Why Vegan Eggs Are Healthier for You and the Planet, from An Expert
Whether you prefer them scrambled, hard-boiled, over-easy, or fried, eggs are often touted for their health benefits. This may be why Americans are eating more eggs than ever at an average rate of nearly 300 eggs per person each year, reports The Washington Post. But are eggs as healthy as you think? There is new evidence that eggs are not healthy.
Unfortunately, our infatuation with this popular breakfast staple has health, environmental, and ethical consequences. Which begs the question, “Is there an alternative to conventional eggs?” The answer is an emphatic yes: The vegan egg. Plant-based egg alternatives made by companies such as JUST Egg, Crackd, and Follow Your Heart are designed to mimic eggs in taste, texture, and cooking ability.
Here's how ditching poultry for vegan eggs is a healthier and more sustainable option for you and the planet.
Are Vegan Eggs Healthy?
Compared to conventional eggs (especially factory-farmed), vegan eggs are the clear winner in terms of health. Vegan eggs contain carbohydrates, plant protein, and heart-healthy fats, whereas chicken eggs are high in cholesterol and saturated fat—two significant contributors to heart disease. Also, regular eggs spike levels of trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) — a toxic compound produced by the interaction between certain foods and gut microbes during digestion that raises your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Most vegan egg products are designed to be more nutritious and sustainable than regular eggs, says a recent study published in Foods. Egg substitute products aim to provide healthy, cruelty-free egg alternatives for people with egg allergies and promote a more sustainable, plant-based lifestyle.
“Plant-based eggs offer many nutrients similar to conventional chicken eggs, and therefore, can be a great addition to or replacement for chicken eggs for a plant-based or vegan dietary lifestyle,” says Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN, a registered dietitian at Bucket List Tummy.
Are Vegan Eggs Sustainable?
The ingredients used to produce vegan eggs have a substantially reduced environmental footprint than conventional eggs. For example, JUST Egg makes its plant-based eggs from mung beans, soy, and turmeric, which contribute significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions (GHGEs) than chicken eggs. JUST Egg’s website boasts that the mung bean is a highly sustainable plant food that’s been used for thousands of years. Their liquid plant-based egg product uses 98 percent less water, 83 percent less land, and has 93 percent fewer CO2 emissions than conventional eggs.
The carbon footprint of one dozen eggs is 2.7 kilograms of CO2 equivalent and egg-laying hens are a source of GHGEs. Plus, the production of vegan eggs uses less water than a single chicken egg, which is estimated to require about 63 gallons of water, according to the Water Education Foundation.
So what ingredients go into making a vegan egg? Well, it depends on the brand. “Ingredients vary depending on the brand of vegan egg,” explains Schlichter. “For example, Follow Your Heart eggs use a soymilk powder sourced from soybeans while JUST Egg uses mung bean protein. Also, there are other additives, such as sodium and herbs, to create the savory texture and feel of chicken eggs, and for color.”
Here’s a macronutrient comparison between JUST Egg and chicken eggs, according to VegFAQs:
|Nutritional Content||JUST Egg||Chicken eggs|
(0 saturated,6 monounsaturated,
(3.2 saturated,3.6 monounsaturated, 1.8 polyunsaturated)
The calories and macronutrient profiles are similar. Though they have the same amount of fat, JUST Egg has zero saturated fat and contains heart-healthy mono and polyunsaturated fats, plus it’s free from cholesterol. However, chicken eggs have more protein and fiber. Nevertheless, if you want to protect your heart, vegan eggs are the safer bet.
What Are the Health Benefits of Vegan Eggs?
Though vegan eggs are made from plant-based ingredients, they’re still processed. Processed foods are stripped of nutritional value and pale in comparison to whole foods in terms of vitamin, mineral, and fiber content. Unless a vegan egg product is fortified, it lacks many nutrients found in chicken eggs, such as vitamins A, B, D, and E, potassium, and choline. However, compared to conventional eggs, vegan eggs are healthier for your heart for the reasons noted above.
“Vegan eggs are low in, or void of, cholesterol, which can add up with chicken eggs. This may also make vegan eggs an attractive option for those who are following a heart-healthy or low-cholesterol diet,” states Schlichter.
When baking, you can substitute a number of plant-based alternatives for eggs. Here are nine egg alternatives to use that will make your baked goods even healthier.
Bottom Line: Vegan Eggs Are Better for Your Heart and the Environment
Though vegan eggs are processed and lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber, they’re better for your heart and significantly more environmentally friendly and sustainable than their animal-based counterparts. Enjoy plant-based egg alternatives in moderation, but don’t make them a mainstay in your diet.
For more expert advice, visit The Beet's Health & Nutrition articles.