Egg whites are known for their high protein content; they can be used in everyday recipes for any mealtime. They may be simple to prepare, but the long list of vital nutrients they can add to your diet may surprise you.
Consuming egg whites has been linked to a range of health benefits, including supporting weight loss, helping to build strong muscle mass after exercise, and providing the building blocks needed for the body to produce important antioxidants.
Continue reading to find out how egg white consumption can benefit your health.
What are egg whites?
Egg white is the gel-like, transparent white liquid found inside chicken eggs, which surrounds the egg yolk (the yellow, round component of a chicken egg). Egg whites contain mostly water (around 88%) and various types of protein.3 Egg whites do not contain any fats (lipids) - these are found in the egg yolk.3
Egg whites have many uses in cooking and baking. When beaten, they form a thick foam (whipped egg white), which is a component in meringues and mousses. Egg whites can also be used in omelettes, scrambled eggs, and many other savoury egg dishes. Due to their high protein content, egg whites have also been used to produce egg white protein powder and supplements.1
Health benefits of egg whites
Egg white consumption has been linked to many health benefits, including
Supporting weight loss
Consuming egg whites can decrease the appetite - this may prevent you from snacking between meals or eating too much at the next meal.2
Egg consumption may help to suppress appetite by regulating a hormone called ghrelin, which is known to stimulate appetite.2 In a study that compared the blood ghrelin concentrations of participants who had oatmeal for breakfast, as opposed to those who had eggs for breakfast, results found lower ghrelin levels in the latter group.2
Therefore, if you are aiming to lose weight, incorporating eggs into your meals can help you to achieve your healthy goal weight.
Contributing to increasing muscle mass and strength
Studies have found that consuming egg white protein during exercise increases muscle mass and strength.1
Consuming egg whites may also help to maintain good skeletal muscle health (skeletal muscles are the muscles that are attached to bones; they allow your limbs to perform a wide range of movements).2
Egg whites are rich in molecules called branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which may help to reduce muscle fatigue.1
Reducing visceral fat
Consuming egg whites can help to shed visceral fat, which is the fat inside your abdomen that surrounds the organs. Too much visceral fat can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Therefore, incorporating egg whites into your diet can help reduce the risks of developing these conditions.1
May help to lower blood cholesterol
Egg whites contain a protein called avidin; avidin can bind to a compound called biotin (also known as vitamin B7) and prevent its absorption into the body.1 Some studies have found that lower levels of biotin can lead to less absorption of cholesterol into the blood.1 Although this may lead to promising evidence that egg whites could contribute to lowering blood cholesterol levels, more studies are required to draw definite evidence and conclusions.
Egg whites are a rich source of sulphur-containing amino acids, which are needed for the body to produce glutathione (an antioxidant compound that works inside the cells).1 Therefore, consuming egg whites may indirectly help to protect your cells from oxidative damage.
Nutritional facts about egg whites
Chicken eggs are highly nutritious - they contain most of the essential nutrients humans need for survival, apart from vitamin C and dietary fibre.1 A large egg contains approximately 78 calories.4
Egg white nutritional facts
- Egg whites are an excellent source of essential amino acids in an easily digestible form
- Egg whites contain a higher concentration of sulphur-containing amino acids compared to other protein sources. The abundance of these amino acids provides a diverse and practical range of building blocks for the body to produce essential components for its function1
- Eggs, particularly egg whites, are an excellent source of protein. A large egg contains around 6.3 g of protein - the egg white contains more protein than the egg yolk (the egg white contains 3.6 g of protein, whereas the egg yolk contains 2.7 g)2
- Egg whites contain a wide variety of minerals and trace elements, including calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, and selenium3
Egg whites contain several B vitamins, including:3
- Vitamin B2
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B5
- Vitamin B1
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B8
- Vitamin B9
- Vitamin B12
While egg whites do not contain any vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, or vitamin K, egg yolks are a good source of these vitamins.2,3
Egg yolks contain several other nutrients which are not present in egg whites, including:
- Choline: a nutrient that aids metabolism, helps liver function, and supports foetal brain development4
- Cholesterol: a type of lipid (fat) that the body can use to make hormones that are essential for its function, such as oestrogen and testosterone5
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: compounds with antioxidant properties. These nutrients have been found to reduce the risks of developing cataracts4
- Vitamin D: a vitamin that is important for bone health and supporting the immune system4
Egg yolks contain a large amount of cholesterol (around 200 mg).6 In healthy individuals, egg yolk consumption is unlikely to affect blood cholesterol levels; it has been confirmed in recent years that blood cholesterol levels are affected by the mixture of carbohydrates and fats in the diet rather than direct consumption of foods high in cholesterol.5 Unless you need to limit the amount of cholesterol you eat (for example, because you have diabetes, have had a heart attack, or are at risk for heart disease), it may be worth eating whole eggs rather than solely egg whites.4
The American Heart Association recommends that one egg (or two egg whites) is a healthy daily portion.4
Side effects and other concerns
Egg whites are rich in nutrients and have several useful culinary applications. However, there are some things to be mindful of in the kitchen to ensure that they are consumed safely. If you are preparing food for others, it is important to ask about their allergies and food preferences (for example, eggs are an animal product and therefore are not suitable for vegans). Ensure that eggs are handled safely to avoid infections, illness, and the cross-contamination of allergens.
