Eggs are often made into the bad guy by mainstream media, but this is a myth that needs to be debunked on an equally wide scale. Whether talking to patients, friends, or family, I’ve very commonly heard comments about how people don’t eat eggs because of cholesterol content, saturated fat content, or some other concern. However, when it comes down to the facts and research, it is very possible, and sensible, to have eggs as part of a healthy diet. First we’ll discuss the negative claims about eggs, and then we will go into their nutritious benefits.

So where’s the bad rep coming from?

The issue I hear most often about eggs is that they are too high in cholesterol and/or saturated fat. Many people don’t eat eggs at all because they have high blood cholesterol, and thus think they need to avoid them. However, according the 2013 guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC), research shows that adults can have 1 egg per day (7 eggs per week) without affecting their blood cholesterol levels or increasing their risk of heart disease. As a matter of fact, many research studies show that high cholesterol intake in the diet is not necessarily what causes hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol levels). This may sound strange, but recent research points to high levels of trans and saturated fats as bigger culprits in driving up total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol.
This brings us to the issue of saturated fat. I know a lot of people who only eat egg whites in order to avoid the saturated fat in eggs. However, if you really stop and look at the numbers, the saturated fat content is not that high. One large egg (with the yolk) contains about 1.6 grams of saturated fat, which is not that much. At the same time, the yolk happens to contain plenty of healthy, beneficial nutrients, which we will talk more about in the next section.

Plenty of Egg-cellent Qualities!

Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just eat a generally healthier diet, eggs have several nutritional benefits:

1. Good source of protein. One egg contains about 6 grams of protein, which can help you feel full. This protein includes all 9 essential amino acids, which are the ones we have to get in our diets because our body can’t make them.
2. Zero grams of carbohydrates. Eggs contain negligible amounts, if any, of carbohydrates, including sugar. This makes eggs a great option for people concerned with their blood sugar and carb counting, mainly diabetics.
3. Choline content. One large egg contains around 140mg of choline, all of which is found in the yolk! What is choline? And why do we care about it? It’s an essential nutrient that is needed for normal cell structure and function in our bodies. Choline also promotes better brain function since it is involved in transmission of nerve impulses. Choline deficiency can lead to serious issues, such as liver disease and kidney damage.
4. Good source of folate, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. All of these nutrients are extremely important. Vitamin D is required for the regulation of calcium levels in the blood, and is thus important for bone health and heart function. Vitamin B12 is required for red blood cell formation and nerve cell function. Similarly, folate plays many roles in the body, including red blood cell formation, cell growth, and reduction of homocysteine levels in the blood, which decreases heart disease risk. As a matter of fact, all of these nutrients help promote heart health.

So what’s the bottom line?

The take-home message from all of this is that eggs are not as bad as they’ve been made out to be in the past. Eggs can, and probably should, be incorporated into a healthy diet. This is not to say that you can eat an unlimited eggs every day. Like everything else, moderation is key.

In order to stick with the AHA/ACC guidelines that are based on solid research, it may be best for adults to eat 1 egg per day. If you’d like to eat more than that, you may want to limit it to one yolk per day, and the rest should probably just be egg whites, particularly for those who are trying to limit their cholesterol intake or are concerned about cardiovascular risk. But overall, eggs have so many nutritional advantages, and an egg a day is definitely okay!