You know at least one person who absolutely refuses to eat a whole egg, instead opting for egg-white omelets when you’re out to brunch because it’s “healthier." But is it?
Years ago, when high cholesterol first began to be linked to heart disease, it was a commonly held belief that foods with high levels of cholesterol were to blame—in large part a few specific studies that dubiously linked the two.
But that’s not exactly true; according to Jillian Michaels (one of our favorite fitness gurus), consuming a high-cholesterol food, like the yolk of an egg, is considered “dietary cholesterol”—and it’s not the main culprit. “The real threat to high cholesterol are trans fats and added sugars, not dietary cholesterol,” she mentioned in a nutritional post.
While there’s no denying that egg yolk is high in cholesterol—much higher than the egg whites, hence the predilection for splitting the two up—it isn’t going to create a health issue unless paired with poor dietary practices, like ingesting a lot of trans fats. “Trans fats have a much greater effect on blood cholesterol,” Michaels warns.
Conversely, when it comes to the cholesterol found in egg yolks (or meat, for instance), it turns out that there actually are benefits to including it in your diet. “Your body actually needs the cholesterol in meat and eggs to make testosterone, which helps to increase energy and helps to build more calorie-building muscle," Michaels said. She cites one study at the University of Connecticut which found that the fat in egg yolks actually helps to reduce LDL 'bad' cholesterol.
So you may not be receiving much benefit at all from segmenting your egg yolks, whether in an omelet, scramble or quiche. Furthermore, you may actually be missing out on some benefits, according to Liz Wolfe, nutrition coach and author of Eat the Yolks. “They’re a great source of vitamin A, which is good for skin, B vitamins for energy, and choline, which supports brain health, muscles, and is necessary for a healthy pregnancy,” she notes.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor if you’re concerned about your cholesterol; he or she may have some pertinent tips on dietary changes you should be considering.
So, are there any times when you should be substituting egg whites for whole eggs? Jillian Michaels has some insight on this, too. “...Whole eggs do have a decent amount of fat. So if you’re cooking something with more than two eggs, I recommend subbing in egg whites for some of the whole eggs.”
As with all things, moderation is key. But as for the hard-and-fast rule that egg whites are healthier? It's probably more trend than truth.