Eggs are one of the most common foods that cause allergies in children, with the most common allergy-causing agents in eggs being the proteins found in egg whites.7 Many children tend to grow out of their egg allergy before they reach adolescence as their immune and digestive systems develop - however, for some, the egg allergy can be a life-long condition.7
An allergic reaction arises when an individual with an egg allergy comes into contact with eggs, either through eating or physical contact. Their immune cells (antibodies) mistakenly recognise the proteins in the eggs as harmful intruders. This causes the immune cells to trigger processes that cause the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction.7
If an individual with an egg allergy comes into contact with an egg, they may develop some of these symptoms within a few minutes to a few hours:7
- Skin inflammation, rashes, or hives (red patches of skin)
- Nasal congestion or runny nose
- Vomiting and nausea (the feeling that you may be sick)
- Digestive problems, such as stomach pain or diarrhoea
- In rare and serious cases, anaphylaxis may occur, characterised by constriction of the airways, rapid and weak pulse, skin rash, and vomiting are some common signs of anaphylaxis
The allergic reactions that can be experienced as a result of contact with eggs can range from mild to severe.7 If you or someone you know has a reaction to eggs, no matter how mild it is, it is important to discuss this with your doctor. If someone who has been in contact with eggs is showing the signs of anaphylaxis, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
If you have an egg allergy, it is important to avoid products that contain eggs and to pay special attention to ready-made food products in which the ingredients may not be immediately obvious. Although it may not be immediately obvious from their taste and appearance, products such as marshmallows, sauces, baked goods, marzipan, and foam on alcoholic drinks or specialty coffees may contain egg whites.
Even if a food is labelled as an egg-free product, it may contain egg proteins that were used in the manufacturing process, including:7
- Albumin (or ovalbumin)
- Globulin (or ovoglobulin)
Products containing these substances may not be safe to consume for those with egg allergies. If you are unsure whether a product contains eggs, or egg proteins or has the potential to be cross-contaminated, it is best to contact the manufacturer.
In rare instances, chickens may carry Salmonella bacteria - the bacteria can spread from the hens to the eggs when they lay them or when the egg touches bird droppings after being laid.6 In humans, infection with Salmonella can cause diarrhoea, fever (high temperature), and stomach pain.6 The likelihood of finding Salmonella-contaminated eggs, particularly those available in shops and supermarkets, is generally low. Nevertheless, it is important to take precautions as a preventative measure.
To ensure that you handle eggs safely, follow the tips below:6
- Wash and/or disinfect surfaces or hands that have touched raw egg whites (including whipped egg whites)
- Avoid egg cartons that contain any cracked eggs, as leakages can increase the risk of bacterial contamination, also of all the other eggs near them. If you discover that any of the eggs you have bought are cracked, throw them away and do not eat them
- Pay attention to sell-by dates on egg cartons: eggs normally last for 4-6 weeks after this date
- Do not allow dishes that are made with eggs, even those with cooked eggs, to sit at room temperature for longer than two hours. If you have left an egg dish outside of the refrigerator for longer than two hours, it may no longer be safe to eat6
Egg whites are a rich source of protein, essential amino acids, and B vitamins. Incorporating egg whites as part of a healthy diet can aid weight loss and increase muscle mass and strength.
- Matsuoka R, Sugano M. Health functions of egg protein. Foods. 2022 Aug 2;11(15):2309
- 2) Puglisi MJ, Fernandez ML. The health benefits of egg protein. Nutrients. 2022 Jul 15;14(14):2904
- 3) Rehault-Godbert S, Guyot N, Nys Y. The Golden Egg: Nutritional value, bioactivities, and emerging benefits for human health. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 22;11(3);684
- 4) American Heart Association. Are eggs good for you or not? [Internet]. [Cited 19 January 2023]. Available from: https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/08/15/are-eggs-good-for-you-or-not
- 5) Harvard School of Public Health. Cholesterol. [Internet]. [Cited 19 January 2023]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/fats-and-cholesterol/cholesterol/
- 6) Harvard School of Public Health. Eggs. [Internet]. [Cited 19 January 2023]. Available from: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/eggs/
- 7)Mayo Clinic. Egg allergy. [Internet] [Cited 19 January 2023]. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/egg-allergy/symptoms-causes/