Eggs are a nutritious food that can be part of a healthy diet. However, there has been debate around how many eggs should be consumed daily. The main concern with eating too many eggs is the cholesterol content. Yet, research shows that dietary cholesterol has less of an effect on blood cholesterol levels than previously believed. Here is a look at the research and recommendations on how many eggs you can eat in a day.
Most healthy people can safely eat up to 7 eggs per week. If you have heart disease or diabetes, limit egg intake to 3-4 eggs per week.
How Many Eggs Can You Eat In a Day?
According to U.S. Dietary Guidelines, a healthy person should limit cholesterol intake to 300 mg per day. One large egg contains around 186 mg of cholesterol. So simple math would suggest you should limit eggs to 1-1.5 per day if you don’t consume any other cholesterol-containing foods. However, other factors affect blood cholesterol levels so these guidelines may be overly restrictive for most people.
Factors That Affect Blood Cholesterol
Research shows that only dietary cholesterol accounts for around 25% of the cholesterol levels in your blood. More important factors are:
- Saturated and trans fats – these increase cholesterol production in the liver
- Weight and activity level – being overweight/obese causes increased cholesterol production
- Genetics – some people inherit genes that cause higher cholesterol levels
For most people, moderate egg consumption will not significantly raise cholesterol levels when calories, saturated fat, trans fat and body weight are taken into account. Nutritious high-protein foods like eggs may also promote weight loss, which improves cholesterol levels.
Eggs and Heart Disease
Studies show mixed results on eggs and heart disease risk:
- A 1999 study of 117,000 adults found that those eating 7 eggs/week had a higher risk of heart disease than those eating <1 egg/week. However, the increased risk was quite small.
- A 2004 study followed over 80,000 women for 14 years. It found no association between moderate egg intake (1 egg/day) and heart disease or stroke risk.
- A prospective study in Japan followed 58,000 adults. It found that daily egg consumption was associated with a 12% lower risk of heart disease.
Overall, research suggests eggs in moderation are unlikely to increase the risk of heart disease in healthy individuals. Those with established heart disease or diabetes may want to limit eggs to 3-4 per week.
How Many Eggs Can You Eat If You Have Diabetes?
People with diabetes tend to have abnormal cholesterol levels, increasing their risk for heart disease. For this reason, diabetes management guidelines recommend limiting dietary cholesterol. However, as with heart disease, the effect eggs have on cholesterol levels in diabetics is quite small compared to other factors.
A 2018 study had patients with well-controlled type 2 diabetes eat 2 eggs daily for 12 weeks. This resulted in no significant changes in their cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
Another study compared people with diabetes who ate 2 eggs daily to those who ate an oatmeal breakfast. After 12 weeks, both groups saw improvements in cholesterol levels. However, the egg group had greater increases in HDL (good) cholesterol and more significant drops in HbA1c, a marker for blood sugar control.
Based on current research, people with diabetes do not usually need to restrict eggs to less than 3-4 per week. As always, moderation is key and your overall diet quality is most important.
Are There Any Other Health Risks With Eating Eggs?
Raw or undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella bacteria, which can cause food poisoning. However, Salmonella infection from eggs is very rare today. Only 0.005% of eggs produced in the U.S. are contaminated.
To avoid any risk of Salmonella, the FDA recommends cooking eggs until the whites and yolks have solidified. Using pasteurized eggs also eliminates risk of infection.
Egg allergy primarily develops in childhood and is one of the most common food allergies. Most children outgrow it by age 5, but some people remain allergic to eggs lifelong. An allergic reaction can include skin inflammation, respiratory distress and gastrointestinal symptoms.
People with egg allergy should avoid eggs completely and be vigilant about reading ingredient labels. Even small amounts of eggs, like in baked goods or breaded coatings, can trigger a reaction.
Lecithin and Sensitivity
Lecithin is a fat emulsifier extracted from egg yolks. It’s added to many processed foods as an emulsifier and stabilizer. People with egg sensitivities are often fine with lecithin and do not need to avoid it.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
People who avoid eggs miss out on two key nutrients that support eye health – lutein and zeaxanthin. Just one egg yolk contains around 300 micrograms of these compounds. Increased intake of lutein and zeaxanthin may prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
People who avoid eggs should focus on increasing their intake of other lutein/zeaxanthin-rich foods like green leafy vegetables, corn, oranges and squash.
How Many Eggs Can You Eat If You’re Pregnant?
During pregnancy, women are recommended to limit dietary cholesterol intake to 300 mg/day, the same as the general population. Since eggs are high in cholesterol, pregnant women were once advised to avoid eggs.
However, current research shows eggs are perfectly safe and nutritious during pregnancy. The increased calorie and protein demands of pregnancy often mean cholesterol intake exceeds 300 mg anyway without causing problems.
A study in over 18,000 pregnant women found no link between moderate egg intake and increased risk of gestational diabetes, hypertension or premature delivery.
Another study reported that women who ate at least 6 eggs per week during pregnancy had a lower risk of pre-eclampsia compared to those who ate fewer eggs. The choline in eggs may help prevent this condition.
Unless medically advised to restrict eggs, expectant mothers can safely enjoy them as part of a healthy pregnancy diet.
