So many delicious dishes are made from eggs: eggs Benedict, shakshouka, frittata—we could go on. Packed with protein and vitamin E, eggs are the perfect breakfast food or lunch accessory (what's better than a runny egg in a steamy bowl of ramen?). Somehow, though, eggs have stood firmly at the epicenter of a long-term debate as to whether or not they're actually good for you—a Prevention article once ran the headline "Eggs Are Worse Than Cigarettes?" in reference to a study that suggested eating egg yolks was two-thirds as bad as smoking in terms of arterial plaque buildup. (Spoiler: The study suggests an association between eggs and plaque, not a direct causal relationship.)
Eggs are also naturally high in cholesterol (187 grams in one large egg) and thus assumed to raise the cholesterol in your blood (more on that below). The fat content (5 grams per large egg) also sounds the uncertainty alarm, but all of this considered, is consuming your weekly egg diet—whether that's deviled, scrambled, over easy, etc.—leading you down a slippery slope? Well, our finding are below.
The Nutritionist's Take
The Diet Detox author Brooke Alpert, RD, adamantly tells us that she's pro egg. "They are a fabulous source of protein plus tons of micronutrients like choline, which are so important! The fat in eggs is beneficial for stabilizing blood sugar levels and keeping you fuller longer—both necessary to help with weight loss and weight maintenance."
And as far as whether or not they raise your cholesterol? Alpert says that's all a hoax. "Studies have shown that dietary cholesterol (from food) will not affect your blood cholesterol. Don't fear the egg!"
What Studies Say
A 2002 study followed over 120,000 individuals for several years and monitored them for heart attack, coronary heart disease (CHD), and stroke in relation to eating one egg per day (all participants were free of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, and cancer at the onset of the study). Researchers found no direct correlation between eating one egg daily and the risk of CHD or stroke among healthy participants.
However, when it comes to diabetes, the results aren't as hopeful. A 2009 study found that daily egg consumption led to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. But quantity plays a large role: Those who ate up to one egg per week were generally not associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, but those who more frequently consumed eggs were.
Back to the good news, though: A 2016 study found that higher egg consumption may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels) overall as well as the risk of high fasting blood glucose and high triglycerides in men.
Lastly, eggs are awesome for your eyes—they contain two carotenoids (naturally occurring antioxidants that help protect against chronic disease) called lutein and zeaxanthin that exist in the eyes. Thus, eating eggs may help reduce your risk for common eye diseases like macular degeneration and glaucoma.
So, Eggs: Yea or Nay?
Bottom line: As with most foods, moderation is key. The health benefits certainly outweigh the risks, but especially if you have a predisposition to type 2 diabetes, practicing caution and sticking to fewer eggs per week may serve you well.
Also, there's that whole salmonella thing. This may garner an eye roll, but don't say we didn't warn you about consuming raw eggs or not properly washing your hands and utensils after handling raw eggs—you could end up sick for up to a week or, worse, hospitalized.
Lastly, pay attention to how you prep your eggs. If they're frequently being served with a buttery biscuit, bacon, cheese, or other fattening additions, the health benefits of your eggs may be outweighed by those unhealthy accoutrements.
Up next, check out a helpful diet for IBS.