Your body relies heavily on iron to carry oxygen around. Iron is a component of hemoglobin, a type of protein that transports oxygen to cells, tissues and vital organs. A smaller amount of iron makes up myoglobin, a different type of protein that takes oxygen to muscles. You also need iron to help cells grow and function properly. Egg whites do have some iron, although they provide only a tiny amount that doesn’t help much in reaching your recommendation.
Egg Whites vs. Whole Eggs
Only a miniscule 3 percent of the iron content in eggs comes from the white part. You’ll get just 0.03 milligram of iron from one large egg white weighing 33 grams. A large 50-gram whole egg on the other hand, provides closer to 0.9 milligram of iron.
The exact amount of iron you need each day depends on your gender. Iron needs for men do not change and stay at 8 milligrams per day throughout all stages of life. On the contrary, menstruating women need 18 milligrams of iron daily, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. If you become pregnant, you’ll have to up your iron intake to 27 milligrams each day. After delivery, you’ll only need 9 milligrams daily while nursing. Women’s iron needs change once again after menopause, decreasing to 8 milligrams daily.
Boosting Iron Intake at Breakfast
Because egg whites contain such a small amount of iron, you won’t be able to meet your iron needs from eating them alone. You can, however, use egg whites in combination with other iron-rich foods to get what you need. If scrambled egg whites are your go-to quick breakfast, make a wrap instead. Mix egg whites with 1/2 cup raw spinach, which contains 0.4 milligram of iron. Pile your egg white scramble into a small flour tortilla, which has more than 1 milligram of iron, and add a 3-ounce slab of extra-lean ham to get another 0.9 milligram. Top it with a 1-ounce sprinkle of low-fat cheddar cheese, which contains 0.1 milligram of iron. Roll it up and you’ll be out the door in no time with an iron-rich breakfast.
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Other Egg White Cooking Tips
You can also use egg whites instead of whole eggs to create a low-fat crunchy texture on your favorite cut of meat or fish. Simply coat the protein with flour, dip in plain egg whites, coat with crushed corn flakes, sear in a hot pan and finish in the oven. A 3-ounce roasted chicken breast offers 0.9 milligram, a 5.3-ounce baked haddock fillet gives you 2 milligrams and a 3-ounce broiled piece of catfish contains 1.2 milligrams of iron. Plus you’ll get another 4.5 milligrams of iron from just 1/3 cup of a dry corn-flake-type cereal.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Egg, White, Raw, Fresh
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Iron, Fe (mg) Content of Selected Foods per Common Measure, Sorted by Nutrient Content
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Egg, Whole, Raw, Fresh
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.