- Current data suggests you don’t have to avoid eggs to avoid high cholesterol.
- Eating an egg every day aligns with a heart-healthy eating pattern in most situations.
Scrambled, poached, or deviled, eggs are a versatile and popular food. But these nutritional powerhouses—and their yolks in particular—have been demonized for their cholesterol content in the past.
If you are extra cognizant of your heart health and trying to keep your cholesterol in check, you may be wondering if you should opt for egg whites only or avoid eggs altogether. And you might be surprised to learn that recommendation changes in the last four years suggest there’s now room for a whole egg each day in most diets.
How Much Cholesterol Do Eggs Have?
Eating an entire egg will fuel your body with several important nutrients, including protein, vitamin B12, and choline but one large egg also has 207 milligrams of dietary cholesterol. This is nearly two-thirds of the daily limit formerly suggested by the American Heart Association. More current guidelines suggest keeping dietary cholesterol “as low as possible without compromising the nutritional adequacy of the diet.” This can make eating this food sound like an obvious no when focusing on heart health.
That’s actually not the case.
“Dietary cholesterol isn’t the same thing as blood cholesterol,” registered dietitian Elizabeth Shaw, RDN, told Verywell. “Eating cholesterol doesn’t necessarily mean that your blood cholesterol will be raised.”
Although dietary cholesterol was once a nutrient thought to contribute to heart disease, a 2019 American Heart Association science advisory report on dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular risk found that research does not support an association between dietary cholesterol and cardiovascular risk.
Can You Eat Eggs on a Heart-Healthy Diet?
Heart-healthy eating can include eggs, as supported by a 2020 analysis from the Harvard School of Public Health. Specifically, this data evaluated the association between egg intake and cardiovascular disease risk among men and women in the United States.
After 32 years of follow-up, researchers found that consuming at least one egg per day was not associated with incident cardiovascular disease risk after adjusting for lifestyle and dietary factors. Further analysis, which included a meta-analysis, showed that moderate egg consumption (up to one egg per day) is not associated with cardiovascular disease risk overall, and is associated with potentially lower cardiovascular disease risk in Asian populations.
One report published in the Journal of Family Practice included details that clinical trials have found no link between egg intake and increased risk for heart disease.
Perhaps most authoritatively, as of 2019, the American Heart Association states that eggs can be included in a heart-healthy diet for healthy adults. The organization’s guidance says:
- Healthy individuals can include a whole egg daily in heart-healthy dietary patterns.
- For older healthy individuals, given the nutritional benefits and convenience of eggs, consumption of up to two eggs per day is acceptable within the context of a heart- healthy diet.
- Vegetarians who do not consume meat-based cholesterol-containing foods may include more eggs in their diets within the context of moderation.
While the American Heart Association still places caution on dietary cholesterol for people with high cholesterol, a growing body of research indicates eggs can be included in heart-healthy dietary patterns even in people at risk for cardiovascular disease.
The Healthiest Ways to Include Eggs in Your Diet
If your goal is to follow a diet that supports heart health, you can absolutely include eggs, with a few caveats.
Even though there is no disputing that the combo is delish, eating eggs with high-fat meats should not become a habit. Consuming cholesterol sources in tandem with saturated and trans fats leads to increases in blood cholesterol.
Try to eat eggs with vegetables when you can, since vegetables like kale and Brussels sprouts are linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Consuming eggs with veggies can also help your body better absorb the nutrients found in vegetables, like vitamin E and carotenoids.
Chef and registered dietitian Sara Haas, RDN, LD, offered Verywell some ideas for eating eggs beyond the standard omelet or hard boiled options:
- Enjoy eggs over thick-cut whole-grain bread that is toasted and topped with canned black beans, pico de Gallo, and a cooked egg.
- Make curried egg salad by tossing hard-boiled eggs with plain Greek yogurt, toasted curry, onions, and celery. This salad can be stuffed in a pita with baby lettuce.
- Make muffin tin eggs by whisking eggs with cooked spinach and garlic, roasted red peppers, and feta. Then, bake them in a muffin tin. Once the muffin tin eggs are cooked and cooled, they can be eaten immediately or stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
What This Means For You
Eating eggs appears to be acceptable for generally healthy people, and eating the yolk doesn’t appear to cause elevated cholesterol.