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Yolk vs Egg white - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Yolk
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Egg white

Introduction

Egg whites and egg yolks serve separate, distinct purposes in nature. Because of this they have very different nutritional profiles. In this article, we will dive into their specific differences or similarities, and see how they affect our health.

Egg yolk functions as the main source of nutrients for the chicken embryo. Egg whites, on the other hand, primarily play a protective role for the embryo, being situated between the embryo and the hard eggshell, while also providing additional nutrition. Egg whites are also often called albumen, based on the protein it contains most of.

Taste and Use

Because of the nutritional differences, yolk tastes richer than egg white. Egg white is often used to add airy texture and foam to a dish, while yolk can act as an emulsifier.

Egg white is often separated from the yolk to make meringue, macaroon or just egg white omelettes.

Egg yolk can also be used on its own to make mayonnaise, custard and hollandaise sauce.

Interestingly, egg whites have been used not only in the kitchen, but also as a binding agent in photography, in bookbinding and wine making, while yolk has been used in painting and microbiology.

Sizes

Naturally, different sizes of eggs contain different amounts of the same nutrients. The USDA has divided egg sizes into five groups (1).

  • Small: 43g (1.5oz)
  • Medium: 50g (1.75oz)
  • Large: 57g (2oz)
  • Extra-large: 64g (2.25oz)
  • Jumbo: 71g (2.5oz)

Of this, egg white accounts for about 67% of the liquid weight, whereas yolk makes up the 33% (2).

Nutrition

We know that yolk and egg white are both highly nutritious, but which one provides more macronutrients, minerals and vitamins?

Macronutrients and Calories

Egg yolk is a lot more dense in nutrients, containing only 52% water, whereas egg white consists 88% of water.

One average size of egg white is considered to be 33g, while yolk’s serving size is equal to 17g.

Calories

Egg yolk alone is a very high calorie food, containing 322 calories per 100g. However, yolk is usually not consumed in those amounts. One serving size of yolk contains 55 calories.

Egg white has much less calories with 52 calories in a hundred grams.

Protein and Fats

Yolk is much higher in both protein and fats compared to egg white.

The protein found in yolk and egg white is highly nutritious, containing large amounts of all essential amino acids. Yolk protein is a little richer in most of those amino acids.

The predominant fat type in yolk is monounsaturated fat, closely followed by saturated fat, leaving polyunsaturated fatty acids in last place. 

Egg yolk also contains large amounts of cholesterol. We will discuss the effects of this substance on our cardiovascular health in the “Health Impact” section.

One of the most important fats found in yolk is called lecithin. This fat is partially responsible for many health effects and physicochemical properties of egg yolk, including the yellow colour.

Egg white contains only a negligible amount of fats.

Carbohydrates

Yolk also contains higher amounts of carbohydrates. However, both egg white and yolk do not contain fiber and are very low in sugars.

Vitamins

Yolk is much richer in all vitamins except for one. Egg white contains more vitamin B3.

Four vitamins can be found in yolk that are completely absent in egg whites. Those are vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D and vitamin K. The reason for this difference is the fact that these vitamins are all fat-soluble and cannot exist in the fat-free environment of egg whites.

Other vitamins that yolk is higher in include vitamins B1, B2, B5, B6, B12 and the folate form of vitamin B9.

Both egg white and yolk completely lack vitamin C.

Minerals

Egg yolk is higher in almost all minerals as well. Yolk contains higher amounts of iron, phosphorus, calcium, selenium, zinc, copper, manganese and choline. Yolk is also much lower in sodium.

Egg white, on the other hand, is richer in magnesium and potassium.

Glycemic Index

Both egg white and yolk contain so little carbohydrates that measuring the glycemic index would be exceedingly difficult.

Eating egg white or yolk alone should not have much effect on your blood glucose levels (3).

Acidity

Egg white is a naturally alkaline food with a pH value that can range from 7.6 to 9.2. The alkaline properties of the egg white increase as the egg ages (4).

Egg yolk, on the other hand, has a pH value ranging from 6 to 6.9, making it acidic. The acidity of egg yolk also increases during the egg storage (4).

The acidity of the whole egg tends to be neutral.

Another way to look at the acidity of foods is the potential renal acid load (PRAL). The PRAL shows us how much base or acid the given food produces in our bodies.

The PRAL value for egg white has been calculated to be 2.1, making it acidic. Egg yolk has a higher acidic PRAL value of 18.1 

Weight Loss

Egg whites are much lower in calories, as well as all macronutrients, compared with yolk. However, one serving of yolk, containing 55 calories, can also provide the body with many essential minerals and vitamins.

