Eggs are tasty, nutritious and sometimes downright surprising. Find out more about this fascinating foodstuff with our A to Z of egg facts.
One thing most people do know about eggs is that they are a good source of protein. But did you know how much, or what happens to the protein in eggs when it is cooked?
How much protein is there in an egg?
If you look up the amount of protein in an egg, the figure given is usually 6g, but in fact this is an average, and the actual protein content of an egg depends on its size. Eggs come in many different sizes, from the smallest, which may contain as little as 4.8g, to a Jumbo-sized egg, with around 7.9g of protein. If you want to be precise, an egg contains 125 milligrams of protein per gram, so you can work out the amount of protein in any egg by weighing it and dividing the result by 8.
You often hear of people eating egg whites as a source of protein, but in fact, egg yolks contain almost as much. For example, if an egg contains 7g of protein, there will be 4g in the white, and 3g in the yolk. The reason egg whites are considered healthier is because almost all of the egg’s fat content is stored in the yolk, which also contains more than three times the calories of the whites. This makes egg whites the smarter choice for a high protein, low fat diet.
How does cooking eggs affect protein quality/quantity?
You may have heard that eating raw eggs helps to build fitness, but in fact there is very little reason to do this. It is true that cooking removes a few nutrients, but crucially, it also helps your body absorb much more of that precious protein.
Cooking an egg doesn’t alter the amount of protein in an egg, but it does alter the structure of the proteins in the egg, a process called denaturing, which means the proteins are no longer biologically active. When the egg is raw, biologically active proteins will sometimes bind to one another, which prevents them from being absorbed by the body, but once they have been cooked and denatured, this is no longer a problem.
One study found that your body is only able to absorb 50% of the proteins in raw eggs, as opposed to 90% in cooked eggs. This makes cooked eggs a far better way to access protein, as well as reducing the risk of food poisoning.
Of course, cooked eggs are also the far tastier option. If you want to know just how much tastier, this short video from our Flavour Hackingseries shows you how to make the best eggs you’ve ever tasted.
Other protein-rich foods
If you're not a fan of eggs, or you’d just like a little more variety, you may be interested to know that there are many foods with an even greater protein content than the mighty egg. Check out our list of 20 foods that out-rank eggs in the protein stakes, some of which are animal based, while others are suitable for vegans.
Adzuki beans contain 9 grams of protein per ½ cup serving when cooked. A relative of the kidney bean with a sweet flavour, they are popular in East Asian desserts, and also contain an impressive 8 grams of fibre per serving.
Salmon contains 19 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving, and is also a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Kefir contains10 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. This tangy fermented milk drink is also an excellent source of the ‘friendly’ bacteria that help maintain a healthy gut.
Pumpkin seeds contain 10 grams of protein per ¼ cup serving. They are also a good source of iron, and can be used to add texture and flavour to various dishes.
Edamame contains 9 grams of protein per ½ cup serving and makes a great addition to salads and stir fries.
Quark contains 13 grams of protein per ½ cup serving and makes a delicious low-fat replacement for yoghurt or cream.
Tuna contains 31 grams of protein per 6.5 oz. can and is another great source of Omega-3 fatty acids.
Tempeh contains 16 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving and makes a great vegan alternative to meat.
Peanut butter contains 8 grams of protein per 2 tbsp. serving, which makes your favourite PB &J an excellent protein source. It is also high in fat, however, so be careful not to overdo it.
Chicken contains 24 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving, based on cooked chicken breast.
Cottage cheese contains 12 grams of protein per ½ cup serving, which is around double the protein of the average egg.
Hemp seeds contain 10 grams of protein per 3 tbsp. serving, plus 20% of the Daily Value (DV) of iron, 45% DV of magnesium, 35% DV of phosphorus, 25% DV of zinc, 45% DV of copper, 100% DV of manganese, and 25% the DV of thiamin.
Lentils contain 9 grams of protein per 1/2 cup serving when cooked, and are also a great source of fibre.
Tilapia contains21 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving when cooked. This mild, white fish has a flaky, tender texture and tastes great served in a variety of ways.
Greek yogurt contains 20 grams of protein per 7 oz. container and tastes delicious with your morning oats or granola.
Tofu contains8 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving, and remains one of the most popular sources of plant-based protein for vegetarians and vegans.
Shrimp contains20 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving and makes a tasty addition to many seafood dishes.
Black beans contain 8 grams of protein per ½ cup serving when cooked. They are also a great source of fibre, and taste great in all your favourite Mexican dishes.
Cow’s milk contains 8 grams of protein per 1 cup serving, and is also a great source of calcium and vitamin D.
Turkey contains26 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving, based on cooked turkey breast.
Wherever you get it, protein is an important macronutrient, so if you find yourself with leftover egg yolks after cooking up a batch of meringue or making an egg white scramble, find a way to use that extra protein with these delicious leftover egg yolk recipes.
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