Because the United States faces cholesterol problems in epidemic proportions, egg yolks received much negative publicity in the nineties, and their reputation continues to this day. Recent nutritional studies have yielded information to the contrary, however: some nutritionists now claim that the yolk of an egg is actually much healthier than the egg white. With so much rumor and misinformation spreading through marketing and poor research, egg-eaters have trouble determining which part of the egg is actually healthiest.
Egg whites have often been touted as health foods, and some research certainly supports this idea. Egg whites contain no dietary cholesterol,, and each egg white from a jumbo egg contains only about twenty calories. Most of these sparse calories come from healthy forms of protein with a fine balance of amino acids, and the amount of fat in an egg white is extremely limited. Because of all these features, many cooks and nutritionists applaud the egg white as an ideal health food.
However, eliminating the yolk from an egg and cooking with the egg white alone isn’t necessarily an ideal solution to the nutritional problems faced by many Americans. While the egg yolk contains some of the “problem areas” of an egg, it also contains some of the most potent nutrients and its own strong, dense nutritional profile. Egg yolks have some drawbacks, but they are by no means without benefit.
The yolk of an egg contains large amounts of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat, which are the primary reasons for its bad reputation. However, both of these negative effects are mitigated by its content of lecithin and healthy omega-3 fats, both of which can counteract the effects of a high-fat or high-cholesterol diet. Lecithin is often recommended for people on a niacin-containing treatment for high cholesterol, and omega-3 fats are highly recommended by the food and drug administration to treat cardiovascular problems. The yolk actually appears to have everything it needs to counteract the negative effects of some of its constituent nutrients.
Egg yolks also contain many essential vitamins and minerals that are unavailable in the egg white, including every fat-soluble vitamin: E, D, and K. It is in fact one of the only natural foods that contains notable quantities of vitamin D, which many Americans lack in their diets. The egg yolk also contains nearly half the protein of an egg and can balance the profile of amino acids. As a key nutritional source for these nutrients, egg yolks may have a strong and necessary position in a balanced diet, dispite their few misgivings.
Ultimately, temperence is more important than the elimination of either part of an egg. While consuming nothing but egg yolks or egg whites may yield significant negative health effects, there may also be harm in eliminating the nutritional value of a yolk. Egg yolks contain a higher content of calories, fat, and cholesterol, but they are also a concentrated source of many important nutrients and vitamins. Unless your physician instructs you to do otherwise, you may wish to temper your consumption of eggs, but this does not necessarily mean eliminating them (or any part of them) from your diet. The healthiest “part” of an egg may indeed be the entire egg.
Sources: Egg White. Nutrition Information. Jan 7 08. Egg Yolk. Nutrition Information. January 7 08.