How many calories are there in an egg? Is it really as high protein as marketing
bumpff promises? Okay, so it’s perhaps not as pressing as the outcome of Brexit but it’s an important fact to know, nonetheless. After all, knowledge is health. And with eggs making their own headlines in recent months, thanks to a study by Northwestern Medicine in the US that linked eggs and dietary cholesterol with cardiovascular disease and early death, it’s important to know where you and that breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and snack staple stand.
In the first instalment of our new nutrition series, we’re stripping the humble egg back to basics.
How many calories are there in an egg? What nutritional benefits does it have to offer? Should you be packing two a day to snack on at work?
These are just some of the questions we’ll be answering – with help from the experts.
And why should you care, we hear you ask? Well, it’s important to remember that calories aren’t the be-all-and-end-all. Just because a food is high(er) in calories, it may also be nutrient dense, for example – and vice versa. In a world where time is of the essence, who wouldn’t like to know that their food choices max out on health benefits.
So, what are we waiting for? Let’s peel off the shell and find out exactly what an egg has to offer.
How Many Calories in an Egg?
The real question? How do you like to eat yours?
According to registered nutrition and founder of Surrey Dietitian Harriet Smith, there’s as much as a 25 calorie difference between a small egg (54 calories) and a large egg (79 calories). A medium egg, in the meantime, comes in at around 63 calories.
And yes, as those egg white loving readers amongst you will know, most of the calories are hidden in the yolk.
But, as Smith says, it’s really how you cook the egg that gives it more, or less, nutritional credit.
Hard-boiled large egg = 79 calories
Poached egg (large) = 79 calories
Omelette (1 egg, plain) = 96 calories
Fried egg = 115 calories
Scrambled egg (1 egg with milk) = 125 calories
Eggs Florentine (1 egg) = 267 calories
Eggs Benedict (1 egg) = 287 calories
Scotch egg = 289 calories
What are the Health Benefits of an Egg?
Plentiful, that’s what.
Smith sums the pros of eggs up:
1. Eggs are a good source of protein
The type of protein found in eggs is high quality. It is called complete protein because it contains all the essential amino acids required by the body. A large hardboiled egg contains around 8g of protein (in comparison, a 85g chicken breast contains 27g, a 170g pot of Greek yoghurt has 17g, and a serving of 23 almonds, 6g). A woman’s recommended daily intake is 45g protein per day.
2. Eggs are a source of vitamin D (aka the sunshine vitamin)
You’d need to eat about nine eggs a day to get the recommended daily amount of vitamin D (10mcg or 400 IU). We get most of our vitamin D from sunlight exposure or supplements, but since most people in the UK are low on vitamin D, eating eggs could help to boost your intake.
3. Egg yolk is rich in omega-3 fatty acids
Which are important for brain, heart and joint health. The amount in the egg depends on what the hen has been fed; you can buy omega-3 or DHA (a type of omega-3) versions of eggs from most supermarkets.
4. Eggs provide the antioxidant mineral selenium
Antioxidants help to slow the ageing of our cells. One large egg contains about 22% of the recommended daily intake for selenium.
5. Eggs keep you feeling full for longer
Studies have shown that overweight and obese women who ate eggs – full eggs, not just the whites – for breakfast felt fuller and ate less calories for the next 36 hours compared to the women who ate bagels (carbs) for breakfast.
OK then. But why do people ask: are eggs bad for you?
Research linking dietary cholesterol in eggs with a heightened risk of early death is pretty punchy stuff. The study, from Northwestern Medicine in the US, looked at nearly 30,000 US adults, with an average age of 51. For every additional half an egg eaten per day – so around three extra eggs per week – the risk of cardiovascular disease rose by 6%.
Another study, from China, however, showed the opposite; that people who ate an egg a day had lower rates of heart disease, and other papers have concluded that eggs don’t make any strong impact on coronary artery disease risk.
What to believe?
‘It’s widely accepted by scientists that dietary cholesterol has very little effect, if any, on blood cholesterol in most healthy people,’ says Smith. ‘Reducing your total fat intake and saturated fat intake (from processed foods, red meats, pastries, cakes etc.) is more important when it comes to reducing dietary cholesterol than simply eating fewer eggs.’
What’s the best way to eat an egg?
‘It depends on what you’re trying to achieve,’ says Smith. ‘If you need to lose weight or you’re watching your calorie intake, opt for poached, boiled or scrambled. If you need to gain weight, fried eggs, omelettes or Eggs Benedict would have more calories.
‘I prefer to focus on what you’re adding to the eggs. Pair the eggs with some complex carbohydrate (such as wholemeal toast) and vegetables (think spinach, grilled tomatoes or mushrooms) for a balanced and filling dish. You could even add some avocado or smoked salmon for additional heart-healthy fats. One of my favorite recipes is Shakshouka (baked eggs with tomatoes and peppers).’
An egg based recipe for you to try
Salmon & Egg Breakfast Muffin Recipe
Protein 45g | Carbs 26g | Fat 28g
An Insta-ready brunch needn’t be a blow-out. Try this recipe designed by Fresh Fitness Food.
- 2 eggs
- 30g smoked salmon
- 1⁄2 tsp chives, chopped
- 6 cherry tomatoes
- 1⁄2 tsp oregano
- Handful watercress
1. Crack the eggs into a bowl and lightly whisk, add the salmon and chives and season with salt and pepper.
2. Season the tomatoes with salt, pepper and oregano, then roast at 180°C for 20 minutes.
3. Pour the egg mix into greased muffin tins.
4. Bake at 180°C for 10 minutes or until the muffins are set.
5. Serve the hot breakfast muffins and roasted tomatoes with a handful of watercress. Yum.