Egg Beaters and Cholesterol Confusion

One of the problems with nutrition science is that it changes every once in a while when new research come in, but it takes the public a long time to readjust its mindset. The result is mass confusion regarding what’s truly healthy. Eggs were historically considered a nutrient rich food that were an essential part of culinary traditions the world over. But when scientists discovered cholesterol – and the high cholesterol count in eggs – this basic staple was vilified and shunned.

Cholesterol is fatty waxy substance that occurs in all animal tissues, including humans. It is produced in the liver and travels around the body in our blood. Our body needs cholesterol to maintain cell membrane structure, but too much of it can cause heart disease. All of the cholesterol in an egg is in the yolk.

In the past decade or so, science has shown that for most people, blood cholesterol levels are barely influenced by dietary cholesterol (the cholesterol in food), but rather by saturated fats and trans fats in the food. Which means that eggs have been getting a bad rap unnecessarily.

Our body manufacture 3000mg of cholesterol a day. The maximum recommended allowance of cholesterol from food is just one tenth of that – 300 mg. What causes the body to create more cholesterol is the saturated fats we consume, not the cholesterol.

One of the more popular products that were created to combat the high level of cholesterol in eggs, Egg Beaters has been around for almost 40 years. But now that we know what we do, is it still relevant?

Let’s diver deeper into the details, and compare an egg to an Egg Beater…

What you need to know:

Egg Beaters, if you’re not familiar, are egg whites with a “bonus”, in a milk carton, courtesy of Con Agra Foods.

We’re going to compare 1 Extra Large Egg to a serving of egg beaters (EB). The serving is actually composed of 2 egg whites. Here are the numbers:

  • Calories: Egg = 71   EB = 30
  • Fat: Egg = 5 grams  EB = 0
  • Saturated Fat: Egg = 2 g  EB = 0  (2 g is 10% of the daily value)
  • Cholesterol: Egg = 211 mg   EB = 0
  • Protein: Egg = 6 g  EB = 6 g as well (egg whites have 3 g of protein, yolks have 3 as well)

The numbers seem definitely in favor of Egg Beaters. Now lets look at the ingredients.

An egg contains one ingredient:

egg

Egg beaters contain 20 ingredients:

Egg Whites, Less than 1%: Natural Flavor, Color (Includes Beta Carotene), Spices, Salt, Onion Powder, Vegetable Gums (Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum), Maltodextrin. Vitamins and Minerals: Calcium Sulfate, Iron (Ferric Phosphate), Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol Acetate), Zinc Sulfate, Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B1 (Thiamine Mononitrate), Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride), Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin D3

Egg Beaters took the yolk away to remove most of the fat and the cholesterol. But because egg yolks make the egg taste better, the company had to compensate. Hence “Natural Flavor” which is a trade secret. Hence spices, unspecified. They also added the gums as thickeners to add body to the egg whites. Ever tried making scrambled eggs with just egg whites? No body or fluff. Why in the world do they add a sweetener (maltodextrin) used for candy?

There are a whole bunch of added vitamins and minerals that try to mimic what was lost with the removal of the egg yolk. For example a single egg yolk contains 13% of the DV for vitamin A. Egg beaters throws in 15%.

The problem with this nutrient specific approach is that science has yet to identify hundreds of other nutrients and their interaction amongst each other when naturally present in a food. Selecting a few nutrients and focusing on them instead of on a whole food is part of a larger problem in the US food food system today.

But what about the saturated fat in an egg? Yes, you’ll be paying 10% of your daily value for saturated fat if you eat an egg. But compared to the other sources of saturated fat in many people’s diets (snacks, snacks, and more snacks) this is an excellent choice.

What to do at the supermarket:

If you are suffering from very high levels of blood cholesterol, the best thing to do is consult with a health professional, ideally a physician AND a registered dietitian. But if you are like most people, you need to eat a diet with more REAL food. Eggs are real food. And the price you pay in saturated fat per egg is a real bargain compared to all the real nutrients you will be getting.
We’re not saying that egg beaters can’t be a solution for very specific people, but for the most part an egg a day is a great way to pack in protein and nutrients in a relatively small and low calorie (70!) package. Whichever you choose, don’t prepare in a ton of butter or oil!

