As someone that loves breakfast, I have come to the recent realization that eggs might not be the most efficient form of consuming protein. For the last year, my regular breakfast included 3-4 eggs everyday, along with a half cup of oatmeal. As I powered through my triple egg omelette with everything seasoning, I questioned just how necessary it was to consume this many eggs over the course of a week.
[T]he average American will eat more eggs in 2019 than any time for the past 20 years.WebMD
Do not take this as an anti-egg article! I am a big fan of eggs, for any meal, eggs are great. Scrambled, baked, sunny side up, hard boiled. This wasn’t sparked by a recent study published in 2019 finding that those that ate an average of two eggs a day had a 24% increased risk in heart related events. It seems that eggs are always in the crosshairs for researchers, almost as if on schedule, once a decade the research will either show they are great for your health, or they increase risk of mortality. This article is not about the scientific evidence relating to the health of eggs.
Because I still aim to eat a high protein diet, this article was thought of more because my resolve to eat this many eggs a week has faltered and lead me down the path to find some egg-ternatives.
What makes eggs so great?
To determine what are good egg-ternatives, I had to dive deeper to find out eggs-actly what makes eggs so amazing. (Maybe I’ll stop with the puns, but realistically I’m too eggs-cited to stop)
I will try to focus purely on the nutritional content of the eggs themselves, rather than the ‘health benefits’ on the body. This thinking does seem counter-intuitive, but due to the current state of research, I will leave it up to the reader to determine if eggs are good or bad for the body.
There is also some contention in the research as to the health effects of a high protein diet. I will also be omitting this aspect of the discussion.
Instead you will find what makes eggs nutritionally optimal and how they compare to some other options.
Eggs are considered to be high in protein, at 6g of protein per egg, this equates to around 13grams per 100 grams of eggs. Not only that, there are a bunch of minerals and vitamins, including, vitamin A, C, D, B6, calcium, iron, cobalamin, mangesium, lecithin, lutein & zeaxanthin. They also contain almost the same amount of fat, with 100 grams of eggs containing 11 grams of total fats, 3.3 grams being saturated.
All this to say that eggs pack a nutritional punch. Most of the micro-nutritional value contained in eggs are actually contained in the yolk. One study also showed that eggs can help with vitamin absorption of nutrients contained in vegetables when eaten together. The vitamin content found in eggs, aren’t always found in other animal sources.
Amino Acid Profile
Eggs, like meat, contain all the Essential Amino Acids (EAA) that the body needs to consume in order to be utilized as protein in the body. It is safe to say that all animal products contain all of the EAAs required, since they are made up with a similar structure to human tissue.
This would be where eggs, and any other animal source of protein, has the edge over most vegetable protein sources. However, to say that eggs are better than beef isn’t possible.
Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS)
The PDCAAS is a rating adopted by the US FDA & WHO, as a way to assess protein quality. The scores are capped at 1.0, with the reasoning being that any score that could achieve score higher than 1, would already contain EAAs in excess of human requirements and don’t provide additional nutritional benefits.
Below are a couple of lists which can be found in the joint FAO/WHO report assessing protein quality.
Here is a truncated list from the JSSM study published in 2005.
The satiety index was an index developed by Susanna Holt to rank foods based on how long they remain in the stomach, and staves off hunger the longest.
Here are a few graphs from the original research paper:
It looks like eggs lie in the middle of the road for ‘protein rich foods’ as well as slightly higher than average amongst all food.
Eggs are great! But for those that a̶r̶e̶ ̶s̶i̶c̶k̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶e̶a̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶s̶i̶x̶ ̶e̶g̶g̶s̶ ̶e̶v̶e̶r̶y̶ ̶d̶a̶y̶ want some variety in their diet – which is highly recommended.
I found this list from Coach Magazine Online, which basically ranks the protein content of various foods, based on a standardized 100g portion size. The list is by no means exhaustive, but does serve as a good start to find some egg substitutes.
Ranked highest on the list was beef jerky (30-40g), not surprising since it’s basically dehydrated beef. The top 20 foods are as follows:
What’s surprising, is that eggs don’t even appear in the top 30, they’re ranked 32nd for protein/100g. The list also omits any supplement form of protein, such as whey protein powder, which vary based on manufacturer, and can contain anywhere from 70-90 grams of protein per 100 gram serve.
Also missing form the list are hemp seeds, which contain 31 grams per 100 grams. Chia seeds contain 17 grams per 100 grams. Flax seeds contain 18 grams per 100 grams.
Canned tuna contains 24 grams per 100 grams. Most cans of tuna contain two 55 gram servings. So eating one entire can would give you just over 25grams of protein. An equivalent of four eggs.
There are plenty of egg-cellent alternatives available when eggs just don’t sound appealing. At the end of the day, a well rounded diet with plenty of different protein sources will be best. There are no single foods that should be prioritized when creating a nutritional plan, instead a holistic and varied approach to eating should be at the heart of any solid nutritional strategy. It is not simply about avoiding or only eating a certain food group, but rather how does the food you eat combine to create the body you want?