Eggs, overall, have been found to enhance weight loss, when they were incorporated in energy-deficit diets (5). So even with the high calorie yolk, they can be a great addition to a weight management diet.

It has been studied that dietary egg white protein reduces body fat mass in rats by accelerating certain liver functions (6).

The blood level of an enzyme called cholecystokinin increases after egg yolk consumption. This may be the reason for the property of whole eggs or egg yolk to induce greater satiety and reduce short-term food intake compared to other foods with the same amount of calories (7). 

Egg white is the right choice between these two for low calorie, low carb and low fat diets.

Health Impact

As we can see egg white and yolk are rich in different macronutrients, minerals and vitamins. In this section we will focus on what that means for our health.

Health Benefits

Cardiovascular Health

Egg white contains an insignificant level of fats, while yolk is high in cholesterol. We’ve all heard how cholesterol can be dangerous for our cardiovascular health. However, a moderate amount of cholesterol, consumed in a healthy diet, is not only harmless, but also necessary for many functions of the organism (8).

Scientists have found that moderate egg or egg yolk consumption is not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke among healthy individuals (9). But for people with already existing cardiovascular health issues, in need of controlling their cholesterol levels, it is better to opt for egg whites only or reduce whole egg consumption (10).

Diabetes

Even though both egg white and yolk have very low glycemic indices, their consumption is overall not advised for people at risk of diabetes.

High levels of whole egg consumption has been found to have an association with increased risk of diabetes mellitus type 2, as well as heart disease risk for people with diabetes (11, 12).

Possible mechanisms for these effects are the oxidative and inflammatory effects of choline found in yolk and slower carbohydrate absorption from chemicals found in egg whites (13).

In contrast to this, some studies found there to be either inverse or no association between high egg consumption and diabetes (14, 15).

Downsides and Risks

Cancer

Quite a few studies have suggested a correlation between egg consumption and certain types of cancers.

One research in particular, found high egg consumption to increase the risk of several cancers: oral cavity and pharynx, upper respiratory and digestive tracts, colorectal, lung, breast, prostate and bladder (16).

Another study found that the agents causing lymphosarcomas and lung adenocarcinomas were present in both egg white and yolk, whereas mammary carcinogens were only found in egg yolk (17).

Allergy

Egg allergies are one of the most common allergies in the world, especially in children. Some people may also have intolerance towards egg whites. People are more often allergic to egg whites than yolk, as most allergenic egg proteins are found in egg white (18).

Egg allergy symptoms can range from mild rash, indigestion and coughing to an anaphylactic reaction (19).

Biotin deficiency

Consuming raw egg white for a prolonged period of time can cause biotin deficiency. A protein present in egg white, avidin, tightly binds biotin, also known as vitamin B7, making it unavailable for intestinal absorption. This problem does not occur with cooked eggs as high heat changes the structure of avidin (20).

Salmonella poisoning

Even though 1 in every 20000 eggs may be contaminated with Salmonella bacterium, eating raw eggs may still be hazardous for health (21). Fully cooking eggs kills the bacteria.

Salmonella poisoning symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps. This is particularly dangerous for children, pregnant women and elderly people.

Summary

In summary, egg yolk is much higher in calories and most nutrients, including protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamins E and K, vitamins B9 and B12, as well as iron, phosphorus and calcium and more. Egg whites are very high in protein, also being richer in vitamin B3, potassium and magnesium.

Moderate consumption of eggs can provide substantial nutrients necessary for overall health, however, excessive intake may lead to detrimental effects, such as diabetes and cancer.

The choice between egg white vs yolk entirely depends on the preferences and needs of the consumer.

Sources.

  1. https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/Shell_Egg_Standard%5B1%5D.pdf
  2. https://afs.ca.uky.edu/files/1-composition_of_the_egg.pdf
  3. https://www.glycemicindex.com/faqsList.php#8
  4. https://www.incredibleegg.org/professionals/manufacturers/real-egg-functionality/ph-stability
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2755181/
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28980893/
  7. https://www.aeb.org/images/website/documents/food-manufacturers/order-aeb-resources/Short_Term_Effect_of_Eggs_on_Satiety.pdf
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6682969/
  9. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/189529
  10. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/eggs/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2628696/
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3683816/
  13. https://www.pcrm.org/news/health-nutrition/egg-consumption-increases-risk-diabetes
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25832339/
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26404366/
  16. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20104980/
  17. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3181/00379727-112-28254
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3069662/
  19. https://acaai.org/allergies/types-allergies/food-allergy/types-food-allergy/egg-allergy
  20. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/biochemistry-genetics-and-molecular-biology/biotin-deficiency
  21. https://extension.umn.edu/preserving-and-preparing/handling-eggs-prevent-salmonella
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Profession: Yerevan State Medical University
Last updated: December 18, 2020

