Eggs are rich in various nutrients that are important for pregnant women, like protein and essential fats. However, eggs still contain cholesterol. If you're predisposed to having high cholesterol, you may need to avoid eating eggs during pregnancy, despite the other benefits of this healthy food.
Eating eggs during pregnancy is perfectly healthy. However, you may not want to eat eggs every day — whether or not you should depends on your cholesterol levels and overall health.
Eating Eggs During Pregnancy
Eggs contain a variety of nutrients that are important for pregnant women. In addition to the standard FDA nutritional requirements, pregnant women need to consume additional amounts of folic acid and iron. Pregnant women should also keep an eye on their calcium and vitamin D levels. All of these nutrients are found in eggs.
Eggs are also known to be rich in choline, a nutrient that is essential for brain development. Although there is no recommended amount of choline that pregnant women should consume, an April 2018 study in the FASEB Journal showed that choline consumption in pregnant women can improve their children's cognitive abilities.
According to the USDA, each large, raw egg (50 grams) has 72 calories. Eggs are low in carbohydrates but are an excellent source of protein, with 6.3 grams of protein per egg. They also have 4.8 grams of fat, which is primarily made up of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Raw eggs contain a variety of micronutrients, including:
- 9 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin A
- 18 percent of the DV for riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- 15 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 5 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 6 percent of the DV for folic acid (vitamin B9)
- 19 percent of the DV for vitamin B12
- 5 percent of the DV for vitamin D
- 27 percent of the DV for choline
- 5 percent of the DV for iron
- 8 percent of the DV for phosphorus
- 28 percent of the DV for selenium
- 6 percent of the DV for zinc
Eggs also have small amounts (between 1 and 4 percent) of most other essential nutrients, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, B-complex vitamins and vitamin E.
Unless they are pasteurized eggs, the American Pregnancy Association recommends against consuming raw eggs during pregnancy due to the risk of salmonella poisoning. However, since heat can affect the eggs, be aware that the nutritional value of eggs will vary slightly depending on how you've cooked them.
Eggs and Their Cholesterol Content
In addition to the variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that eggs have, they also contain cholesterol. One large egg has 186 milligrams of cholesterol.
Until fairly recently, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended limiting egg consumption because of their high cholesterol. This was because of old recommendations limiting cholesterol intake to a total of 300 milligrams per day. This meant that consuming just 80 grams of eggs (the equivalent of one and a half large eggs) and no other animal products would cause you to reach your maximum recommended cholesterol intake for the day.
However, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans no longer limits your dietary cholesterol intake. This is because dietary cholesterol is no longer thought to affect most people's blood cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association consequently recommends eating about one egg a day as part of a healthy diet.
Egg Consumption and Healthy Diets
It's not just the American Heart Association that recommends egg consumption — according to a May 2018 article in BMJ Heart, one egg a day may help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Even multiple eggs per day might be healthy and safe — a June 2018 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consumption of up to 12 eggs per week won't negatively affect most people's health either.
However, not all research agrees. An April 2018 study in the Nutrients Journal showed that eggs do affect your cholesterol, but exactly how varies from person to person. A March 2019 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed more specific results, reporting that eating three to four eggs per week was associated with an increased risk of heart disease by 6 percent. Eating the recommended daily maximum (300 milligrams) of cholesterol resulted in a 17 percent increase in the risk of heart disease.
None of these studies were performed on pregnant women, but eggs are typically considered to be safe and nutritious foods during pregnancy. However, not everyone processes dietary cholesterol in the same way. Certain women, like hyper-responders, those with diabetes or familial hypercholesterolemia, need to be much more conscious of their dietary cholesterol intake.
Cholesterol’s Effects on Pregnancy
Most pregnancies result in naturally elevated cholesterol levels. This is perfectly normal, and those levels typically remain higher than average for between one and three months following the delivery of the baby.
However, according to a May 2014 study in the Diabetes Care Journal, cholesterol levels can affect pregnancies in many ways. Low levels of HDL cholesterol, known as the good cholesterol, are linked to higher risks of preterm births, microcephaly and gestational diabetes in otherwise healthy pregnant women.
High levels of LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol, increase the risk of preeclampsia in women with diabetes. Preeclampsia can cause a variety of problems for pregnant women and their babies as it affects organ function and blood flow to the placenta.
Most people don't need to worry about their cholesterol consumption, because dietary cholesterol only contributes to about 20 percent of blood cholesterol. However, if you're someone who is sensitive to dietary cholesterol, you should be cautious about consuming cholesterol-rich foods like eggs during pregnancy.
If you're a hyper-responder, diabetic or have familial hypercholesterolemia, talk to your doctor before integrating an egg a day into your diet.
- Mayo Clinic: "Preeclampsia"
- Diabetes Care: "Normalizing Metabolism in Diabetic Pregnancy: Is It Time to Target Lipids?"
- Heart UK: "Pregnancy and Blood Fats"
- American College of Cardiology: "Familial Hypercholesterolemia and Pregnancy"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Cholesterol"
- JAMA: "Associations of Dietary Cholesterol or Egg Consumption With Incident Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality"
- Nutrients: "Dietary Cholesterol, Serum Lipids, and Heart Disease: Are Eggs Working for or Against You?"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Effect of a High-Egg Diet on Cardiometabolic Risk Factors in People With Type 2 Diabetes: The Diabetes and Egg (DIABEGG) Study—Randomized Weight-Loss and Follow-Up Phase"
- BMJ Heart: "Associations of Egg Consumption With Cardiovascular Disease in a Cohort Study of 0.5 Million Chinese Adults"
- American Heart Association: "Are Eggs Good for You or Not?"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Why You Should No Longer Worry About Cholesterol in Food"
- American Pregnancy Association: "Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Eggs (Raw)"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Eggs"
- FASEB Journal: "Maternal Choline Supplementation During the Third Trimester of Pregnancy Improves Infant Information Processing Speed: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Feeding Study"
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Nutrition During Pregnancy"