Egg yolks are high in cholesterol (about 187 mg each), so should we avoid them? As dietitians, we hear this question pretty often. Science seems to sway back and forth with an answer to this question. Today, we’re going to share the most current information for you to make your own decision as to whether eggs are good for you or not.
First of all, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs) removed the cholesterol recommendation/limit in 2015 due to a lack of evidence. However, the DGAs now advise us to eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while following a healthy eating pattern. With a recommendation that isn’t very specific, let’s dig some basic information about eggs then look at some studies to find an answer.
Eggs are packed with nutrients including choline (brain health booster), antioxidants (cancer-fighters), lutein and zeaxanthin (important for eye health/vision), protein (building block of the human body), and vitamins A, B, D & E! One large chicken egg has about 78 calories and has 5 grams of fat (1.6 g saturated fat), and ~187 mg cholesterol. As you can see, the egg is very nutrient-dense. So, do we eat eggs or not? What about getting heart disease?
Let’s look at what a few studies say about eggs & heart disease:
(Published in 2020) analyzed 17 other studies on the effect of eggs on HDL and LDL cholesterol levels (which are predictors of heart disease). This analysis found that long-term high egg consumption may lead to a higher LDL/HDL ratio and LDL levels, but more studies are required to guarantee the association.
(Published in 2018) found that up to 1 egg per day was significantly associated with a lower risk of heart disease in Chinese adults. Although, these participants were not following a standard American diet.
(Published in 2018) found that people with prediabetes or type two diabetes eating 2 eggs/day on a calorie-restricted diet for 3 months showed no changes in blood markers for heart disease compared to those with a low-egg, calorie-restricted diet. (Although, this was a short-term study.)
Note: Participants were following a calorie-restricted diet, so results may have differed if they were eating enough calories to maintain weight.
(Published in 2015) was a meta-analysis (meaning they looked at lots of studies) that looked at the link between dietary cholesterol intake and heart disease risk. After reviewing 40 studies, their conclusion was inconclusive. Their results showed that many of the studies revealed mixed results. This means that they did not find out if eggs are bad for heart health or not.
What do you think?
With all of these unclear results, what do you think? The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends one egg or two egg whites per day as part of a healthy diet for those who like to include eggs in their diet. We agree with the AHA and recommend one egg or two egg whites/day and recommend focusing on a diet rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and lean proteins.