Vegetarian diets are increasing in popularity as new generations become more curious about their food systems and sources of nutrition.
Diets that focus on specific exclusionary rules can be tricky to follow. Especially when the line between what is and is not okay is a bit blurry. However, vegetarian diets are straightforward.
So – what exactly does a vegetarian diet consist of? And one of the most common questions that we hear… are eggs vegetarian? Keep reading to find out!
What are Eggs?
Eggs are made up of a few different structural components including the shell, the shell membranes, the albumen (egg white), and the yolk (yellow center).
In terms of composition, the shell accounts for 10% of the egg, the egg white is about 60%, and the yolk is the remaining 30% of the egg.
As a whole food source, eggs are a very high-quality source of protein because they contain all the amino acids needed in the human diet.
Eggs are also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and other trace elements that are key to a well-rounded diet.
So, are Eggs Vegetarian?
Now, it’s time to answer the question – do vegetarians eat eggs? Simply put, yes!
By definition, vegetarians avoid any form of animal flesh or meat. Despite being the by-product of an animal, the egg does not fall into this category.
A vegetarian diet can be most easily defined as the refusal to eat meat in any form. This includes beef, chicken, fish, pork, and any other type of animal meat.
Therefore, eggs can be included in a traditional vegetarian diet and can actually be useful as a source of key nutrients, proteins, and amino acids.
Cracking the Controversy Around Vegetarians and Eggs
Similar to veganism, the vegetarian diet was created to align with the fundamental belief that humans should coexist with animals peacefully. Groups who practiced vegetarianism at this time believed that slaughtering animals brutalized the human soul and were a moral betrayal.
There is some controversy around eggs, as some people still do not consider eggs to be a vegetarian-friendly food. The main theory behind this is because an egg is an unfertilized animal that, if fertilized, could have become a chicken.
On the other hand, some people argue that eggs are just an animal by-product that is similar to milk or butter.
Ultimately, most people agree that vegetarianism is a personal choice, and the restrictions around what can and cannot be eaten should be up to the person who chooses that lifestyle route.
Can Egg Impact a Vegetarian Diet?
Poorly designed vegetarian or plant-based diets can cause dietary deficiencies. As with any restrictive diet, it’s recommended that individuals reach out to their medical doctor for professional advice on a vegetarian diet.
However, most vegetarians find supplementation to be useful in rounding out their diet. Vegetarians, on the whole, find some recommended dietary intakes hard to meet because of their choice to skip the meat. Eggs can play a major role in rounding out a vegetarian diet for the better.
Here are some of the most common nutrients that are lower in vegetarian diets:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Other Amino Acids
It’s incredibly important for vegetarians to monitor their protein intake and ensure that they are meeting their dietary intake goals. Eggs can be a great (and permissible) way for vegetarians to incorporate complete protein sources into their diet without having to sacrifice their values.
Omega-3 fatty acids play a major role in brain and heart health and are influential in the prevention of long-term disease.
All the fats and cholesterol in an egg are located within the yolk segment. Yolk lipids are high in unsaturated fatty acids compared with saturated fats. Some processors can influence the saturated and unsaturated ratio in eggs by feeding the hens special diets.
Why are eggs healthy for vegetarians? Let’s check out some of the ways that eggs are rich in vitamins and nutrients (and how they can fill some of the nutritional deficiencies in the vegetarian diet).
Health Benefits of Eggs for Vegetarians
Because vegetarian diets can be low in some nutritional aspects, eggs may be a really significant source of specific nutrients and vitamins. As one of the most nutritional foods on the planet, eggs can actually be an ideal way to boost overall nutrition intake in a vegetarian diet.
One large hard-boiled egg contains (recommended daily intake):
- 6 grams of protein: Protein is a critical part of a healthy diet and is made up of amino acids (chemical building blocks). In the body, amino acids are used to repair, build, and grow muscles and bones. They’re also used to make enzymes and hormones and as a readily available energy source. Protein is key to a healthy and balanced diet!
- 5 grams of healthy fats: The fat within an egg is found in the yolk (yellow center). A typical egg yolk contains mostly healthy and unsaturated fats, which make up part of a healthy diet.
- The egg yolk also contains fat-soluble nutrients like Vitamin A, D, E, and important antioxidants like lutein. The fat that’s found within the egg yolk helps the body to absorb those vitamins! That’s why many tout eggs as being a complete and whole protein source.
- 9% Riboflavin (Vitamin B12): Riboflavin plays a key part in the overall growth, development, and function of the cells within your body. Vitamin B12 also helps to convert the food that you eat into the energy that your body needs to complete daily functions.
- 6% Vitamin A: This vitamin is an essential nutrient that’s most important for vision. It also affects growth, cell division, immune systems, and reproductive processes. Vitamin A also has antioxidant properties and has been beneficial for the skin.
- 22% Selenium: Selenium is a trace mineral in the body that supports several bodily processes. It assists with cognition, immune system function, and fertility. Selenium is also important for thyroid functioning and DNA synthesis that protects the body from oxidative stress and damage.
- 5% Folate (Vitamin B9): Folate is also important in red blood cell formation and healthy cell growth. This nutrient is critical in early pregnancy stages.
- 6% Vitamin B5: Vitamin B5 (like other B vitamins) helps your body to convert and store food. It also assists with the use of fats and proteins as energy sources for bodily functions.
- 9% Phosphorous: Phosphorus is critical for healthy bone, teeth, and tissue maintenance. It also plays a critical role in the kidneys and in how our body stores and uses energy.
- Eggs also contain good amounts of vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin B6, calcium and zinc
Potential Health Risks of Eggs for Vegetarians
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, eggs were denounced as “unhealthy” because of their cholesterol content. On average, a single egg contains about 210 mg of dietary cholesterol. However, recent research has cast a different light on the dietary cholesterol debate.
Many factors affect blood cholesterol levels, including family history, age, comprehensive diet, exercise, and smoking. A greater intake of saturated fats and trans fats has a larger impact on blood cholesterol levels than dietary cholesterol intake does.
The nutrient density of eggs and their ability to act as a complete protein source still makes them a brilliant choice for vegetarians and flexitarians. If you’re concerned about your personal cholesterol levels as a vegetarian, please consult a medical doctor.
Plant-Based Egg Alternatives
Recently, some plant-based alternatives for eggs have hit grocery store shelves. If you’re looking for something to replace eggs in your vegetarian diet – look at any of these plant-based egg alternatives or substitutes.
If you’re not sure if plant-based eggs are right for you, please consult a medical professional for more information or to learn more.
Some of the currently available plant-based egg alternatives or substitutes are :
- Soy-based or Tofu
- Applesauce (baking substitute)
- Mung beans
- Mashed bananas (baking substitute)
- Lupin beans
- Flax meal/seed (baking substitute)
Many of these plant-based alternatives are created with a unique formula that’s designed to mimic the nutritional benefits and consistency of eggs. Most offer a very low (or no) dietary cholesterol impact on the diet.
Vegetarians Can (and do) Eat Eggs!
We’ve finally cracked the mystery of “are eggs vegetarian”. The resounding answer is yes! When consumed as a part of a healthy, diverse, and balanced diet – eggs can have a beneficial impact on a vegetarian’s diet.