Deviled Eggs: Have Egg Yolks Been Demonized?

Rare is the hot breakfast in which eggs are not included in some form. They find their way onto our plates next to pancakes, slices of French toast, and of course, crispy strips of bacon.

Despite their popularity at breakfast (and brunch), eggs have come under much scrutiny for their high levels of cholesterol. According to the American Health Association’s guidelines for cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) health, the recommended daily intake of cholesterol is under 300 milligrams. With 213 milligrams of cholesterol per egg, a two-egg omelet—let alone the slices of bacon that often accompany it—will easily set you over your limit for the day.

Still, this doesn’t tell the complete story; a 2006 report published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care stated that "research has not clearly established a link between egg consumption and risk for coronary heart disease” and that recommendations for eating eggs “should not be generalized to include all individuals."

Understanding the Egg

Instead, it’s important to understand what eggs have to offer, nutritionally speaking. What many people don’t know is that eggs are especially high in cancer- and heart disease-fighting antioxidants (substances that prevent or delay cell damage). A study conducted by the University of Alberta found that two raw egg yolks have more antioxidant properties than an apple and about the same amount as half a serving of cranberries.

The benefits don’t stop there, however: One egg contains six grams of protein, plus omega-3 fatty acids and 13 essential vitamins and minerals. One such nutrient is choline, a B vitamin that when taken by pregnant women is linked with improving memory and overall brain function in the developing child. According to a Cornell University study, eating eggs may improve an individual’s ability to learn, due to the yolk’s high levels of this nutrient.

Which Eggs Should You Buy?

Not all eggs are created equally. Still, it’s hard to differentiate between white and brown, cage-free, free range, and organic. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Brown vs. white. While most people consider brown eggs more healthful, the truth is it all depends on … ears! Chickens with red earlobes yield brown eggs, while those with white earlobes lay white eggs. Other than that, there are few differences.
  2. Cage-free vs. free-range. Simply put: Cage-free ensures nothing other than the fact the hen isn’t confined to a cage. It doesn’t mean the chicken has access to the outdoors or even considerable room to move. This is entirely left up to the farm. Free-range, on the other hand, promises the hen is able to be outdoors. If you’re concerned with rearing practices, look for a recognized designation, such as Animal Welfare Approved or Certified Humane, on the packaging.
  3. Organic vs. non-organic. Organic eggs may be caged, non-caged, or free-range. The "organic" label promises that the hens are fed grain that is free from chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

When it comes to which eggs to buy, the jury is still out. What doesn’t seem to be much of a debate is the healthful role eggs can play in a balanced diet. And opting for poached or boiled rather than fried eggs will provide you with the benefits you want, with little of the downside.

Alison Massey MS, RD, CDE, LDN, reviewed this article.


"It's All in an Egg!" American Egg Board. Page accessed September 30, 2014.

Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association. "AHA Scientific Statement: AHA Dietary Guidelines." Circulation 102 2000: 2284-2299. Doi: 10.1161/01.CIR.102.18.2284 

Boscia, Ted. "More Choline for Pregnant, Nursing Women Could Reduce Down Syndrome Dysfunction, Guard Against Dementia." Cornell Chronicle. June 2, 2010. 

Elliot, Debbie. "Brown and White Eggs: Unscrambled." National Public Radio. April 22, 2006. 

Fernandez, ML. "Dietary Cholesterol Provided by Eggs and Plasma Lipoproteins in Healthy Populations." Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care 2006; 9(1):8-12.

"Eggs' Antioxidant Properties May Help Prevent Heart Disease and Cancer, Study Suggests." Science Daily. July 6, 2011. 

Chamila Nimalaratne, Daise Lopes-Lutz, Andreas Schieber, Jianping Wu. "Free Aromatic Amino Acids in Egg Yolk Show Antioxidant Properties." Food Chemistry 2011; 129 (1): 155 DOI: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2011.04.058

"Decoding 'Humane' Food Labels." Red Rover. Page accessed September 29, 2014.