Eggs are a nutrient-dense food recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), and there are a few ways to think about the nutrients in eggs:
- The nutrients contained in an egg
- The nutrients eggs provide within the American diet
- Eggs as part of recommended dietary patterns
It is a combination of these three perspectives that gives us a complete story for the value of eggs in human nutrition.
Eggs are a nutrient-dense food
The Nutrition Facts Label highlights the value of eggs as part of healthy diet patterns, providing a good or excellent source of eight essential nutrients: 12% Daily Value (DV) of high quality protein; 15% DV of riboflavin (B2); 20% DV of vitamin B12; 35% DV of biotin (B7); 15% DV of pantothenic acid (B5); 20% DV of iodine; 25% DV of selenium; and 25% DV of choline. These are the nutrients contained in an egg that, from a human nutrition perspective, are present in meaningful amounts.
Eggs provide key nutrients within the American diet
Another way to look at the nutritional value of eggs is with national data of what Americans actually eat (What We Eat in America, which is part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)). The NHANES is an ongoing nationally representative cross-sectional analysis of the U.S. population that allows evaluation of typical dietary habits, including the nutrient contribution of eggs.
The NHANES 2015-2018 data show that, on average, eggs contribute 25% of the essential fatty acid docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to the diet, 22% of the choline, 12% of the vitamin D, 8% of the lutein + zeaxanthin, 8% of the selenium, 7% of the vitamin A, 6% of the riboflavin, 5% of the vitamin B12 and protein, among other nutrients, for Americans 19+ years of age. For American children 2-18 years of age, eggs contribute an average of 37% of the DHA, 19% of the choline, 11% of the lutein + zeaxanthin, 6% of the vitamin D and selenium, and 5% of the vitamin A and riboflavin to the diet. What’s interesting is that while eggs have small amounts of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA (~29 mg), because they are so commonly consumed – they are in more than 94% of American households– they contribute to more than a quarter of the DHA intake of Americans, on average. And although higher levels of DHA can be found in fish and seafood, eggs contribute a higher percentage of DHA because Americans do not consume very much fish and seafood.
Eggs fit into healthy dietary patterns
Finally, eggs can be viewed as an important component of healthy dietary patterns, identified as a nutrient-dense food by the DGA: “Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans, peas, and lentils, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry—when prepared with no or little added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium—are nutrient-dense foods.” The DGA recommends eggs across the lifespan as part of example dietary patterns, including the U.S.-Style Dietary Pattern, the Healthy Vegetarian Dietary Pattern, and the Healthy Mediterranean-Style Dietary Pattern. Similarly, the American Heart Association has highlighted the value of eggs as part of healthy dietary patterns across the lifespan.
Overall, there are multiple ways to think of the nutritional value of an egg. These different perspectives continue to build a story of the nutrient contribution of eggs across the lifespan, from babies to older adults!