Vegetarian diets are increasing in popularity as new generations become more curious about their food systems and sources of nutrition.
Diets focusing 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? One of the most common questions we hear is, are eggs vegetarian? Keep reading to find out!
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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 be helpful as a source of critical nutrients, proteins, and amino acids.
Cracking the Controversy Around Vegetarians and Eggs
Like 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 was a moral betrayal.
There is some controversy around eggs, as some people still do not consider eggs to be a vegetarian-friendly food. The leading theory is that an egg is an unfertilized animal that, if fertilized, could have become a chicken.
On the other hand, some argue that eggs are just an animal by-product 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.
Plant-Based Egg Alternatives
Recently, some plant-based alternatives for eggs have hit grocery store shelves. If you want something to replace eggs in your vegetarian diet – look at any plant-based egg alternatives or substitutes.
If you’re unsure 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.
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 help round out their diet. Vegetarians, on the whole, find some recommended dietary intakes hard to meet because of their choice to skip meat. Eggs can play a significant 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
Vegetarians must monitor their protein intake and ensure they meet their dietary intake goals. Eggs can be a great (and permissible) way for vegetarians to incorporate complete protein sources into their diet without sacrificing their values.
Omega-3 fatty acids play a significant role in brain and heart health and are influential in preventing long-term disease.
An egg’s fats and cholesterol are located within the yolk segment. Yolk lipids are high in unsaturated fatty acids compared with saturated fats. Some processors can influence eggs’ saturated and unsaturated ratio by feeding the hens special diets.
Why are eggs healthy for vegetarians? Let’s check out how 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):
- Six grams of protein: Protein is a critical part of a healthy diet and comprises 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 vital to a healthy and balanced diet!
- Five grams of healthy fats: The fat within an egg is found in the yolk (yellow center). A typical egg yolk contains primarily healthy and unsaturated fats, which make up part of a healthy diet.
- The egg yolk contains fat-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D, and E and essential antioxidants like lutein. The fat found within the egg yolk helps the body absorb those vitamins! That’s why many tout eggs as being a complete and whole protein source.
- 9% Riboflavin (Vitamin B12): Riboflavin plays a vital part in the overall growth, development, and function of the cells within your body. Vitamin B12 also helps convert the food you eat into the energy 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 essential for thyroid functioning and DNA synthesis, which protects the body from oxidative stress and damage.
- 5% Folate (Vitamin B9): Folate is essential 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 using 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 how our body stores energy.
- Eggs also contain reasonable 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 make 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.
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 benefit a vegetarian’s diet.