When they coined the phrase, “good things come in small packages”, they definitely must have been thinking about eggs.
When it comes to nutritional value, eggs are action-packed with good quality protein, vitamins, minerals and healthy omega -3 fats.
Despite this, the health benefits and risks of eating eggs have been debated for many years.
The elephant in the room has always been that a single large egg contains around 187mg of cholesterol.
The Cholesterol Issue
In the past, we were told to restrict the number of eggs we eat in a day, because people thought that foods high in cholesterol raised blood cholesterol, leading to heart disease. In fact, in most healthy people, eating more dietary cholesterol has little effect on blood cholesterol levels. Most cholesterol in the blood is actually made by the liver. The liver has a clever way of balancing how much cholesterol is in your blood by producing more or less depending on how much is coming from your food. Saturated and trans-fats in the diet have a bigger impact on blood cholesterol. An egg contains only about 1.5 g of saturated fat and no trans-fat at all.
How many eggs are safe?
The CSIRO in Australia (1), has shown that if eggs are eaten daily (2 eggs a day over 12 weeks) as part of a kilojoule controlled weight loss diet there are no negative effects on cholesterol levels. Similarly, a number of US studies (2) have shown that when 3 eggs a day are included in the diet there is even an improvement in blood cholesterol profiles because of the healthy omega 3 fat content. There have been some questions around egg intake for people with Type 2 Diabetes. A new study published in December last year (3) showed that for people with Type 2 Diabetes, including two eggs a day in the diet over twelve weeks had no negative impact on cholesterol levels.
So it looks like at least 2-3 eggs per day is safe to eat.
What’s the catch?
Three eggs a day is perfectly fine to eat, but it is important to look at the rest of the diet. If your background diet is high in saturated fat this can affect the degree to which blood cholesterol is increased when more dietary cholesterol is eaten. The key here is, therefore, to make sure that your eggs are being eaten as part of a healthy diet that’s also low in saturated fat.
Eggs are a wonderful source of nutrition. Two to three eggs a day can be safely eaten as long as they are eaten as part of a healthy diet.
1. Australians’ usual egg consumption. Analysis of the CSIRO Healthy Diet Score 2016. Prepared by: Gilly Hendrie, Danielle Baird, and Manny Noakes
2. DiMarco DM et al. 2017. Intake of up to 3 Eggs/Day Increases HDL Cholesterol and Plasma Choline While Plasma Trimethylamine-N-oxide is Unchanged in a Healthy Population .Lipids
3. Njike VY et al. 2016. Egg ingestion in adults with type 2 diabetes: effects on glycemic control, anthropometry, and diet quality-a randomized, controlled, crossover trial. BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care. Dec 22;4(1)