We've got nutrition whiplash from the back-and-forth on eggs. They're praised for their high protein one minute and discounted for their high dietary cholesterol the next. We're supposed to eat them whole — no wait, skip the yolk — actually, scratch that, just avoid eggs altogether. What's the deal?
Nutrition studies don't offer much clarity; in fact, they're often the cause of the confusion. A June 2018 review published in Nutrients confidently concluded that eating eggs and other sources of dietary cholesterol does not affect heart health. Then, in a March 2019 meta-analysis in JAMA, the more eggs people ate, the higher their risk for those same heart concerns, seemingly because of the cholesterol in eggs.
What's an egg-lover to do?
For our Ask the RDs series, we asked readers to send us their biggest nutrition questions and then posed the 12 most common to a panel of registered dietitians. Eggs were front-of-mind for many readers, who wanted to know if it's OK to eat eggs every day and whether or not we really need to avoid yolks to keep our cholesterol levels in check. Here's what the experts had to say.
Are Eggs Good for You or Not?
"Eggs can totally be a very nutritious part of your diet. They're a great source of protein and are packed with so many different nutrients.
More and more research says most of us can eat one to two eggs a day without having any issues with cholesterol levels. But if you have high cholesterol (especially if it runs in your family), that's when you might want to watch the number of eggs you eat and stick to less than one a day. Then, when you get your annual bloodwork done, verify with your doctor that your cholesterol levels are OK.
The flack that eggs have been getting over the past few years is ridiculous because eggs can be a very healthy part of the diet. Even someone prone to high cholesterol would probably be fine eating one egg per day.
The yolk has a lot of nutrients, but if you're genetically predisposed to having high cholesterol levels and you love eggs, you can use one yolk and more egg whites or get rid of the yolk completely. Eggs serve as an amazing vehicle for adding vegetables, as in an omelet with some cheese for healthy fats and protein."
"I think eggs are good. In fact, they're great. Eggs are an excellent source of nutrients — they're probably the best source of protein you'll find. Eggs can be incorporated into any meal from breakfast and lunch to dinner and snacks. I love them.
The new U.S. dietary guidelines state that dietary cholesterol from foods such as eggs does not raise blood cholesterol levels.
I personally love eating whole eggs. But choosing egg whites over whole eggs should depend on what else you're eating and your medical history. If I had an egg-white omelet filled with veggies or a regular omelet filled with veggies, I wouldn't be able to tell much of a difference."
"Eggs are amazing. I love to talk about eggs because I really feel like they're the perfect food. They're quick-cooking, convenient and such a great protein source.
Then you've got the yolk, which has all these great nutrients in it, including choline, which is vital for your brain, whether you're a pregnant mom or an average adult. Many of us are actually deficient in choline, and eggs are one of the few foods that are a good source of it. That's just one reason to eat eggs.
We know that eating one egg a day is safe and healthy for just about everybody. While eggs might not raise your cholesterol levels, you also need to look at what else is in your diet. You may or may not be able to eat more than one egg per day. But you should not be afraid of them. If you have high cholesterol, it's more likely that's due to your genetic makeup or perhaps you are not getting enough cardio. That's something you'd want to talk to your doctor about."
"Eggs are definitely good to eat. They provide zinc, choline, protein and good fats. I think eggs are one of the highest quality proteins out there.
They're an especially good source of protein at breakfast, which is really hard to come by because there aren't many high-protein breakfast foods that aren't processed.
If someone has high cholesterol levels, I'd recommend eating just one egg a day. And if you want to get the protein minus the cholesterol and extra calories, you can drop the yolk and eat egg whites. But eating the whole egg from time to time is important, too."
Eggs are rich in protein and healthy fat, as well as key nutrients, such as choline and zinc. Eating one egg a day is safe for most people, but you may want to stick to no more than three eggs a week if you have high cholesterol, diabetes or other heart disease risk factors — or opt for egg whites from time to time. Cooking with eggs is a great opportunity to sneak in other good-for-you foods, as well, including lots of veggies and other proteins.
Confused about nutrition? Get answers to more common questions in our Ask the RDs series.