We previously debunked 5 common nutrition myths, but when it comes to nutrition, there is never a shortage of confusing (or just plain bad) information going around. Our goal is to help you navigate this vast sea of nutrition information with strength and confidence.
Some persistent egg misconceptions definitely need to be laid to rest. (Get it?) These are some pretty common questions, and perhaps you’ve been wondering the same things:
Are brown eggs healthier than white eggs?
What about cholesterol—should I only have egg whites?
Is it safe to eat eggs every day?
We’ve got the answers to those questions, and more. No tricky language; just solid, research-backed information that all women need to read.
Myth #1: Brown eggs are healthier than white eggs.
Considering how often we choose foods, like rice or bread, by color for better health, it’s reasonable to assume that brown eggs are also more nutritious. Plus, just like a lot of other “healthy” brown foods, brown eggs often cost much more than white eggs. In fact, at my local grocery store, a dozen large white eggs are currently about a full dollar cheaper than the brown eggs sitting right next to them!
Sadly, here is no nutritional difference between brown eggs and white eggs. They’re not more, or less, healthful. The only difference between a brown egg and a white egg is the chicken that laid it. Some chickens lay white eggs and others lay brown, which is totally independent of the diet they eat (grass vs. grain) or the nutritional makeup of the eggs. The color of a chicken’s feathers also doesn’t determine the color of her eggs. (But, wouldn’t it be cool if chickens with black and white feathers laid cool-looking black and white eggs? I’d totally buy those!)
In truth, the color of a chicken’s earlobe is what determines the color of the egg. Yes, seriously! Brown-egg laying hens have red earlobes, and white-egg laying pullets have white earlobes. Pretty simple once you know! However, since chickens don’t have ears that visibly stick out from the outside of their heads, this difference isn’t obvious to the untrained eye.
Despite this simple difference, the idea persists that brown eggs are somehow healthier than white eggs. If you have always believed brown eggs are healthier, you’re not alone in that belief, and it’s not your fault.
In one Brigham Young University study, researchers found that, by and large, women who commonly purchased eggs (no matter the type) believed that brown eggs were healthier and higher in omega-3 essential fatty acids. They also believed that brown eggs were more likely to come from non-intensive farm environments and eat exclusively organic feed.(1).
Now that you know about the earlobes, these misconceptions might sound pretty strange, huh? In fact, the only added benefit brown eggs offer might be their extra profits. In the end, the hype amounts to nothing more than marketing.
Researchers speculate that misconceptions surrounding brown eggs might be due in part to how differently retailers present white and brown eggs, as well as other marketing practices. For example, while most white eggs are sold in generic, plain, store-brand cartons, brown eggs are often sold as specialty eggs, packaged in colorful cartons using labeling flags, and eye-catching pictures and script to bring their unique feature (cage-free, omega-3, or organic) to the attention of the consumer.
So, why do brown eggs often cost so much more? Again, marketing plays a part. All of those fancy containers cost money, after all. The higher cost is also due in part to the size of the hen. Brown egg-laying hens are slightly larger and require more feed than the white egg-laying breeds to lay the same amount of eggs. These costs make their way down from the farmer, to the retailer, to you, the consumer.
If you do want to buy eggs that offer better nutrition, specialty eggs (brown or white, it doesn’t matter) are the way to go, particularly those with enhanced omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Side note: Have you ever noticed little blood spots (called “meat spots”) when cooking with brown eggs? It can be off-putting for some people, but it’s perfectly normal. There’s nothing to worry about; it isn’t dangerous, nor does it affect the flavor of the egg.
Myth #2: Egg yolks are bad for you.
Eggs, especially their yolks, are extremely nutritious. Eggs are one of the only zero-sugar, zero-carb breakfast foods you’ll find out there. One large egg delivers 70 calories and six grams of high-quality protein, and inside each yolk you will also find choline, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Wondering what the heck those are? Choline, a very underappreciated nutrient isn’t found in many other foods, helps your body build cell membranes and signals molecules throughout the brain. It is associated with the energy-producing benefits of B vitamins. Plus, if you’re pregnant, choline can help protect your baby from developing NTDs (neural tube defects), just like folic acid (2). Each egg yolk contains a little more than 100 mg of choline. Research has shown that a daily intake of 200 mg of choline is ideal for a healthy pregnancy.
Meanwhile, lutein and zeaxanthin are powerful antioxidants that play a prominent role in eye health. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Ophthalmology showed that consuming adequate amounts of these nutrients can significantly reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, two very common eye disorders (3)
But what about cholesterol?
While the common belief is that dietary cholesterol causes your arteries to harden, dietary cholesterol from natural sources does not increase your risk of heart disease. In the numerous studies conducted on egg yolk consumption, none have found that eggs have a negative impact on blood cholesterol levels in healthy people, or people with metabolic syndrome (4, 5, 6). In fact, consuming eggs in normal quantities (one to two per day) actually improves your blood cholesterol levels by making your LDL “bad” cholesterol particles less atherogenic (likely to promote the formation of fatty plaques in your arteries) and by increasing the number of HDL “good” cholesterol molecules in your bloodstream. It’s also important to remember that dietary cholesterol is the building block of testosterone, estrogen, and vitamin D—all important for numerous functions in your body.
The bottom line on eggs
- Eat eggs, brown or white. Both are good for you and are an excellent way to include protein and healthy fats in your diet. Eating one to two eggs a day is recommended. (1, 4, 5, 6)
- For a true added benefit, choose eggs with enhanced omega-3 fatty acids (shell color doesn’t matter).
- It’s OK to eat the yolk. In fact, the yolk is packed with several important nutrients that support eye health and healthy pregnancies. (2, 3)
- The cholesterol found in eggs does not raise your body’s cholesterol and does not harden your arteries. (4, 5,6)
Now that you’re armed with the truth about eggs, go forth, eat eggs, and be strong!
- Acceptance of brown-shelled eggs in a white-shelled egg market. Johnston NP, Jefferies LK, Rodriguez B, Johnston DE. Poult Sci. 2011 May;90(5):1074-9
- Dietary intake of choline and neural tube defects in Mexican Americans. Lavery AM, Brender JD, Zhao H, Sweeney A, Felkner M, Suarez L, Canfield MA. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2014 Jun;100(6):463-71. doi: 10.1002/bdra.23236. Epub 2014 Mar 12.
- Intakes of Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Other Carotenoids and Age-Related Macular Degeneration During 2 Decades of Prospective Follow-up. Wu J, Cho E, Willett WC, Sastry SM, Schaumberg DA. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2015 Dec 1;133(12):1415-24
- Effects of eggs on plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Fernandez ML.Food Funct. 2010 Nov;1(2):156-60. doi: 10.1039/c0fo00088d. Epub 2010 Oct 19. Review.
- Exploring the factors that affect blood cholesterol and heart disease risk: is dietary cholesterol as bad for you as history leads us to believe? Kanter MM, Kris-Etherton PM, Fernandez ML, Vickers KC, Katz DL. Adv Nutr. 2012 Sep 1;3(5):711-7. doi: 10.3945/an.111.001321.
- Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Ratliff J, Leite JO, de Ogburn R, Puglisi MJ, VanHeest J, Fernandez ML. Nutr Res. 2010 Feb;30(2):96-103. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2010.01.002