Everything About Eggs from a Nutrition Expert

Publish Date July 12, 2022 5 Minute Read
Author Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD

Eggs have been synonymous with American eating culture for at least a century. From showing up in common breakfast solutions and baking recipes to innovative products making their way to grocery store shelves every day, eggs are everywhere. There’s a lot to learn about eggs, so let’s break down egg types, nutrition, food safety and favorite recipe ideas.

Different Types of Eggs

Purchasing a carton of eggs at the store can be confusing, with choices like: organic or conventional, free-range or cage-free, brown or white, Grade AA or Grade A, and jumbo or large. Each of these classifications speaks to production methods, quality and size, respectively. Certified organic eggs abide by USDA National Organic Program standards, while “free-range” or “pasture-fed” eggs indicate that the hens had access to the outdoors. A “cage-free” egg signifies that the hens were “free roaming” in a building (usually a barn or poultry house). Egg color is dependent upon the hen’s genetics. Eggs that have brown shells are produced by hens with brown ear lobes, while eggs with white shells are produced by hens with white ear lobes. Contrary to popular belief, the color of egg doesn’t denote any difference nutritionally in the food. Eggs graded at Grade AA and A have a firmer yolk, thicker egg whites, a normal shape and a smaller breakout appearance than Grade B. Finally, eggs can be purchased anywhere from jumbo size (weighing about 30 ounces per dozen eggs) to pee-wee size (weighing about 15 ounces one dozen eggs).

Nutrients Found in Eggs

Eggs are recognized as a member of the protein group according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) 2020-2025. One extra-large egg contains seven grams of protein and 80 calories, therefore an impressive 35 percent of an egg’s calories is protein. As with many recommendations, it’s good to have a variety of foods from any one food group. Therefore, it’s recommended not to exceed one egg daily.

An extra-large egg is also a good source of vitamin A and niacin (vitamin B3), while serving as an excellent source of vitamin B12, biotin, pantothenic acid, iodine, selenium and choline. Adequate choline intake (550 milligrams a day for men 19 years or older, and 425 milligrams a day for women 19 years or older who aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding) can be challenging to obtain in a daily diet. Eggs, fish and soy are three of the richest sources of this vitamin-like substance, which is important for brain and nervous system function.

Egg Food Safety

Always be sure to check the date on your carton of eggs for the most accurate information about the proper timeframe to consume eggs. Most products will have a “sell by” date, which is usually about four weeks from the pack date, so you likely have up to one more week when the product will be safe to consume from this date.

Trust your instincts when it comes to determining if you should be consuming or discarding an egg that’s been in your refrigerator longer than usual. Obvious unpleasant smells or an unusual appearance might mean the egg has spoiled. Sometimes the “float test” can provide additional confirmation: An egg that floats in water may mean the egg is too old or “bad,” because its air cell has enlarged to the point of buoyancy.

Egg Recipes

  • Avocado Toast with Egg. As simple as it gets. Whole grain + fruit (avocado) + protein equals an easy, delicious breakfast.
  • Skillet Butternut Squash Hash with Eggs. Hash is a terrific way to fit in vegetables along with your eggs. This unique recipe calls for four different vegetables, while adding some sweetness through thinly-sliced apples.
  • Asparagus Benedict. Keeping with the spirit of expanding your vegetable intake, this different approach to eggs Benedict starts with asparagus spears topped with poached eggs, then poured hollandaise sauce.
  • Garlic Truffle Veggie Burger. Eggs add flavor and act as a binder to create a tasty and nutritious summertime veggie burger, blended with ingredients like pinto beans, zucchini, quinoa and garlic.

Eggs can be a nutritious food to include in a healthy diet. To understand more about how proteins like eggs can fit into your personal nutrition needs and goals, talk to one of our registered dietitians via a telenutrition appointment.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing health care recommendations. Please see a health care provider.