At the supermarket, choose foods low in saturated fat and without trans-fats. Don’t fret too much over the cholesterol levels as their impact is much lower than once thought.

Get Fooducated

  • http://www.theomep.com Wet Wolf

    You should always include the yolk for 2 very important reasons:

    1:Even the protein in egg whites isn’t as powerful without the yolks to balance out the amino acid profile and make the protein more bio-available. Not to even mention that the egg yolks from free range chickens are loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

    Yolks contain more than 90% of the calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, B6, folate, and B12, and panthothenic acid of the egg. In addition, the yolks contain ALL of the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K in the egg, as well as ALL of the essential fatty acids (EFAs).

    2:First of all, when you eat a food that contains a high amount of dietary cholesterol such as eggs, your body down-regulates it’s internal production of cholesterol to balance things out.

    On the other hand, if you don’t eat enough cholesterol, your body simply produces more since cholesterol has dozens of important vital functions in the body.

    There have been plenty of studies lately that indicate that eating whole eggs actually raises your good HDL cholesterol to a higher degree than LDL cholesterol, thereby improving your overall cholesterol ratio and blood chemistry.

    • John Frykman

      Cholesterol in food DOES matter, and it is impossible to get your lipid profile in proper balance if your intake of dietary cholesterol is significant.  It is now understood that your LDL levels are far more important than HDL, and if you lower LDL, your  HDL will also go down.  If your LDL is higher than 100mg/dl it is too high and will lead to atherosclerosis over time.  Two metrics in your lipid panel that you need to look out for are total cholesterol which should be under 150, and LDL, which should be under 80.  If these metrics are met, it doesn’t matter what your HDL level is, as you are essentially heart attack and stroke proof.  You cannot reach those levels eating animal fats, or ingesting significant plant fats.  Read Dr. Esselstyn’s excellent book, “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” and learn the truth about healthy diet and blood fat levels.  The “healthy” levels often published by so-called diet experts are way too high. Total “safe” total cholesterol of 200 is a recipe for heart disease and stroke.  Eggs have no place in a healthy diet.

  • http://www.theslowcook.com Ed Bruske

    The link between cholesterol and heart disease is not one of “too much” cholesterol, but rather the kind of cholesterol in your blood, specifically, a certain type of “small dense” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) particle that doesn’t show up in the standard cholesterol test. But indicators of this type of LDL are low HDL (good cholesterol) and high levels of triglycerides. So, ignore your “total cholesterol” level and look straight to your HDL and triglyceride results. All of the latest research shows that sugar and refined carbohydrates are the main factors behind suppressed HDL and high triglycerides and small, dense LDL. Eggs have nothing to do with it.

  • Stan

    “Natural Flavor” “Spices” and Maltodextrin are code words for MSG. MSG dies not cause allergic reactions; those are actually toxic reactions, as msg (and all its derivatives) are neurotoxins. See http://www.msgtruth.org

    The saturated fat theory of heart disease has been thoroughly discredited; why are nutritionists still promoting that idea?

    Eating cholesterol does not cause heart disease, either. There is NO correlation between your blood cholesterol levels and your risk of heart disease.

    In short, Egg Beaters is a scam based on fraudulent science.

    • Tal Tamir

      Actually MSG is a stable form of an amino acid (Glutamic Acid), one of the basic 20 building blocks of protein (there are a few extra amino acids that are rare). Glutamic Acid is used by neurons as a transmitter molecule along with carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide. The latter two are lethal toxins if they enter the bloodstreams but they are only used in neuron-neuron communication and never get to enter the bloodstream. Likewise dietary MSG cannot penetrate the brain-blood barrier. A small amount of glutamic acid neurotransmitter activity causes a neuron to increase activity while a large amount causes it to undergo programmed cell death. Both the increase in activity and programmed death are used to regulate neuron connections for various brain functions and are NOT the result of “being overworked to death”.
      If you receive a blow to the head which ruptures cells it will cause their contents to spill, which include all the amino acids, which will cause all surrounding cells to undergo programmed cell death due to over exposure to Glutamic Acid. This is the cytotoxicity effect of glutamic acid which ignorant people confuse for “is a deadly neurotoxin”. Countless research by real scientists has shown that dietary consumption of MSG has absolutely no effect on your brain, no matter how much you eat. The cytotoxicity of MSG is only an issue when you receive blunt force trauma to the head.

