Keeping a good relationship with food is key to a healthy lifestyle. Thinking of what (and how much of it) is in each thing you eat will help you make better nutrition decisions. Now, not everyone has the time to think about these things while eating. The posts in this series will help you gain that ballpark knowledge of everyday items we have. If you like this analysis, please feel free to request more items.
I had many ‘bennys’ in my life. Some were better than others, yet all are an undeniable staple of the American brunch. I chose this dish to deconstruct because it consists primarily of ingredients that people commonly demonize. So today’s post tries to address the question: What’s unhealthy in Eggs Benedict, and what is its impact on weight management?
In its simplest form, this dish consists of four main elements: One English muffin, two poached eggs, two slices of pan-seared Canadian bacon, and a few tablespoons of Hollandaise sauce.
If we further break down the muffin and the Hollandaise sauce, we find that some of their components are:
- White flour.
- Whole Milk.
- Egg yolks.
I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that people label the benny’s as unhealthy. But let’s look a little deeper.
For simplicity’s sake, I will rely on the nutrition information that the USDA has of English muffins and not deconstruct the bread. However, if you’re curious, I found this recipe from King Arthur that’s pretty close to the standard.
Considered by chef Carême as a French mother sauce, this sauce is a close cousin of Mayonnaise. In essence, it’s an emulsion between egg yolks and clarified butter, even though some make it out of regular butter. After the emulsion is ready, we flavor the sauce with salt, lemon, black pepper, or cayenne.
Let’s look at the nutrition information per tablespoon. For our recipe, I estimate that we will need about three tablespoons. By taking a closer look into the cholesterol levels, it seems like three tablespoons of this sauce might make it relatively high in this lipid.
Eggs and Bacon
The traditional recipe calls for two slices of Canadian bacon and two poached eggs. Canadian bacon is much leaner than American bacon, which comes only from the pork belly. However, the pan-searing method would render out of the cured meat most of its fat anyway. Because of how it’s cooked then, the pan-seared version (if drained correctly and without any added oil) will be much leaner than the uncooked one.
Poached eggs have the same calories as regular eggs. Here is the nutrition information of both components combined, one slice and one egg.
By paying close attention to these two components, we can see that they don’t contain any trans fat, but they’re high in cholesterol, mainly from the egg.
Putting It All Together
Now let’s stop and analyze the complete recipe. First, a note on the ingredients, I added 1 tsp of butter to the recipe because I like to use it to toast the English muffin. You can see, either way, that the added butter doesn’t move the needle in terms of calories. The following table summarizes the calories of each component of the recipe.
|Qty||Unit||Food||Calories||% of Recipe|
Also, we can see the recipe’s nutritional information, including the micronutrients and the breakdown of the macros.
As you can see, this recipe, depending on how much Hollandaise sauce we use, is not excessively high in calories. Therefore, it would fit well either as a lunch or a dinner for someone who is not trying to gain weight. Also, it’s noteworthy that most of the calories come from fat. You could quickly transform this breakfast into keto by replacing the English muffin with a few pieces of pan-seared cauliflower.
Weight Management and Health Analysis
The previous analysis poses the question: if calories are not excessive, where’s the unhealthy of a plain benny?
The first thing that stands out is the 200% of the recommended value for Cholesterol. This lipid comes mainly from the eggs. There are eggs in the bread, the sauce, and in poached form. You can drastically mitigate this factor by having your benny as a sandwich, avoiding one of the eggs, half of the sauce, and one slice of bacon.
The second thing that stands out is trans fat. This fat comes from hydrogenated oils that commercial bread have to prolong their shelf life. The fix? Bake your own!
The final component is much more subtle. As English muffins are white bread, they have very little dietary fiber and a high glycemic index; this means that you’re likely to experience a glucose spike and feel hungry again when it goes away.
Is bacon a problem? From the point of view of our data, it’s not! From the nutritional perspective, it adds protein which helps you feel satisfied for an extended period.
To put things into perspective, by baking the muffin myself, using whole wheat flour, and converting my benny into a sandwich, I would consider the meal healthy, especially if for a high-fat eating style. There are also ways of further enhancing the recipe by replacing the eggs in the sauce with aquafaba and dijon mustard as emulsifiers.
Plain eggs Benedict are not excessive in calories, even though it’s a dish entirely composed of ingredients traditionally demonized like eggs, butter, bacon, and bread. From the nutrition analysis perspective, replacing the excessive amount of eggs with some alternative and baking your bread would eliminate the artificial trans-fat, reduce the cholesterol levels, and increase the dietary fiber content. All of these upgrades would bring the dish into the “healthy” gray area in my books.
How do you feel about these ingredients? Have you banned English muffins from your diet? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.