Learning how much protein is in eggs may surprise you. The complete protein in eggs is a healthy choice to control weight and has other health benefits.
Although eggs have been eaten regularly by countless humans throughout history, in the late l970s many people were encouraged to eliminate eggs from their diets. Researchers linked excessive levels of blood cholesterol to an elevated risk of heart disease and, because eggs contain relatively high levels of cholesterol, they warned eating eggs could likely boost the odds of heart disease.
It turns out, however, that assumption was wrong. Scientists have found consuming eggs may lower the risk of heart disease and benefit health in additional ways, too. One of the reasons eggs are so nutritious is because of how much protein is in eggs — and the fact it’s complete protein.
The importance of complete protein in eggs
Protein is made up of smaller units called amino acids. In all, you need an adequate supply of 20 different types of amino acids for the healthy function and regulation of your body’s tissues, organs, and immune system.
Your body can synthesize most of the essential amino acids needed for health. To get the nine amino acids you can’t synthesize, you need to eat protein-rich foods. However, not all dietary proteins are the same, the Food and Drug Administration explains.
There are incomplete proteins which are missing (or don’t have enough of) essential amino acids. Plant foods like beans, grains, and seeds are examples of protein containing foods that are incomplete. Complementary proteins are two or more of incomplete proteins that, when eaten the same day or in the same meal, make up for each other’s lack of amino acids.
Complete proteins, on the other hand, contain all the essential amino acids in adequate amounts your body needs to support health. Complete proteins include dairy products, meat, poultry, seafood, soy — and eggs.
In fact, the complete protein in eggs is made up of all the essential amino acids your body needs every day (histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine), along with nine other amino acids. This high-quality, abundant protein in eggs is often the measuring stick by which other protein foods are measured, according to the American Egg Board.
How much protein is in eggs, exactly?
One large egg provides a total of 6.29 grams of complete protein — about the same amount of protein as an ounce of lean meat, poultry, fish, or seafood. (Of course, smaller and extra-large eggs have slightly less or more protein.)
On average, according to information about protein in eggs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one large egg contains about 12.6 percent of the daily recommended amount of protein most adults need.
Researchers have found almost half of the protein in eggs is found in the yolk. In addition, yolks contain mostly unsaturated fat, which aids in the absorption of a host of fat-soluble nutrients found in eggs — including vitamins D, E, and A, the macronutrient choline, and antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
The skinny on protein in eggs
There are no specific guidelines on how many eggs to eat daily or weekly. However, the Egg Nutrition Center (the science and education division of the American Egg Board) points out studies have consistently concluded eating up to two eggs a day has no detrimental health effects. And the U.S. government’s most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans include whole eggs in all recommended healthy eating patterns.
Eggs are low in calories as well as high in protein, which makes them an excellent food if you need to lose weight and build muscles, too.
A University of Sydney study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found people with prediabetes (a condition marked by metabolic changes that increases the risk for type 2 diabetes) who successfully followed a weight-loss diet high in eggs for three months had no adverse effects.
"This study supports existing research that shows consumption of eggs has little effect on the levels of cholesterol in the blood of the people eating them," said lead researcher and weight loss expert Nick Fuller, PhD.
"Eggs are a source of protein and micronutrients that could support a range of health and dietary factors, including helping to regulate the intake of fat and carbohydrate, eye and heart health, healthy blood vessels, and healthy pregnancies."
University of Illinois research, published in the American Journal of Nutrition, found that eating whole eggs after resistance exercise helped build muscle in the post-workout period. However, eating only egg whites didn’t have the same benefit — because it is specifically the protein in eggs, found in the yolks, that is the key to building and repairing muscles, the researchers concluded.
July 16, 2018
Janet O’Dell, RN