While egg whites are not a cure for people with liver problems, they may make a good choice when looking for sources of protein in your diet. Your liver normally helps your body process nutrients, and a diseased liver may not be able to process some of these nutrients -- like protein -- efficiently. The protein in egg whites contain amino acids that may be better tolerated by those with liver problems than other sources of protein. Talk to your doctor or dietitian to discuss your diet for a healthy liver.
Egg White Nutrition
Compared to a whole egg, egg whites are low in calories, fat-free and still a good source of protein. The egg white from one large egg contains 17 calories and 4 grams of protein. It's not as good a source of vitamins and minerals as a whole egg, but an egg white from one large egg meets almost 10 percent of the daily value for both riboflavin and selenium.
Protein and Liver Disease
When your liver is healthy, the protein in your diet helps repair and replace the cells in your liver, as well as the rest of your body, and helps prevent the buildup of fat in the liver. If your liver isn't functioning well, it has a harder time processing protein, which leads to a buildup of protein waste, called ammonia, in the blood. Too much ammonia in the blood affects the brain and may lead to altered mental status, which is referred to as hepatic encephalopathy.
Restricting protein in the diet, usually to about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight -- 70 grams for a person weighing 154 pounds -- may be recommended for people with liver problems and elevated ammonia levels.
Why Eggs Whites
There is some research that indicates it's not protein in the diet that causes the confusion in people with liver problems, but an imbalance in amino acids. People with elevated ammonia levels and altered mental status have higher levels of aromatic amino acids compared to branch-chained amino acids, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Eating foods rich in BCAAs, such as egg whites, may help improve the amino acid balance and lessen confusion in people with liver disease.
If you have liver problems, you should talk to your dietitian to help you determine how egg whites might fit into your meal plan. You can use egg whites as you would a whole egg. For example, you can make them into a healthy omelet by filling them with spinach and tomatoes. Or scramble them as you would a whole egg. Boiled egg whites also make a good source of protein for your salad at lunch or dinner.
- Photo Credit Amarita/iStock/Getty Images