How Much Protein Is Really In An Egg?

The humble egg is a favorite choice for athletes and dieters alike due to its high protein content. Some would say it's the perfect snack — and for good reason. It's low in calories and carbs, easy to cook, and relatively cheap, offering both flavor and nutrition. Plus, it has less fat than most meat, cheese, and other animal protein sources. While it's true that eggs are high in cholesterol, you shouldn't have to worry too much about it unless advised by your doctor.

A whole egg has anywhere from 141-234 milligrams of cholesterol, depending on size. Your daily cholesterol intake should not exceed 300 milligrams, but exceeding this limit isn't necessarily harmful. Dietary cholesterol has little or no impact on blood cholesterol and heart disease risk, according to 2019 research published in the journal Public Health Nutrition. "However, people with certain health problems, such as diabetes, should continue to avoid cholesterol-rich foods," warns Dr. Steven Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

That said, eggs can be a nutritious addition to most diets when consumed in moderation. There are plenty of reasons to eat an egg every day, especially if you need more protein. Not only does this nutrient build and preserve lean mass, but it also increases satiety and keeps your metabolism up, notes a 2012 review featured in the British Journal of Nutrition (BJN). This means losing those pesky pounds and reaching your fitness goals can be easier. 

Eggs have more protein than you might think

Most people need about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, according to the BJN. This nutrient plays a crucial role in muscle growth and repair, hormone production, immune function, and appetite control. The problem is that many high-protein foods are packed with fat or take a long time to cook. Luckily, that's not the case with the humble egg, which seems to tick all the right boxes.

A small egg boasts 5 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, and 54 calories. It's also a good source of selenium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, thiamin, choline, and vitamin B12. By comparison, a medium egg has 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fat, whereas a large egg offers a little more than 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat. Extra-large eggs contain 7 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat, but you can also cook with jumbo eggs, which provide close to 8 grams of protein and 6 grams of fat. On top of that, eggs have less than 1 gram of carbs per egg, no matter their size.

Note that egg whites aren't healthier than whole eggs. They do contain most of the protein found in an egg, but the yolks are higher in calcium, zinc, folate, iron, carotenoids, and other nutrients. It's also worth mentioning that eggs are complete proteins, meaning they deliver all nine essential amino acids, including leucine and lysine. 

How you cook your eggs matters, too

Cooking can destroy some of the nutrients in food, but that doesn't mean you should eat raw eggs. First, they might be contaminated with salmonella and make you sick. Second, your body absorbs only half of the protein in raw eggs and over 90% of the protein in cooked eggs, according to 1998 evidence published in the Journal of Nutrition. Third, raw and cooked eggs have similar nutritional values. For example, poached eggs are slightly lower in phosphorus, folate, and choline than their raw counterparts, but the difference is negligible.

How you cook your eggs matters, too. Generally, it's best to avoid frying, boiling, or microwaving them. These cooking methods use high heat, which may affect their lutein content and other nutrients. Hard-boiled eggs are lower in calcium, potassium, vitamin A, lutein, and zeaxanthin than raw or poached eggs. Additionally, high cooking temperatures oxidize the fat in eggs, increasing your risk of heart disease, explains a 2014 study featured in the Journal of Emerging Investigators.

From a health perspective, it's recommended to bake, steam, poach, or scramble your eggs. You can also use them in quiches, casseroles, baked goods, or a delicious soufflé omelet. For extra flavor, poach them in a spicy tomato sauce or bake them whole in mushroom caps, bell peppers, or avocado halves. If you feel like having a snack, mix some eggs with veggies and bake them in mini ramekins.