Eggs – nature’s gift to our health. Full of protein, nutrients, and healthy fats, eggs are a versatile food choice that we can add to any meal. But there’s lots of different ways that we can cook eggs. Is one way more healthy than another? Actually, yes. You may be surprised to know that how you cook your eggs can greatly affect their nutritional profile. Which leads us to the question, what is the healthiest way to cook and eat eggs?
How Would You Like Your Eggs?
Before we dive into the healthiest way to cook and eat your eggs, why don’t we first take a look at some of the different options. Eggs are extremely versatile, and there’s an endless number of ways that you can cook them. Here are a few popular options:
Hard Boiled Eggs
Hard boiled eggs are eggs that are cooked in boiling water with their shell still on. To make them, all you have to do is boil some water, drop in your eggs, and let them cook for about 10-12 minutes. Once they are finished you can peel off the shell to eat the white and yolk which will now be hardened.
Soft Boiled Eggs
Soft boiled eggs are very similar to hard boiled eggs except once you peel the eggs, the yolk is not hardened, it’s runny. The process of making them is also very similar to hard boiled. Just boil water, drop in your egg, and cook. The only difference is you will be cutting down the boiling time from 10-12 minutes to 5-6 minutes.
Scrambled eggs are eggs wherein the yolk and whites are mixed together and cooked. To make them, crack an egg into a pan, mix the white and the yolk together, and cook to desired preference. You can make scrambled eggs hard or soft, with the only difference being cooking time.
If you want, you can also add other ingredients into your scrambled eggs to give them more flavor. Feta cheese, garlic, onion, spinach, and parmesan are all popular additions to scrambled eggs.
Omelets are made from beaten eggs and then fried in the frying pan. You can add virtually anything you want to an omelet to make it into a healthy meal. Cheese, meats, vegetables – anything goes when it comes to omelets. If you prefer, you can create a frittata, which is essentially just an open-faced omelet.
Sunny Side Up
If you’re feeling extra bright one morning, you might choose to cook your eggs sunny-side up. To cook, simply grease up your pan, crack your egg into the pan, and fry it until the edges turn brown. You can cook your sunny side up egg as little or as much as you like. The longer you cook, the less runny your yolk will be.
The only difference between a sunny side up egg and an over-easy egg is that you flip your over-easy egg over once the edges turn brown. When you flip your egg, this creates a film on top of the yolk that you don’t get with sunny side up.
Of course, these are just a few of the many things that you can do with eggs. Eggs can also be cooked over medium, over hard, poached, basted, and even baked. Plus, eggs are a staple ingredient of many recipes.
The Nutritional Benefit of Eggs
When cooked properly, eggs come with a long list of nutritional benefits. Not only are they low in calorie count (only 75 calories per egg), but they are also loaded with proteins, iron, vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids. Here are just some of the many nutritional components contained within eggs:
• Helps to carry oxygen to the lungs
• Aides in the production of hormones
• Necessary for growth and development
• Helps to reduce the risk of anemia
• Vitamin D
• Helps to regulate calcium and phosphate
• Helps to develop healthy bones, teeth, and muscles
• Vitamin A
• Helps to boost the immune system
• Plays a role in reproduction
• Helps to maintain healthy vision
• Vitamin E
• Acts as an antioxidant
• Helps to protect against disease
• Vitamin B12
• Promotes healthy nerves and cells
• Helps to prevent against anemia
• Aides in the production of red blood cells
• Helps to prevent against anemia
• Helps to reduce the risk of birth defects during pregnancy
• Helps to strengthen bones and muscles
• Aides in the production of hormones and enzymes
• Increases energy
• Protects the body against free radicals
• Prevents the breakdown of body tissues
• Lutein and Zeaxanthin
• Helps to prevent against age-related eye conditions like cataracts
In addition to all of the benefits listed above, eggs are also rich in Omega 3 fatty acids which have a wide range of benefits including improved memory and mood, improved eye health, reduced inflammation, and reduced risk of chronic disease.
So you can see, there are many nutritional benefits that come along with eating eggs – especially if they are cooked properly.
Can You Eat Raw Eggs?
So we’ve established that there’s an endless number of ways to enjoy your eggs, but is one option better than the other? And the answer is yes. How you cook your eggs can affect their nutritional value.
Let us first start by saying that you should always cook your eggs. Some people do like to eat their eggs raw (and there are some benefits to this), but it can be risky. While the US Department of Agriculture does consider it safe to eat eggs raw if they are pasteurized, you do run the risk of contracting Salmonella poisoning. While the risk is low, it is still there.
Some subgroups of people are especially vulnerable to bacteria like Salmonella. This includes infants and young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals who have compromised immune systems. People who fall into any of these categories should always ensure that their eggs are well cooked before eating them and should never eat an egg raw.
Furthermore, when we eat our eggs raw, the nutritional components within them are more difficult to digest. The heat from cooking breaks down the bonds within the eggs, making them easier for our bodies to digest. In one study, for example, it was found that the human body could use 91% of the protein from cooked eggs, but only 51% from raw eggs (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9772141/).
So while yes, there are some benefits to eating raw eggs, the risks may outweigh the rewards.
What is the Best Way to Cook Your Eggs?
If you’re looking for the most nutritional benefit from your eggs, the key is to cook them, but not overcook them. While undercooking your eggs can leave you vulnerable to bacteria like Salmonella, overcooking your eggs can remove some of their nutritional value.
Cooking your eggs can make some of the nutrients within them more digestible, but it can also damage some of the other nutrients. When cooked for long periods, the Vitamin A content, antioxidant content, and Vitamin D content of eggs may be diminished.
The best way to cook eggs then, is to find a happy medium. Make sure your eggs are cooked, but don’t over cook them.
Other Tips for Healthy Eggs:
Opt for pasteurized, organic eggs
The nutritional quality of your eggs can be greatly affected by how chickens are raised on a farm. More specifically, a chicken’s diet can affect the nutritional value of your eggs. For this reason, you should always opt for high quality eggs that are pasteurized and organic.
Cook in Avocado or Olive Oil
First off, always avoid using a lot of oil when cooking anything. But if you need to use some oil to cook your eggs, opt for avocado oil or olive oil. Some oils can oxidize at high temperatures, causing free radicals to form. Avocado and olive oils can help you avoid this problem.
Add some vegetables
As we mentioned before, eggs are extremely versatile and there’s lots of things that you can add to them to improve the flavor. Not only that, but adding vegetables to your omelet or scrambled eggs can greatly boost their nutritional value.
So whether you like them boiled, scrambled, or sunny-side up, eggs are a beneficial addition to any breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Just make sure they are cooked – but not overcooked. The key to a healthy egg is finding a happy medium and combining it with other healthy alternatives like vegetables.