    • Carol H

      When MSG is added to a food product, it must be listed in the ingredients, although some foods contain it naturally…

      [from FDA web site:] How can I know if there is MSG in my food?

      FDA requires that foods containing added MSG list it in the ingredient
      panel on the packaging as monosodium glutamate. However, MSG occurs
      naturally in ingredients such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed
      yeast, hydrolyzed yeast, yeast extract, soy extracts, and protein
      isolate, as well as in tomatoes and cheeses. While FDA requires that
      these products be listed on the ingredient panel, the agency does not
      require the label to also specify that they naturally contain MSG.
      However, foods with any ingredient that naturally contains MSG cannot
      claim “No MSG” or “No added MSG” on their packaging. MSG also cannot be
      listed as “spices and flavoring.”

  • bill

    Eating dietary fat doesn’t make one fat and the same is true for dietary cholesterol. It does have a slight effect on overall levels but not in the amount previously thought when companies like Quaker were trying to vilify cholesterol.

  • Corey

    Maltodextrin is not sugar or MSG, that is just silly talk, maltodextrin is a starch – used as an ingredient to produce a thicker, more stable product.

  • Heidi

    i think the reason i do sometimes eat eggbeaters is because i don’t like just eggwhites. The only way i will eat real egg is if it is scrambled with veggies and doing the same with just egg whites i cannot eat it so thus eggbeaters are a valid substitute there. I have noticed they are a bit more rubbery than regular scrambled egg though.

  • Corey

    They are a bit more rubbery because the liquid egg is gently pasteurized (a process developed and patented at North Carolina State University) which denatures some of the proteins, so when you cook them the slightly denatured proteins will overcoagulate (rubbery-ness). This is the same reason the liquid egg whites by themselves will not produce a very good meringue (if any at all). :) Hooray food science!

  • Monica

    I feel so much better now because even though i know cholesterol in eggs is not bad for you i still have a little voice in the back of my mind telling that eating eggs almost every day is bad.
    I love eggs. they cook fast. i can cook a couple of them in about 5 minutes so it’s the perfect breakfast when im in a hurry or even after coming home from work and i need something ASAP. I eat them with cheese, or with avocado, in a sandwich, hard boiled, or just plain.
    And so far my blood cholesterol is perfect :)

  • Paul

    When I was 16 I had my first 180-210bpm heart palpitation. I am a good weight and was really healthy at the time. Over the years I learned that eliminating caffeine and cholesterol nearly eliminated the problem. Real butter, soda, coffee, and eggs are pretty well guaranteed to throw my heart into marathon mode. So I stick to margarine, decaf tea, water, and egg whites. Never had an episode from Egg Beaters, but I have had plenty from real eggs within 24 hours of ingesting.
    I was too young to have developed a cholesterol fearing mindset, but I was smart enough to retrace my diet before an episode and make those discoveries. Of course every once in a while when going years w/o the above I’ll think, “it can’t be that bad.” I am soon reminded that those foods I avoid are not arbitrary.
    What I am saying is that I think plenty of us that stick to egg whites do so out of necessity, not some manufactured cholesterol avoidance disillusion. Imagine yourself having to avoid eggs and most of the dishes that eggs are used in entirely… well personally, I’ll settle for the egg whites.

  • huba

    “The maximum recommended allowance of cholesterol from food is just one tenth of that – 300 mg.”

    So is the max 300 mg recommendation just nonsense?

  • sandy

    @Ed Bruske testosterone also has a repressive effect on HDL while estrogen enhances it.

  • D

    yuk…when I learned my cholestrol level was little high, I looked at eating Egg Beaters, but after looking at the label…I said it was better for me to leave out the yolk in my organic eggs than to eat that chemical mess. Now I just try to eat 1/2 yolk.

