Another large prospective study involving 521,120 participants who were followed over the course of 16 years also found that the cholesterol intake associated with eating whole eggs (egg yolk and egg white) was associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.
In this study, consumption of each additional 300 mg of dietary cholesterol per day was associated with a 24% higher risk of cancer mortality, a 16% higher risk of cardiovascular disease, and a 19% higher risk of all-cause mortality.
Researchers reported that cholesterol intake contributed to 49.6% of the risk of cancer mortality, 62.3% of the increase in cardiovascular disease risk, and 63.2% of the increase in all-cause mortality.
With that said, according to the American Heart Association and some others in the field of nutrition and health, dietary cholesterol doesn’t necessarily increase cholesterol levels since the body already manufactures cholesterol endogenously.
Benefits Of Cooking Eggs
There are several benefits of cooking eggs, no matter which method of egg cookery you choose.
#1: Cooking Eggs Improves the Taste and Texture
Cooking eggs makes them more palatable and appealing to most people, as raw eggs have a slimy, gelatinous texture, and the flavor is very nuanced.
There is a multitude of ways to cook eggs, and they may be cooked and eaten by themselves or incorporated into more complex dishes with vegetables, other proteins, among other ingredients.
#2: Cooking Egg Makes Them Safer
Cooking eggs is generally considered to be healthier and safer than eating raw eggs due to the fact that cooking can kill some of the potentially harmful bacteria in raw eggs, such as Salmonella.
#3: Cooking Egg Improves the Bioavailability of the Nutrients
Studies suggest that cooking eggs increases the bioavailability of some of the nutrients within them, especially the protein.
For example, one study found that the human body is able to absorb and make use of 91% of the protein in cooked eggs versus just 51% in raw eggs. This means that cooking eggs almost doubles the bioavailability of the protein in the eggs.
The reason that cooking eggs increases the absorption of the protein is that cooking eggs applies heat to the eggs.
Heating proteins—in this case, the proteins found in eggs—causes structural changes to the proteins by breaking the bonds and forming new bonds.
As this occurs, some of the larger, complex protein molecules with three-dimensional helical structures in raw eggs get broken down into simpler protein molecules and amino acids.
You can visually see some of these changes to the proteins as the egg cooks. For example, the egg whites go from a slimy consistency with a translucent appearance to a firmer and rubberier texture with an opaque white appearance.
Cooking eggs also improves the bioavailability of the biotin (vitamin B7) in the eggs.
This is because the proteins in raw egg whites—specifically a protein called avidin—interfere with the absorption of biotin because it binds to the vitamin, making it unavailable for the body to use.
Avidin is one of the proteins that gets partially degraded through the heating process when you cook eggs, allowing the biotin in the eggs to be free and accessible to the body.
Downsides of Cooking Eggs
Although cooking eggs can help release some of the nutrients and make them more absorbable, cooking eggs at high heat can also damage some of the nutrients.
For example, studies have found that cooking eggs can reduce the vitamin A content by approximately 17-20%.
Additionally, certain cooking methods may also reduce the antioxidant content of the eggs as well.
For example, one study noted that cooking eggs via common cooking methods, like boiling, frying, and microwaving, can reduce the antioxidant content by 6-18%.
Cooking eggs on high heat rather than low and slow is more likely to damage the nutrients.
Therefore, when considering the healthiest way to cook eggs, it’s important to consider not just how the cooking method may add unhealthy nutrients (like fat/oil, salt, etc.) but also reduce healthy nutrients by damaging them in the cooking process.
For the latter aspect, the healthiest ways to cook eggs are those that utilize shorter cooking times.
Ideally, low heats and short cooking times are best for retaining the most nutrients in eggs.
For example, soft boiling an egg will retain more of the nutrients than hard-boiling an egg because the egg is cooked for a shorter amount of time to get it to the soft-boiled stage.
Interestingly, although high heat is certainly known to damage some of the nutrients in all types of food (including eggs), there’s evidence to suggest that it is actually the length of cooking time that is more deleterious to the nutrient content in eggs rather than the absolute temperature at which the eggs are cooked.
In other words, cooking eggs for a long time—even at a low heat—is worse than cooking eggs for a short time, even at a high heat.
For example, one study found that baking eggs for 40 minutes caused them to retain only 39-45% of their vitamin D, whereas frying eggs and boiling eggs for a shorter time allowed them to retain 82-84% and 86-88% of the vitamin D, respectively.
What Is The Healthiest Way To Eat Eggs?
Are fried eggs healthy? Is it better to have hard-boiled eggs or soft-boiled eggs? Are poached eggs better for you than hard-boiled eggs?
How does cooking eggs affect how healthy they are?
As with any type of food, the preparation and cooking method for eggs can affect the nutrient profile.
For example, in much the same way that fried chicken is less healthy than boiled chicken breast due to the addition of fats and oils, fried eggs are not as healthy as hard-boiled eggs because of the addition of butter or oil to fry the egg.
In terms of cooking preparation methods, the healthiest ways to cook eggs are those that do not add a significant number of calories to the egg itself.
For example, boiled eggs (hard-boiled or soft-boiled) or poached eggs are healthier than fried eggs, scrambled eggs, or an omelet, all of which usually add some type of fat, such as butter or oil, as well as potentially milk or cream.
Given the fact that high temperatures and long cooking times decrease the nutrient availability of eggs, and adding oil, fat, or dairy also makes the nutrient profile less favorable by increasing the number of calories and grams of fat, the healthiest way to cook eggs is by poaching them or soft boiling them.
Hard-boiling eggs is next on the list of the healthiest way to eat eggs since this egg cooking method requires a longer cooking time.
Tips to Make Eggs Healthier
Here are a few tips to make eggs healthier:
#1: Use a calorie-free cooking method
Poaching or boiling eggs does not add any type of fat or dairy to them, so it keeps the calorie content low.
#2: Use lower heat and shorter cooking time
To maximize nutrient retention, keep the cooking time as short as possible and the temperature as low as possible.
#3: Buy cage-free eggs
Organic, free-range chicken eggs may be more nutritious than conventional eggs because the diet and lifestyle of the chickens are healthier.
#4: Choose oils wisely
It’s important to cook eggs in oils that are stable at high temperatures, such as avocado oil.
Extra-virgin olive oil is healthy, but it can oxidize at high temperatures, yielding free radicals. If you fry eggs in extra-virgin olive oil, you should keep the temperature below 410°F or 210°C.
#5: Add fibrous vegetables
Eggs do not contain any fiber, and although they are not particularly high in calories, they are calorically dense in the sense that the number of calories for the volume of food is fairly high.
Adding leafy green vegetables to your egg dishes can increase satiety and add fiber without impacting the caloric content significantly.
Other vegetables with high water or high fiber content are also good. Examples include mushrooms, broccoli, bell peppers, onions, asparagus, and cabbage.
#6: Mix it up
Adding variety is the best way to ensure that you are meeting all of your nutritional needs without the excess of any potentially unhealthy nutrients.
Now that you know what the best way to eat eggs is, how about switching it up? If you are looking for other high-protein breakfast ideas check out our list of 13 high-protein breakfasts.