Eggs are a nutritious food and a great source of protein. However, there has been a lot of debate over how many eggs it is healthy to eat in a week. This article reviews the research and provides recommendations on egg consumption.
Are eggs healthy?
Yes, eggs are a very healthy food. Here are some of the nutrients found in eggs:
- High quality protein – One large egg contains 6 grams of protein, including all 9 essential amino acids. Protein helps build muscles and bones, and eggs are considered one of the best sources of protein.
- Choline – Eggs are one of the richest dietary sources of choline, which is an essential nutrient for brain and liver health. Just one egg yolk contains over 200 mg of choline.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin – These antioxidants are found in high amounts in egg yolks and help prevent eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Vitamin D – Most people are deficient in vitamin D and whole eggs are one of the few natural food sources, containing around 20% of the RDI per egg.
- B Vitamins – Eggs provide B2, B12, B5 and other B vitamins. B vitamins help convert food into energy and are important for heart and brain health.
The nutrients in eggs have been shown to promote heart health and reduce the risk factors for heart disease like inflammation, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol (1, 2).
Overall eggs are one of the most nutritious and healthiest foods you can eat.
Are eggs high in cholesterol?
Yes, eggs are high in cholesterol. One large egg contains around 185 mg of cholesterol, which is over half of the recommended 300 mg per day.
For this reason, health organizations have long recommended limiting egg consumption to less than 3 whole eggs per week. However, an increasing amount of research shows that dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol levels.
Your liver actually produces large amounts of cholesterol every day. When you eat more cholesterol, your liver simply compensates by producing less cholesterol instead. Therefore eating cholesterol rich foods like eggs has very little impact on total and LDL cholesterol levels (3).
What matters most is not how much cholesterol you eat, but the type of fats you eat. Saturated and trans fats have the biggest impacts on cholesterol levels.
Summary: Eggs are high in cholesterol, but eating them has minimal impacts on blood cholesterol levels. The type of fat you eat is what really matters.
Do eggs increase heart disease risk?
For many years, eggs were believed to increase the risk of heart disease. However, recent evidence does not support this (4):
- A 1999 study followed 117,000 adults for up to 8 years and found no association between egg consumption and heart disease or stroke risk (5).
- A 2008 study found that eating up to 6 eggs per week does not increase the risk of heart disease in healthy individuals (6).
- A 2013 study involving 40,000 adults found eating 1-3 eggs per day was associated with a lower risk of heart disease (7).
- A large review study from 2020 did not find any association between egg intake and heart disease or stroke, even in those with diabetes (8).
The health benefits of eggs seem to outweigh any potential negative effects. Multiple studies indicate that eating up to 3 whole eggs per day is completely safe for healthy people.
However, things may be different for those with diabetes. Some studies show increased heart disease risk from eating eggs in people with type 2 diabetes and prediabetes (9).
Are Egg Whites Healthier Than Whole Eggs?
Some people advocate eating egg whites instead of whole eggs in order to avoid dietary cholesterol. However, this misses out on many of the beneficial nutrients found in the yolks.
Whole eggs actually increase HDL (the “good”) cholesterol while keeping LDL cholesterol unchanged. HDL helps remove cholesterol from the body, while LDL transports cholesterol to tissues.
Egg yolks also contain antioxidants and nutrients that may help prevent heart attacks and strokes by reducing inflammation and improving blood vessel function (10).
In one study, people with normal cholesterol who ate 3 eggs per day for 12 weeks increased their HDL cholesterol significantly more than those who ate egg substitutes (11).
What’s more, egg yolks are loaded with choline, which helps protect against heart disease and other chronic diseases.
Whole eggs really are greater than the sum of their parts. There are plenty of nutrients in the yolks that the whites simply don’t have.
How Many Eggs Can You Safely Eat Per Week?
Based on the research, it seems eating 1-3 eggs per day (7 to 21 per week) does not increase the risk of heart disease in healthy populations.
However, some people should still limit their egg intake:
- Those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes: Egg intake may increase heart disease risk in diabetics. Limit eggs to 3-4 per week if you have diabetes (12).
- Those at risk of heart disease: Discuss egg intake with your doctor if you have major risk factors.
- People with the ApoE4 gene: The ApoE4 gene increases the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease. Limiting eggs may be wise for these individuals (13).
As long as you don’t have any preexisting conditions and aren’t at risk of heart disease, consuming 1-3 eggs per day appears completely safe.
This amounts to 7-21 eggs per week, though the upper limit is not firmly established.
Take Home Message
Based on research, eating up to 3 whole eggs per day does not increase the risk of heart disease in healthy populations.
However, egg intake may increase heart disease risk in those with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.
As long as you are generally healthy, there is no need to limit your egg intake due to cholesterol concerns.
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods available and can safely be eaten every day.