Should I Stop Eating Eggs to Control Cholesterol? (Diet Myth 4)

A look at what the science says

Eggs in a basket

For such a simple food, eggs sure are controversial. It seems like general opinion on the health benefits or ill effects of these protein powerhouses changes pretty often. My patients ask about them all the time.

With that in mind, as part of our ongoing series on the top diet myths, let’s take a look at what the current science says.

Myth 4: If you have high cholesterol, stop eating eggs

Eggs are, in some ways, the perfect food. A 2011 study in the journal Food Chemistry found that regular egg consumption may be associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer because of their high levels of antioxidants. And several studies, including one in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, have found that eggs may help lower blood pressure as well. In addition to their antioxidants, eggs supply a tremendous amount of protein and nutrients in a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate and cheap package.

But what about cholesterol? If your cholesterol numbers are high, can you still eat your favorite breakfast food?

The answer is maybe. Enjoying eggs in moderation (fewer than 4–6 per week) may still be an option for patients with high cholesterol. A 2012 study in the journal Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care covers several studies that found that individuals who consume moderate amounts of eggs are not observed to have increases in cholesterol when compared to individuals who cut eggs out of their diets entirely.

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Don’t start piling on the three-egg omelettes, though. Moderation is the key, and so is your doctor’s advice.

Tips for cooking eggs — and alternatives

If you’re still worried about eating eggs, consider egg whites or egg-substitute products. They’re still loaded with protein, but without so much cholesterol.

The way you prepare your eggs is important as well. Cook your eggs fully, without runny yolks or whites. Why? First, fully cooked eggs reduce the possibility of food-borne illness, which can occur with any undercooked animal product. Second, eggs contain a wonderful vitamin called biotin that helps maintain strong hair and nails. The problem is, biotin becomes inactivated by another component in eggs called avidin. The solution: Cook the egg fully to inactivate the avidin and better absorb the biotin!

Beyond eggs, if you’re interested in lowering your cholesterol through lifestyle changes, a few keys steps can help you get started:

  • Add fiber-rich foods to your diet, such as 100 percent whole grain breads, pasta and rice as well as beans and cruciferous vegetables. Fiber has been shown to help in lowering total cholesterol levels.
  • Start walking 10,000 steps a day to give your body the exercise it needs to be healthy.
  • Avoid products high in cholesterol and saturated fats, such as full-fat dairy products, red meat and processed food items with tropical oils in them. 

These small steps will help you in your quest to lower your cholesterol as well as your overall risk for heart disease and stroke. 

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More diet myths

Diet Myth 1: Sea salt is better than regular table salt.

Diet Myth 2: Whatever you don’t get from food, you can get from a vitamin.

Diet Myth 3: To lose weight and be healthier, cut out carbohydrates.

Diet Myth 5: Artificial sweeteners are a great substitute for the real thing.

Diet Myth 6: For the most nutrients, go raw.

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Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
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  • Jon Johnson

    I could not Disagree more….saturated fat found in animal products is good for our overall health (not fast food animal products, grass fed natural and organic animal products). If you come from a Paleoistic view of things you may understand better. Cholestorol is a main function for our body including heart function and brain function. If our cholesterol is too high (whatever that may be) over 200 by goverment standards the reason does not lie on the fact that we are eating too much cholestorol,it is because we are eating too much processed junk food “carb rich” if you will. Our body run fully on fats and cholestorol, not carbs and sugar. This is a pharmaceutical money maker here with no education to the american public on what foods are good for us and what foods are bad for us. The goverment says whole grains lower cholesterol which is totally false. They say this to keep the public with high enough cholesterol to scare them and to make them take there drugs. Back off the carbs and eat some real food and you wont have to watch your cholestorol.

    • Stb Hernández

      I disagree. I was on a diet rich on complex carbs – mostly Brown rice, 100% brown bread – and exclusively animal products like meat and eggs [10 or so a day], since I train 6 times a week and lately I’ve been suffering from Angina, something I’ve never suffered before. Thanks to a blood and urine test I figured a borderline high cholesterol was the causer of my grief with angina and I firmly believe that eating eggs – in that amount – shoot me to where I’m. I’ve cut meat and eggs york out, exclusively eating the egg white parts, and my Angina has calmed a little. No, I don’t suffer from anything else – as far as my medical test has shown – so I wouldn’t go with animal products being good for our health overall.

    • Pamelabanana Jean

      Back off the carbs? Seriously?…and eat some real food? lmao!!! Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient for our bodies. Ever heard of fruit? 80% of my daily calories comes from eating clean carbohydrates. If you cut the carbs, you cut your energy. Also, our body makes it’s own cholesterol, so eating it is not necessary and is harmful if it comes from animal products. Fat ingested from animal products is NEVER GOOD.

  • bstigler

    Could you extend this article with a comment about cholesterol sensitivity, please?

    As I understand it — or misunderstand it, as the case may be — only about thirty percent of the population is affected by dietary cholesterol intake. The other seventy percent of us essentially have a get-out-of-jail-free card with the exception that even we must not eat too much saturated fat.

    In that case, we can eat all the eggs we want. Okay?

  • guest

    I love my eggs sunny side up. Does this mean avidin is destroying my biotin intake?