Is there anything not to love about eggs? Offering significant amounts of protein, essential minerals, healthy fats, and vitamins, they are one of the most nutrient-rich foods you can eat. In fact, experts refer to them as a “powerhouse of nutrition.”
What’s more, eggs are easy to prepare, accessible, inexpensive, and a cinch to incorporate into all sorts of different recipes and meals.
Something you may not have considered about eggs, though: How you cook them can impact their nutritional value—and even their healthfulness.
Here’s what you need to know about the healthiest way to prepare eggs.
First thing’s first: Nothing good comes from overcooking eggs. It affects both their chemistry and taste. The heat causes the coiled-up proteins in them to uncoil and link up with one another, leading to a dry, rubbery texture, explains dietitian Sarah Koszyk, R.D.N., author of 365 Snacks for Every Day of the Year. The yolk also develops a green film, which occurs because the egg white releases hydrogen sulfide, which reacts with the iron in the yolk. Both of these things can understandably make your eggs less appetizing.
Taste and texture issues aside, some research suggests that cooking your eggs for longer than necessary can impact their vitamin D content. Additionally, when you cook eggs at high heat, which is anything over 400 degrees (think above “medium” on your stovetop), they lose some of their nutrients, including vitamin A and antioxidants, says according to dietitian Brittany Lubeck, M.S., R.D. This doesn’t mean they become nutritionally worthless, by any means, but it is a very real occurrence. (This chart lists ideal temperatures for different egg-cooking methods.)
High-heat cooking (pan-frying is a prime example) can also oxidize the healthy fats and cholesterol in eggs. This process produces oxysterols, compounds that can induce an inflammatory response, according to Koszyk. In fact, oxidized fats and cholesterol may ultimately contribute to poor heart health, says dietitian Caroline Thomason R.D.N., L.D.N., C.D.E. “This is why people who eat fried foods have an increased risk of heart disease,” Koszyk adds.
While this isn’t a huge concern, combine the less-than-ideal nutritional impacts and the changes in taste associated with cooking the life out of your eggs and it’s probably enough to incentivize you to rethink how you prep this everyday staple.
What’s the Healthiest way to Prepare eggs, then?
While you can enjoy your eggs in whatever form you like best, cooking methods that involve low to medium heat (think “low and slow”), like poaching and boiling, are ultimately the healthiest way to prepare eggs, says Thomason. This maintains as many of the eggs’ nutrients as possible and keeps them highly digestible.
“This does not mean that frying your eggs is not an acceptable way to cook your eggs from a nutritional standpoint,” Lubeck says. However, if you’re going to fry or cook your eggs using oil, make sure to choose an oil that can withstand higher temperatures, like avocado oil.
Another pointer when frying: Go for sunny-side-up, so only one side of the egg touches heat, which means you’ll be less likely to overcook it, according to Lubeck. Over-easy eggs also leave you with a runny yolk, which means less potential for oxidizing the cholesterol or overcooking them.
Of course, it’s worth noting that eating raw or lightly cooked meat or eggs increases your risk of contracting salmonella, so make sure that you buy pasteurized eggs in order to avoid this, Koszyk says.
The Bottom Line
Cooking eggs is truly an art form—and one that can influence the nutrition you reap from your meal (though perhaps not on a huge scale).
Ultimately, eggs are fantastic sources of many nutrients your body needs, so regardless of how you cook them, they make for a great food staple.