You’ve probably heard eggs described as both a veritable superfood and a heart attack on a plate. So if you’re confused about how often it’s actually OK to eat them… well, join the club.
There’s no official recommendation for how many eggs you should eat each week because it depends on many factors.
If you’re not at high risk for heart disease, recent research suggests you’re probably fine to eat up to two eggs per day. That’s more than the American Heart Association’s recommendation, which is one egg per day.
In short? It’s all about moderation.
Here’s a look at why the cholesterol in eggs isn’t as dangerous as you might’ve thought, what makes eggs a healthy choice overall, and why you still don’t want to overdo it with a gigantic cheese omelet every day.
The main downer you’ve probably heard about eggs is that they’re loaded with cholesterol. This waxy, fat-like substance is produced by the liver, and we get more of it by eating animal foods like eggs, dairy, and meat.
Until 2015, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended limiting daily cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams per day. And a single egg serves up 200 milligrams of cholesterol, mostly from the yolk.
The latest edition of the guidelines doesn’t give a limit but still recommends eating “as little dietary cholesterol as possible.”
Over time, cholesterol can build up in your arteries and create dangerous blockages, which is why having too-high levels of cholesterol in your blood ups your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
On the other hand, your body needs some cholesterol to function. And a growing body of evidence suggests that the cholesterol we get from food doesn’t necessarily affect blood cholesterol levels or raise the risk for heart disease risk.
Eating foods high in saturated fat actually has more of an effect. Saturated fat prompts your liver to change the way it processes cholesterol, and that’s what sends your blood cholesterol levels up.
Eggs are actually pretty low in saturated fat. A single egg has around 5 grams of total fat, and less than 2 grams of that is saturated.
Eggs are delicious and easy to make, but those aren’t the only reasons they’re worth eating. They’re also loaded with beneficial nutrients — including a few that are tough to find elsewhere.
Here’s what makes them so great.
A single egg serves up 6 grams of protein, which can help keep your metabolism revved and help you build or maintain lean muscle mass.
The combo of protein and fat makes eggs super satisfying. Some research has shown that enjoying eggs for breakfast can help you eat less throughout the day, which could help you reach your weight loss goals.
They have hard-to-find nutrients
One especially notable nutrient is choline, which is essential for healthy brain and muscle function.
Some people are genetically at risk for choline deficiency, so eggs are that much more of a staple for them. A large egg also has about 10 percent of your daily vitamin D. Nice!
They’re rich in antioxidants
Fruits and veggies typically get all the antioxidant love. But egg yolks are packed with lutein and zeaxanthin, phytochemicals that reduce the risk of eye diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts.
They can help your body absorb nutrients from other foods
Notably, fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, which are found in many veggies. Try folding peppers or tomatoes into an omelet or topping a baked sweet potato or a salad with a poached or fried egg.
Eggs have a lot of good things going for them. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to start whipping up a four-egg omelet for breakfast every single morning.
Even though the saturated fat in a single egg isn’t problematic, it’s still a good idea to keep your total intake in check.
Eggs don’t have a ton of saturated fat, but eating lots of them on the reg could make it easy to go over the daily limit. (No more than 6 percent of your calories should come from saturated fat, some experts say, though it’s not a unified stance.)
A 2008 study found that eating more than seven or so eggs per week could up your risk for heart failure later in life.
More robust research contradicts these findings, reporting that eating two eggs per day doesn’t negatively affect the LDL/HDL ratio or other cardiovascular disease risk factors.
A 2017 review of 10 studies also found that eggs have no negative effects on heart health in people who have type 2 diabetes or are at risk for it.
That said, some experts suggest keeping your intake to about four eggs per week, especially if your diet includes other sources of saturated fat and cholesterol, like meat or dairy, and if you have certain medical diagnoses.
Play it safe by talking with your doctor to figure out how eggs can fit into your diet. Also, even if you’re in generally good health, try to maintain a nutritious diet overall.
As a meal, a veggie scramble with whole wheat toast and fruit has a better cholesterol and saturated fat profile than, say, a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich.
Is it OK to load up on eggs if you’re a bodybuilder or a hardcore athlete? The question is legit, but the answer might surprise you.
Eggs are a cheap, easy-to-prep source of high quality protein, which is key for building and preserving lean muscle mass. They’re also rich in other nutrients, like choline and fatty acids, that could play an important role in both performance and recovery.
But that’s not license to eat, like, a dozen of them every day. Being an athlete doesn’t mean you’re immune to the health risks of consuming too much cholesterol or saturated fat. So it’s still worth eating eggs in moderation and maintaining a healthy diet overall.
Nutrition and sports medicine experts recommend that athletes eat 1.1 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, depending on training regimen.
Eggs can certainly help you meet some of your daily protein needs, but you shouldn’t rely on them as your only protein source. You’re better off eating a mix of heart-healthy proteins instead — eggs, fish, nuts, beans, lean poultry, and dairy.
OK, but what about eating additional egg whites?
It’s true that the whites are where all the protein is, so it might be tempting to load up on egg white omelets if you’re trying to build muscle while keeping your cholesterol and saturated fat intake in check.
But you might be better off enjoying whole eggs instead. A 2018 study found that the post-workout muscle-building response is about 40 percent greater in people who eat whole eggs compared to those who eat an equal amount of protein from egg whites.