You can cook up eggs a whole lot of ways. From veggie omelet muffins to scrambled eggs with fried rice and even plain ol’ over easy — eggs are a versatile food that fits in to just about anyone’s morning routine (and it’s great for other meals, too). But can you have too many eggs in one day?
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Registered dietitian Susan Campbell, RD, shares what makes eggs healthy and when you might need to cut back.
Are eggs healthy?
One egg gives you 6 grams of protein and they’re packed with vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin B12, vitamin B9 (folate) and lutein.
“For somebody on a strict budget, it’s a good, inexpensive source of different nutrients and high-quality protein,” says Campbell.
Each of these vitamins plays an important role in several areas:
- Vitamin A supports your eye health, vision, metabolism and cell development.
- Vitamin B12 plays a role in keeping your nerve cells and blood cells healthy.
- Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from oxidative damage.
- Folate (or vitamin B9) helps your body make new red blood cells and helps with the growth and development of your fetus while you’re pregnant.
- Lutein is a type of organic pigment known as a carotenoid. Also found in salmon, carrots and sweet potatoes, an abundance of lutein creates a darker, richer yolk and has been shown to reduce age-related macular degeneration.
Egg whites and yolks have different properties. Egg whites contain about 60% of the total amount of protein in an egg, while the yolk contains more saturated fat and cholesterol.
Studies examining the fatty acids in egg yolk have shown that yolks have anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant properties, help with memory improvement and provide cardiovascular protection. When eaten whole, other studies suggest eggs may positively impact muscle mass, although more extensive studies are needed.
Is it OK to eat eggs every day?
Because of their numerous benefits, it’s OK to eat one whole egg, including the egg yolk, every day if you don’t have cardiovascular disease and you do have a healthy level of blood cholesterol. Or you can mix two egg whites with every egg yolk to give yourself more protein.
If you do have cardiovascular disease or a high level of cholesterol, you should limit your egg consumption to just three to four whole eggs per week — a rule that’s also good for anyone who wants to have more than one egg at a time.
The reason you want to try to avoid having more than one egg yolk each day is because yolk has saturated fat and can raise the level of LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) in your blood. While the food you eat isn’t the only factor in developing high cholesterol, it’s still important to keep them in mind when deciding what to put on your plate.
“When cooking eggs, you also want to stay away from adding additional animal fats like butter, bacon grease and lard because those have saturated fats in them, too,” advises Campbell. “It’s better to use olive oil or some kind of plant-based oil instead, and you can jazz up egg whites without adding a lot of animal fat by sautéing them with vegetables, salsa or different herbs.”
Because of the high cholesterol content in egg yolk, you may want to cut back if you have any of the following conditions:
- Heart disease.
- Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol).
- Type 2 diabetes.
You should also consider purchasing pasture-raised or organic eggs because the yolk from those eggs tend to have less cholesterol and higher levels of lutein. In one study, researchers found consuming one egg a day significantly increased levels of lutein without elevating cholesterol levels.
Campbell notes that some people over the age of 65 might be concerned about eating an egg every day because of the risk of high cholesterol. But studies have shown that cholesterol for people 65 and older is less affected by their diet than someone in their 30s and younger, so they can have up to two whole eggs per day if they have normal cholesterol levels.
“For seniors, it might even be a greater source of protein,” says Campbell.