Will eggs make you fat? Will they raise your cholesterol? Are they a health food? Finally learn how many eggs are safe to eat each day, and why there's no need to fear the yolk.
I’m known for many things: my love of nut butters, writing books and creating content for health and fitness brands, and being a passionate supporter for the University of Colorado. Above them all, many people still know me as “the egg guy.”
It started in graduate school when low funds made it necessary to survive on a diet that consisted of eggs. Lots and lots of eggs. How many? If we’re being honest, I ate 144 eggs every 2 weeks. Costco was my best friend, and I even had a period of time when I considered purchasing a hen to lay eggs.
The most common question during that time (besides, “Gross!” and “Are you out of your mind?”) was, “Isn’t that unhealthy?”
By all signs my extreme egg consumption did no harm. (Read: my cholesterol was very healthy.)
Still, the distrust of eggs as a “health food” left me with one option: Eat eggs every day and measure everything from a health perspective. The results was “The Great Eggsperiment,” which I conducted while I was editorial director of LIVESTRONG.COM. What I learned is valuable when you try to decide, “How many eggs should I eat each day.” As I look back, I decided to recap what I learned and provide some new thoughts. -AB
Understanding The Great Eggsperiment
I began the Eggsperiment with one simple goal: To find out if eggs were healthy.
While the parameters of my experiment are far from the strict standards of anything that would ever be published in a scientific journal, this was my own (affordable) method of investigating the impact of consistent egg consumption on my diet.
Along the way I tried to examine a variety of factors, some as subjective as “How do I feel today?” I kept a journal to log if I was ever tired or lacking energy, I tracked my workouts, checked my body weight, and all along I made sure to keep three things consistent:
- I ate 3 eggs every day during the entire process (whole eggs, that is, including the yolk)
- I followed the same caloric input and macro-nutrient profile for the entire process. It was the same diet that I followed for a month prior to the diet to establish some sort of baseline. In the month prior, my weight did not fluctuate, as the goal was to eat for maintenance.
- I used the same training approach during the Eggsperiment–and did not deviate from the type of plan that was used a month prior.
And while lifestyle factors were great (wasn’t tired, felt good), I really wanted to assess the bigger picture; the questions that people always ask: Do eggs hurt your cholesterol and make you fat?
The Starting Point
When I went to my doctor for my initial blood work, this was my starting point:
Total cholesterol: 132
HDL (the good stuff): 56
LDL (the bad stuff): 66
Body Fat: 13% (This was a small wake up call. I prefer to be around 10% year round.)
The End Result
Total cholesterol: 133
HDL (the good stuff): 59
LDL (the bad stuff): 64
Body Fat: 12%
Are Eggs Bad for Cholesterol?
Before we try and decipher these numbers, let’s remember that a number of factors can influence results. By no means should this be a situation where you look at the bottom line and think: “If I eat 3 eggs per day, I’ll have the same results.”
The biggest confounding variable is that I started out healthy. This, undoubtedly, will influence any type of diet experiment (or eggsperiment) that I conduct on myself.
With that said, my good cholesterol (HDL) went up, bad cholesterol (LDL) went down, body weight stayed the same as my body fat decreased slightly. Some people might look and think, “But your total cholesterol went up.”
Maybe if I had much higher cholesterol, this would be an issue. Anything less than 200 ml/dL is considered very healthy. And again, the changes were positive–more of the good stuff and less of the bad. All of this occurred in a little more than 3 months of work.
So why do some many people associated eggs with high cholesterol? Really it’s just a big misunderstanding because eggs don’t raise cholesterol the way you think. There’s a pretty substantial amount of research suggesting cholesterol benefits of eating eggs, (see here, and here, and here), thus making it harder to believe that A) eggs are bad for cholesterol (unless specific genetic factors identified in your own body by a doctor) or B) that they cause heart problems.
Should I Eat the Yolk?
Yes…and yes. Just in case this was lost in translation, I was eating three whole eggs per day. Not just the whites. And the reason is simple: The yolk is the best part. Both in taste and nutrition.
The yolk is where you find all of the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) as well as the majority of zinc, calcium, folate, and memory boosting lecithin. And you can’t forget Vitamin B12, which has been shown to help with fat breakdown.
While the whites still offer protein, it’s only slightly more than 50 percent of the total amount. The yolks are part of what give eggs the highest possible biological value, which is a measure of how well a food suits your body’s protein needs.
If you’re looking for the healthiest way to eat your eggs, your best bet is to keep the yolk. (The exception: Let’s say you’re on a “diet” and are counting macros or keeping fat lower, there’s no problem just eating a bunch of eat whites and saving calories. Sometimes I do it myself, but the reason isn’t to avoid the yolk or for health reasons; it’s to save calories or eat fewer grams of fat per day.)
So…Eggs are Healthy?
Eating eggs didn’t have any harmful effects on my health. And as I charted over the course of the program, I experienced a boost in strength and learned about the various benefits of eggs, leading me to consider them one of the healthiest foods in the world. (Big caveat: if you’re allergic or sensitive to eggs, please don’t eat them. Read that line again and remember that as personal variables are an important consideration for everyone.)
Without a doubt, I’d love to see more research conducted. We can never stop learning and making sure that what we’re putting into our bodies is good and healthy for us.
As always, you’ll want to make sure that you consult with any doctor before beginning a diet. But don’t be afraid to argue or question that age-old fear of fat (specifically saturated) or the idea that eggs are bad.