Infographic

Yolk vs Egg white infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Yolk
6
:
Contains more Iron +3312.5%
Contains more Calcium +1742.9%
Contains more Copper +234.8%
Contains more Zinc +7566.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +2500%
Contains less Sodium -71.1%
Contains more Potassium +49.5%
Contains more Magnesium +120%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 103% 39% 10% 4% 26% 63% 168% 7%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 3% 3% 15% 8% 8% 1% 7% 22%
Contains more Iron +3312.5%
Contains more Calcium +1742.9%
Contains more Copper +234.8%
Contains more Zinc +7566.7%
Contains more Phosphorus +2500%
Contains less Sodium -71.1%
Contains more Potassium +49.5%
Contains more Magnesium +120%

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Yolk
10
:
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +∞%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +4300%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +20.3%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +1473.7%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +6900%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +2066.7%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Contains more Folate +3550%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +337.5%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 87% 52% 162% 44% 122% 1% 180% 81% 244% 2% 110%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 102% 2% 12% 2% 12% 0% 3%
Contains more Vitamin A +∞%
Contains more Vitamin E +∞%
Contains more Vitamin D +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +4300%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +20.3%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +1473.7%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +6900%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +2066.7%
Contains more Vitamin K +∞%
Contains more Folate +3550%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +337.5%

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
90
Yolk
11
Egg white
Mineral Summary Score
52
Yolk
8
Egg white

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
95%
Yolk
65%
Egg white
Carbohydrates
4%
Yolk
1%
Egg white
Fats
122%
Yolk
1%
Egg white

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Yolk Egg white
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in glycemic index Equal
Lower in price Equal
Rich in minerals Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Yolk Egg white
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low glycemic index diet Equal

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Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Yolk
Yolk is lower in Sugar (difference - 0.15g)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Yolk
Yolk contains less Sodium (difference - 118mg)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Yolk
Yolk is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Egg white
Egg white is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 1085mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Egg white
Egg white is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 9.551g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
?
The foods have equal glycemic indexes (0)
Which food is cheaper?
?
The foods are relatively equal in price ($1)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Yolk Egg white Opinion
Calories 322 52 Yolk
Protein 15.86 10.9 Yolk
Fats 26.54 0.17 Yolk
Vitamin C 0 0
Carbs 3.59 0.73 Yolk
Cholesterol 1085 0 Egg white
Vitamin D 218 0 Yolk
Iron 2.73 0.08 Yolk
Calcium 129 7 Yolk
Potassium 109 163 Egg white
Magnesium 5 11 Egg white
Sugar 0.56 0.71 Yolk
Fiber 0 0
Copper 0.077 0.023 Yolk
Zinc 2.3 0.03 Yolk
Starch
Phosphorus 390 15 Yolk
Sodium 48 166 Yolk
Vitamin A 1442 0 Yolk
Vitamin E 2.58 0 Yolk
Vitamin D 5.4 0 Yolk
Vitamin B1 0.176 0.004 Yolk
Vitamin B2 0.528 0.439 Yolk
Vitamin B3 0.024 0.105 Egg white
Vitamin B5 2.99 0.19 Yolk
Vitamin B6 0.35 0.005 Yolk
Vitamin B12 1.95 0.09 Yolk
Vitamin K 0.7 0 Yolk
Folate 146 4 Yolk
Trans Fat
Saturated Fat 9.551 0 Egg white
Monounsaturated Fat 11.738 0 Yolk
Polyunsaturated fat 4.204 0 Yolk
Tryptophan 0.177 0.125 Yolk
Threonine 0.687 0.449 Yolk
Isoleucine 0.866 0.661 Yolk
Leucine 1.399 1.016 Yolk
Lysine 1.217 0.806 Yolk
Methionine 0.378 0.399 Egg white
Phenylalanine 0.681 0.686 Egg white
Valine 0.949 0.809 Yolk
Histidine 0.416 0.29 Yolk
Fructose 0.07 0.07

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Yolk - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172184/nutrients
  2. Egg white - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/172183/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.