You’ve probably been told you should steer away from the “All-American” breakfast if you’re on any kind of diet. And understandably so. Buttery toast, fried potatoes, and sausage and bacon might not be a part of your weight loss meal plan, but eggs certainly can be. When eaten the right way, eggs could even boost your weight loss success.
We asked dietitians to give us the lowdown on why eating eggs can be part of a balanced diet. Stick with these nutrient-packed powerhouses, and you might even lose a few inches around your waist.
Choline, only found in the yolk of eggs (so you have to eat the whole egg) is a major source of nutrition that we may be neglecting in our normal diet, dietitians say. “The body can synthesize a small amount of this nutrient, but not enough to meet its needs,” says Allison Knott, MS, RDN, CSSD, a registered dietitian based in Brooklyn, NY. So you need to load up on foods like eggs to ensure you have the right levels. “Choline has a part in many functions within the body including metabolism, nerve function, and brain development,” Knott says.
“One large egg, with the yolk, supplies about 145 milligrams choline, or more than one-quarter of the Daily Value of 550 milligrams,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of NutritionStarringYou.com and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. It’s not a bad idea at all to make eggs part of your daily routine. One Journal of Human Kinetics study even reported that supplementing your diet with choline contributed to a lower body mass in female athletes and was thought to have contributed to positive athletic performance as well.
“Egg yolks are also a source of Vitamin D, a nutrient that plays a role in bone health and immunity. Vitamin D is not found naturally in many foods, and 100 percent of the Vitamin D in eggs is found in the yolk. So when you skip the yolk, you also miss out on an important dietary source of Vitamin D,” says Knott. A 2018 study found a correlation between excess belly fat and Vitamin D deficiency in overweight individuals and concluded that healthy levels of Vitamin D in the diet could potentially reduce ab fat.
It’s no surprise that eggs are a healthful source of protein, but high protein diets can actually encourage weight loss, experts say. “One large egg has about six grams of high-quality protein, making them a good choice as part of an eating pattern that supports a healthy weight,” Knott says. Studies have also shown that protein (in moderation, of course) can keep the metabolism moving along quickly, energy levels high, and keep you fuller for longer: all factors in weight control.
Eggs, even the full yolk, are lower in fat than you might think. “One large egg has about five grams of fat, which is less than 10 percent of the total fat needs per day for someone consuming 2,000 calories per day,” says Knott. Plus, research published in the journal Diabetes and Endocrinology has proven that consuming fats is not the enemy. In fact, adhering to a high-fat Mediterranean diet can help you maintain a lower body weight.
The choline found in eggs is imperative to brain development, especially before birth and in early childhood, Pincus states. But another nutrient found in eggs, lutein, has some hidden brainpower as well. “It’s also present in the brain and has been linked to optimal cognition in older adults and academic performance in children,” says Amanda Baker Lemein, MS, RD, LDN, a registered dietitian based in Chicago.
And there could be a connection between healthy brain function and maintaining a healthy weight, according to Harvard Health. Eating processed, sugary foods (exactly what makes you gain weight) could be detrimental to brain health and contribute to anxiety or other mental health issues.
Iodine and selenium, both found in substantial amounts in eggs, are crucial to synthesize thyroid hormones, science has shown. And the thyroid is an organ key to weight management, as it regulates your body’s metabolism.
When it comes to brain health and a positive mood, choline strikes again as the key nutrient. “Choline is involved in producing cells dealing with memory, mood, muscle control, and other brain functions,” says Sara Artigues, RD, a nutritionist and trainer at All-Inclusive Health, a personal training and nutrition planning facility in New Orleans. Studies suggest that mood disorders like anxiety and depression appear to be connected to unhealthy weight and unhealthy metabolism, so good mental health habits and a healthy diet could influence metabolism in a positive way.
“Eggs are a great source of refuel post-exercise, as they are a lean source of protein which is important to help repair and rebuild muscles post-workout,” Lemein says. If you don’t get enough protein right around the time of a workout, your muscles can suffer, research demonstrates. And, as we all know, exercise is a major piece of the puzzle when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.
“One egg has all nine essential amino acids,” Lemein says. Those amino acids play a key role in energy metabolism and are essential to getting you through your workout. Amino acids, found within proteins, are something we can’t live without and fuel basically all our cells in processing protein and churning that out into energy. Weight gain and loss is a major metabolic process that will ultimately be dependent on the presence of amino acids.
If you happen to be counting calories, you can count eggs in, because they’re a solid, filling low-cal food. One large egg has about 74 calories.
