Eggs and Cholesterol: How Many Eggs Can You Eat in a Day?
Eggs are delicious to eat, an indispensable ingredient in baking and cooking, and extremely versatile in its use.
But, every now and then, this superfood has been associated with health risks because of its cholesterol content.
Egg diets for weight loss are quite popular these days and while some of them recommend 2 to 4 eggs daily, others ask you to eat up to 6 eggs.
Is that safe? What about all that cholesterol in those yolks? Should we skip the yolks and eat just the whites?
It’s understandable that most of us have plenty of doubts regarding egg consumption! Let’s look into the pros and cons of eating eggs, and what scientific studies say about the number of eggs we can eat safely on a daily basis.
The Nutritional Value of Eggs
Eggs are one of the healthiest foods, packed with high-quality protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fat. It has a low carbohydrate content. The protein in the egg has the highest biological value and contains all the 9 essential amino acids that the body requires.
It is a power-house of antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, reducing the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
It contains all the essential nutrients crucial for a healthy metabolism. It is one of the largest sources of choline, that is essential for the functioning of your brain and nervous system.
1 large-sized boiled egg contains: ( 1)
- Total carbohydrate: 77 Calories
- Carbohydrates: 0.6 grams
- Protein: 6.3 grams
- Vitamin A: 5.6 % of RDA
- Vitamin B2: 15 % of RDA
- Vitamin B5: 7 % of RDA
- Vitamin B6: 3% of RDA
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin): 9.3% of RDA
- Total fat: 5.3 grams
- Saturated fat: 1.6 grams
- Cholesterol: 212 mg
- Choline: 147 mg
- Selenium: 22 % of RDA
- Phosphorus: 9 % of RDA
Eggs are considered ideal for growing children, sportsmen and women, athletes, and people who are recovering from illness. It is a complete food and a very rich source of zinc, iron, copper, selenium, vitamin D in addition to the above-mentioned nutrients.
Summary: Eggs are a rich source of fat-soluble vitamins, Vitamin B6, B12, selenium, zinc, iron, and copper. With lower calories and high-quality protein, eggs are one of the most nutritious foods with several health benefits.
The Health Benefits of Eggs
Eggs are extremely nutrient-dense and offer a lot of health benefits. Below are pointed some of the benefits of eggs:
- Eggs contain a high amount of lutein and zeaxanthin, the two important carotenoids, that are excellent for your eyes (2).
- Eating eggs increases the HDL level in your body (the good cholesterol), which lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke (3).
- Eggs are an excellent source of choline, which is used to build cell membranes and help produce signal molecules in the brain (4).
- Eggs which have a high content of omega-3-fatty-acids, help lower triglycerides (5).
- Eggs contain all the essential amino acids and are a complete protein. It helps increase your muscle mass, reduce weight, lower blood pressure, and maximize bone health (6).
- Eggs help you lose weight by making you feel full (7).
- Egg yolks contain lecithin, which is extremely beneficial in lowering cholesterol, improving heart health, improving digestion, and fighting dementia (8).
Summary: Eggs are highly nutritious and are good for your brain, eyes, blood pressure, muscle mass, and bone. It may lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Cholesterol Regulation in Our Body
Even though eggs are considered a superfood, controversy surrounding its cholesterol content is always present.
To understand the impact of eggs on the cholesterol levels in our body, we first need to understand how cholesterol is regulated in our body.
300 mg of cholesterol from food is usually recommended by doctors per day, and one egg serving of 212 mg in itself is considered way too much ( 9). But, this calculation isn’t as simple as it looks and cholesterol is not as bad as it is painted to be.
Our bodies need cholesterol to function. It is a major component of all the cell membranes and is necessary for the production of hormones, fat-soluble vitamins, and bile acids, that help us digest our food ( 10).
Given the importance of cholesterol for its functioning, your body makes them through different ways to meet the required quantity. Our liver produces cholesterol when the body does not receive enough cholesterol from the diet.
If we eat just the recommended 200 to 300 mg of cholesterol daily, our liver still has to make an additional 800 mg of cholesterol per day using raw materials such as proteins, sugars, and fats ( 11).
However, if your body receives enough from the diet, the liver reduces its cholesterol production to make sure that your cholesterol levels do not cross the required limits. Hence, eating cholesterol-rich food doesn’t change your cholesterol level too much.
But what changes it, is excess saturated fat from your diet. This prompts your liver to change the way it processes cholesterol. So, make sure to reduce saturated fats in your meals.
Since eggs have very low saturated fat with an average of 1.7 grams per egg (60gms), there is nothing to fear from it ( 12).
Summary: Your liver naturally produces large amounts of cholesterol daily. If you eat foods high in cholesterol the liver balances it by producing less cholesterol.
Egg Lecithin Actually Reduces Cholesterol Absorption
We have even more good news for you regarding egg intake and your cholesterol levels. Egg yolks contain a phospholipid known as lecithin. This compound has been found to inhibit the absorption of cholesterol absorption significantly ( 13).
It does not prevent 100% absorption. But the good news is that most of the cholesterol you eat from the egg is ‘unavailable for absorption’ due to the presence of lecithin.
Unless you have a family history of cardiac diseases or hypercholesterolemia, there is nothing to stop you from having 1–2 nutrient-dense eggs a day.
