Egg ingredients are amazing in what they offer (protein in the form of essential amino acids) as well as what they don't have (they are gluten-free and thus functional in many applications).

The International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2016 Food and Health Survey found 64% of respondents said they were trying to consume protein, which ranked first among all items and was up from 54% in the 2015 survey. The 2016 survey also revealed 20% said they were trying to avoid gluten.

Another survey from the Natural Marketing Institute, Harleysville, Pa., and Informa Group, London, asked consumers what products they use to get more protein. Eggs ranked No. 1 at 70%, ahead of dairy and lean meats, each at 66%.

The types of protein found in eggs also are important.

“Amino acids, commonly referred to as the ‘building blocks of protein,’ perform much of the work credited to protein,” says John Howeth, senior vice-president, food service and egg product marketing for the American Egg Board, Park Ridge, Ill. “The amino acid composition of a protein determines the quality of different types of proteins.

“Amino acids are classified as either essential or nonessential. The body cannot produce essential amino acids (E.A.A.), identified as histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine, so they must be obtained through the diet. The protein in eggs is highly digestible and provides much of the essential amino acids. In virtually every method used to evaluate protein quality and digestibility, egg proteins consistently rank highly along with milk proteins.”

A whole egg provides 6 grams of protein, says Mindi McKibbin, new product development manager, research and development, for Rembrandt Foods, Spirit Lake, Iowa. Dried egg whites, which are about 80% protein, can boost protein levels in bakery applications, including protein-fortified waffles and pancake mixes, she says. Dried egg whites also may be added to protein bars, where they act as a binder for other ingredients.

Another health benefit of egg yolk comes from choline content. The Institute of Medicine has age-specific and gender-specific Adequate Intakes for choline based on intakes necessary to maintain liver function. This year the Food and Drug Administration set a Reference Daily Intake of 550 mg for choline. Eggs rank as an “excellent source” of choline and selenium and as a “good source” of protein, riboflavin, vitamin D and phosphorus.

In gluten-free products, egg ingredients may help with the structure, leavening and binding that are lost when gluten is removed from baked foods such as bread, pizza crust, waffles and pancake mixes, Ms. McKibbin says. Egg ingredients may offer benefits in aeration, texture/color, foaming/whipping, crystallization control, structure and emulsification.