“As you reduce calorie intake to lose weight, you cannot miss out on protein, vital vitamins, and nutrients, and eggs are a great way to ensure you still get these,” Artigues says. And they will fit right into your weight loss routine, too. “As far as weight goes, since eggs contain about six grams of protein each and the necessary fat and vitamins the body needs, they help people stay satisfied or fuller longer, which may help decrease overall calorie intake,” Artigues says.
To keep yourself full for as long as possible—one of the greatest challenges of dieting—the combination of fat and protein should be your go-to, dietitians say. “Eggs are a source of fat and protein, which are both nutrients that contribute to satiety,” Knott says. “When including foods to aid in weight loss or maintenance, I recommend pairing food groups to increase satisfaction.”
Lemein agrees and is apt to prescribe this combination of healthy fat and protein to her patients as well. “Protein takes longest for our bodies to break down, but fat delays gastric emptying, and therefore, the combination of the two helps keep us fuller for longer,” Lemein says. “Staying full between meals is essential for weight loss, as it cuts down on mindless snacking and helps prevent feelings of deprivation.”
Antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin are present in egg yolks, two carotenoids that studies show accumulate in our retinas and could encourage proper eye function. Antioxidants, in general, cannot be proven to necessarily spur weight loss, but they save body cells by protecting them from damage by harmful chemicals called free radicals and have been said to reduce the risk for heart disease and certain types of cancers. The same high-antioxidant foods—fruits like blueberries and strawberries, and vegetables like tomatoes and broccoli—are the same foods that contribute to healthy weight management as well.
Unlike many other breakfast foods you may turn to on a regular basis, including even “healthy” cereals, yogurt, granolas, and toasts, eggs are virtually sugar-free. Research has proven sugar to be a culprit of weight and fat gain and a major cause of obesity in the United States, not to mention a probable cause of high blood pressure and Type 2 Diabetes. The World Health Organization has recommended that both adults and children consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day, so an egg-filled breakfast (or lunch or dinner) is a great place to start.
Because eggs have basically no carbs, they can help keep glucose levels in the blood normal (especially in individuals with Type 2 Diabetes), keeping you satisfied longer after your meal. (Spikes in blood sugar after eating carbs can cause a crash later on, causing you to potentially have more food cravings and stray from your healthy diet).
Eggs are low on the glycemic index as well, making them a perfect selection for a low-carb diet.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity reported that study participants who ate a consistent breakfast of eggs saw a 34 percent decrease in inches off their waist and a 16 percent decrease in body fat, in comparison to study participants who consistently ate bagels for breakfast instead. “People who consume eggs for their morning meal versus a higher-carb breakfast like a bagel tend to show less hunger, greater satiety, and lower calorie consumption later in the day,” Pincus says.
One of the best things about eggs is that you can eat them at any point during the day, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. “Eggs can be tailored to any taste. They are easy to add to salads, include in sandwiches, and have for every meal of the day,” Lemein says. And they can adhere to a number of diet plans and weight loss programs, including gluten-free, low-carb, Whole30, and the keto diet, making shedding a few pounds a whole lot easier.
If you adhere to dietitians’ recommendations of two to three eggs per day, you can get four to six high-protein meals out of one dozen eggs, all for less than $5. Making a healthy diet cheaper is just another reason why eggs are a great weight-loss food.
It’s no coincidence that eggs are a go-to hangover cure breakfast, because choline, the superhero nutrient in eggs, can help liver cells reboot, research shows. Dietitians agree that liver metabolism can’t happen without choline, and a healthy liver adds to a healthy fat-melting metabolism in general.
The myth of eggs being harmful to your cholesterol levels—and therefore your heart health—has been disproven, and dietitians are on the same page. “The available evidence indicates that eggs, when consumed as part of an overall healthy diet pattern, do not affect risk factors for cardiometabolic disease,” Pincus says.
Plus, keeping eggs in your weekly food rotation can keep levels of a certain fat in the bloodstream that can be potentially harmful in high amounts, Artigues says. “Consuming one to two whole eggs a day does not appear to negatively affect one’s blood cholesterol level or heart disease risk factors. In fact, omega 3-enriched eggs may even help lower triglyceride levels,” she explains. That’s great news, as high triglyceride levels are a common health issue facing many overweight Americans.
“Eggs are minimally processed source of fat, protein, and other vitamins,” says Artigues. And having eggs in our diet will also help us eat more vegetables. (Think: scrambled eggs and omelets.) A Journal of the American Dietetic Association study found that adding more vegetables to your diet has been linked to increased weight loss. Besides starting your day with a veggie-rich omelet, you can also buy some of these grocery products with sneaky vegetables.