  • Matt

    This article has presented an extremely strong case to favor Egg Beaters. Who eats a single egg anyway? An entire carton of Egg Beaters is only 210 calories and still zero everything else! You can make a serious meal out of that! The only issue with EB relates to the mysterious ingredients, but everything else strongly supports eating EB over real eggs.

  • Monica

    UPDATE

    just came back from the doctor and he said that i’m in excellent physical condition. so i’ll keep eating my eggs…real eggs!

  • S.T.

    I like the best of both worlds. I don’t want to eat two or three eggs in scrambled eggs or an omelette, but one egg doesn’t have a lot of volume. So I mix egg substitutes made from egg whites with omega-3 yolk, organic whole eggs. Tastes great and I get one yolk but less saturated fat.

  • Jim

    @Monica
    Yeah how old are you there was a time i came home from the doctors with a healthy report too, and kept on eating my eggs. that was years ago before they had to crack my chest open twice it take time for the cholesterol to build up in your arteries, but it will then it’s too late!!!!!

  • Richard

    I’ll bet a dime to a donut that what was built up in your arteries were poly unsaturated fats, not cholesterol. Keep eating Hydrogenated oils and you’ll be goin back for antoher crack at it.

  • Bev

    I am doing The South Beach diet, on which eggs are unlimited (although, how many eggs CAN you eat in a day?). Just for the heck of it, I picked up a carton of the store brand of Egg Beaters to try. I must say, I was very pleasantly surprised at the taste and texture of them. They are PERFECT for omlettes and scrambled eggs and for a switch once in a while from regular eggs. I’m not worried so much about the cholesterol in eggs, just that I get a bit sick of regular eggs on the SB diet.

  • Lynda

    I use Egg Beaters to make homemade mayonaise, since they are pasturized, and homemade mayo requires raw eggs. Actually, they make the texture better than real eggs, light and fluffy.

  • Jessellen18

    I totally agree with the point made on egg beaters , alot of additives going on but there are plenty other options like 100% egg whites. And for someone looking to drop lbs this is a great way to make up a quick veggie omlet on the go.

  • http://www.bes.co.uk/ plumbing

    Continue to stir the eggs until they solidify. Once they are not runny anymore, remove the eggs from the heat.

  • jb

    if you care to read the literature, there is very little, if any, connection between saturated fat and heart disease. Egg Beaters is just another way of feeding the fears of the community. It is now recommended as completely safe to have 2 eggs every day

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      can you point us to that recommendation please?

  • Letty

    My husband’s stomach is sensitive to egg yolks and I don’t care for plain egg whites, so we buy Egg Beaters and love them. I still would like to make poached eggs at home once in a while, but I’m not going to buy both. I’ll eat real eggs at IHOP.

  • Bill

    You state “but too much of it can cause heart disease”. Can you please site some credible evidence that will establish this as fact?

  • IloveFog

    Dang! I am confused now… To eat or not eat eggs???
    I do love eggs but not the cholestrol…

    • http://www.fooducate.com/ Fooducate

      Unless you have very high blood cholesterol issues, eat the eggs. Not sure – get tested and speak with a dietitian.

  • William M Durham

    Again the egg lobby strikes. If only once you would tell the truth it would amaze me. Eggs contain 1 major problem and it spelling starts with the letter C. This substance has been found to clog up your blood vessels, arteries , both heart and brain, and lead to either heart attacks, strokes or by pass surgery. Believe what you will, just ask your Doctor, you pay him for his advice, and listen to what he tells you. Eggs taste great, better than egg beaters, but egg beaters will not plug up your circulatory system.

  • Richard Davis

    “…but too much of it (cholesterol) can cause heart disease.”
    Even this is being challenged on many fronts. People assume that since statins lower cholesterol, and that people on statins have a lower mortality from heart disease than those untreated, that lowering cholesterol reduces mortality from heart disease.
    The problem with this thinking however is that statins are pleiotropic; in addition to lowering cholesterol (both LDL and the beneficial HDL), they’re also antithrombotic and antiinflammatory, either of which could also account for the observations.

  • Edna Fabry

    I am trying to find foods that are filling between meals to help stave off hunger until my next large meal. Any suggestions?

    • Logicandegg

      Nuts, small amount of nice cheese. Not the processed stuff. Hummus with veggies, and a tall glass of water.