Summary: Lecithin, a phospholipid compound in egg, makes the cholesterol present in egg yolk less absorbable in the body. Hence, there is no marked increase in blood cholesterol levels after eating eggs in moderation.
How Many Eggs Are Recommended Per Day?
Even though eggs are nutritious and extremely beneficial, we just can’t start eating any number that we want. Although the saturated fat in one egg is only 1.7 grams, too many eggs together at a time may not be a good idea.
Some studies set your egg limit to just 1 per day, while some other researchers recommend two eggs per day as this intake did not show any negative impact on cholesterol levels and heart health in their studies ( 14, 15).
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, recorded the effects of eating up to 3 eggs per day, in young, healthy adults. It was noted that there was a massive increase in HDL levels, and plasma carotenoids (known for their antioxidant effect) and a little of the large LDL levels ( 16).
This is very interesting to note. Normally, LDL is known as ‘bad cholesterol’, and an increased level of LDL in the blood can cause several heart problems. But, what needs to be understood is that there is large and small LDL cholesterol.
The smaller ones are dense and can easily stick on the walls of your arteries causing a blockage. However, the large LDL particles take lots of time to get into the arteries and hence may be less dangerous ( 17).
Hence, increased egg consumption will not necessarily cause a cardiac problem.
Unfortunately, there are no scientific studies using more than 3 eggs/day to come to a proper conclusion about the effects of eating even more eggs daily.
But, one case study, which was published in the 1990s, reported on an 88-year-old man, who consumed 25 eggs each day and was in very good health. He had absolutely normal cholesterol levels ( 18).
This does not mean you can eat 25 eggs a day. How an individual responds to egg consumption, evidently differs from person to person.
Summary: 1–2 eggs per day can safely be consumed to benefit from the positive impact of eggs on the blood HDL, anti-oxidant, and vitamin level. Eggs are a complete protein and excellent for health in moderation.
What is the Maximum Number of Eggs You Can Safely Eat in a Day?
So what happens if you eat more than 3 eggs per day? What if I eat 5 eggs a day?
The answer to this particular question depends upon an individual’s response. Amongst all people, only 30 percent who fall under the category of ‘hyper responders’, may see a slight effect on their cholesterol level after consuming more than an egg per day ( 19).
It has also been observed that even if a few eggs per day may increase the LDL cholesterol, it is firmly changed from small to large. These large particles don’t risk your heart as much as the smaller ones ( 20, 21).
There are some people who have a genetic disorder like hypercholesterolemia or may have some gene variant called ApoE4. They may want to limit their egg intake.
Eggs are a healthier choice when you consume them with foods that are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. The daily guideline for saturated fat in an average woman is 20 grams and for an average man are 30 grams ( 22).
It is better to limit your dietary saturated fat and increase the intake of foods like whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy.
However, in some cases, it is seen that people are taking much more than this limit and are leading a healthy life. One such person is Dr. Eric Berg, a chiropractor, and health educator who revealed that he has been eating 4 to 5 eggs daily for many years.
Summary: Several studies have been compiled and concluded that people respond to egg consumption differently. Even though up to 3 eggs is considered safe, as per studies, it can be more when balanced with other low saturated fat and whole foods.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Are Eggs a Superfood?
Eggs can easily be termed as ‘superfoods’. The amount and variety of macro and micronutrient that is packed in one egg can’t have competed. It is so, because, all the ingredients that should be there for a life to grow, are there in the egg.
People who want to lose weight and retain their muscle mass, the egg is the best option for them. They are delicious, high in antioxidants, affordable, extremely versatile, and can be incorporated into a huge range of food items both sweet and savory.
2. Which Part of The Egg Is Healthier? Egg White or Egg Yolk?
Egg whites contain only a percent of egg’s fat. They are very low in calorie, cholesterol-free, and packed with most of the egg’s protein. However, most of the micronutrients that are required by the body, is in the egg yolk.
Nature has married the egg white and yolk in a manner that together they provide a complete food.
Therefore, it is better to have one whole egg to get complete nutrition. Even, the American Heart Association suggests a full egg per day.
3. Can Diabetics Eat Eggs Daily?
In a 2017 review of 10 studies, in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes, it was observed that eggs caused no negative effect in people with Type 2 diabetes (23).
A randomized control study, published in 2011, in the British Journal of Nutrition, confirmed that egg consumption as a part of the energy-restricted high protein diet amongst Type 2 diabetics leads to improved heart disease risk factors (24).
It is better to have eggs moderately and by keeping in mind the total intake of cholesterol and saturated fat intake through other food options like meat.
The Final Note
Eggs can be a healthy addition to your diet, and up to 3 whole eggs can be safely consumed. There are people who eat 4 to 5 eggs a day regularly and don’t seem to suffer any negative effects due to it. But since no scientific studies have examined the effects of eating over 3 eggs, this becomes a personal decision that can be decided upon based on your health conditions and your doctor’s advice.
When including more eggs in your diet, make sure to reduce your intake of saturated fat from other sources. Inclusion of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy, will not only keep your cholesterol levels healthy but also will ensure you receive all the essential benefits of eating such nutrient-rich foods.
Eggs are high in antioxidants that can keep your eyes protected from age-related macular degeneration. High amounts of choline help regulate memory and mood. Its high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals keep our bone and muscles healthy.
Make sure to include at least one egg a day, if not three, to reap the numerous health benefits of this superfood.
Originally published at https://bestfornutrition.com on June 10, 2020.