Nutritional Benefits of Eggs
Here are some of the health and nutritional benefits you get from eggs:
High in Protein
Eggs are one of the best sources of high-quality protein you can eat. Just two large eggs provide 12 grams of protein. Eggs contain all nine essential amino acids required for building and maintaining muscle tissue.
Rich in Choline
Eggs are among the richest sources of choline in the diet, with one egg providing 147 milligrams. Choline is an essential nutrient needed for proper brain, nerve and liver function.
Antioxidants Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Egg yolks contain significant amounts of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients support eye health and may prevent age-related eye diseases.
Vitamin A, B Vitamins and Selenium
Eggs also provide decent amounts of Vitamin A, B vitamins, selenium, calcium and potassium. And contrary to outdated beliefs, most of an egg’s vitamins and minerals are found in the yolk rather than just the white.
Promote Fullness and Help With Weight Loss
Eggs are very filling and may promote weight loss when eaten in place of refined carbs. Their high protein content increases satiety after meals and satisfies hunger.
One study found that eating eggs for breakfast helped increase feelings of fullness while reducing calorie intake at the next meal, compared to a bagel breakfast.
Another study in 30 overweight and obese women found that eating eggs for breakfast led to greater feelings of fullness and delayed subsequent eating compared to a bagel breakfast.
Best Ways to Prepare Eggs
Eggs are quite versatile and can be prepared in many ways:
- Fried: Fry eggs in a skillet with a small amount of cooking fat or olive oil. Fry on low-medium heat until the whites are completely set and the yolk reaches your desired doneness.
- Scrambled: Whisk eggs in a bowl and season with salt, pepper and your choice of herbs or spices. Pour into skillet with cooking fat and stir frequently over medium-low heat until fluffy.
- Poached: Gently pour egg into small bowl with simmering water and cook 3-5 minutes until the white is completely set and the yolk reaches desired doneness.
- Boiled: Place eggs in saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook 6-12 minutes depending on desired yolk doneness.
- Baked: Crack egg into small oven-safe ramekin or cup. Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes until white is set and yolk reaches desired consistency.
- Microwaved: Crack egg into microwave-safe bowl. Pierce yolk with a fork. Microwave 30-60 seconds until egg is cooked through.
To reduce risk of Salmonella infection, always cook eggs until the yolks and whites are solid. Avoid consuming raw and undercooked egg.
Healthiest Ways to Eat Eggs
While eggs can be enjoyed on their own, pairing them with vegetables and other nutritious foods enhances their health benefits.
Here are some healthy ways to eat eggs:
- Vegetable omelet: Fill omelet with veggies like spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, peppers and avocado.
- Egg sandwich: Toast whole grain bread and top with scrambled eggs, tomatoes and sprouts.
- Greens and eggs: Serve poached or soft-boiled eggs over a salad or sautéed greens.
- Veggie egg muffins: Combine whisked eggs with vegetables and bake in a muffin tin for a grab-and-go breakfast.
- Green smoothie: Blend eggs with fruits and leafy greens for a nutritious smoothie.
- Egg drop soup: Beat an egg into simmering broth along with veggies like mushrooms, onions and spinach.
Choosing whole food sources of fat like olive oil, avocado and nuts to accompany eggs can further boost the nutritional quality of your meal.
Potential Concerns With Eating Eggs
While eggs can absolutely be part of a healthy diet, there are some potential downsides to consider:
- Allergies: Those with egg allergy or sensitivity need to avoid eggs completely.
- Salmonella risk: Consuming raw or undercooked eggs increases risk of Salmonella poisoning. Always cook eggs thoroughly.
- High cholesterol: People with heart disease or diabetes should limit egg yolks to 3-4 per week due to their high cholesterol content.
- No vegan: Vegans avoid eggs and other animal products for ethical reasons.
For most people though, eggs can be enjoyed daily or weekly as part of a healthy, balanced diet.
How Many Eggs Can Dogs Eat?
Eggs are a safe and healthy food for dogs to eat in moderation. Here are some guidelines for feeding eggs to dogs:
- Cook eggs fully before feeding to avoid risk of salmonella poisoning.
- One large egg 2-3 times per week is a good starting amount for a medium sized dog.
- Adjust quantity based on your dog’s size – smaller dogs should eat less, larger dogs can eat more.
- Prepare eggs simply with no added salt, butter or oil.
- Eggs should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s total daily calories.
- Watch for signs of an upset stomach or allergic reaction when first introducing eggs.
The protein, vitamins and minerals in eggs provide dogs with many benefits. However, moderation is important as too much dietary cholesterol could be problematic in predisposed dogs.
Based on the research, most healthy people can safely consume up to 7 eggs per week as part of a varied diet. No strong evidence suggests this level of egg intake significantly increases disease risk in humans.
However, those with heart disease or diabetes may want to limit intake to 3-4 eggs weekly. Pregnant women can enjoy eggs regularly as part of a balanced diet.
To gain the most nutritional benefits from eggs, prepare them in healthy ways and pair them with vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Limit intake if you have an egg allergy or vegan dietary preferences.
Overall, eggs can be a nutritious addition to most people’s diets without adversely impacting health.