Is it Healthy to Eat Eggs? (Evidence Based)
Eggs are a source of massive confusion when it comes to health.
People aren’t sure whether they’re good for you or if they should be avoided. Lots of people staunchly believe the latter.
Let’s explore further.
Why do people think eggs are bad for them?
People think eating eggs is unhealthy or bad for them, or going to cause heart disease, because that’s what government guidelines and nutrition institutions said for decades.
Eggs contain saturated fat and cholesterol, which are commonly assumed to be linked with the development of non communicable diseases, especially cardiovascular disease. But is this assertion correct?
For decades it was assumed that consuming these things in food would raise cholesterol levels in the blood.
Recent scientific evidence doesn’t support this (more on that later) but people seem to have long memories when it comes to advice they received about eggs – many still parroting “eggs are high in cholesterol, ergo they are bad”.
Hopefully this post will change your mind and show you just what an amazing and nutritious food eggs are.
What macronutrients are in eggs?
Eggs are mostly made up from two of the three macronutrients, protein and fat (there are virtually zero carbs in eggs). The white is basically pure protein whilst the yolk is a mixture of protein and fat.
Side note: If you want to know what macronutrients you should consume for a fat loss or muscle building goal, check out this macro calculator!
Eggs are a great source of protein. 5 large eggs contains about 30g of protein which will stimulate maximal muscle protein synthesis for most people whilst costing around £1 or $1.
However, the protein in eggs is the “gold standard” for bioavailability.
This means your body can actually use all of the protein in eggs. This is not the case for all protein sources.
Let’s see how they compare:
So 30g of protein from eggs is actually BETTER than 30g of protein from beef, fish, chicken, pork (and perhaps obviously the plant sources).
To actually “get” the same amount from other sources, you’ve got to eat more.
So eggs are a great food for building muscle: High in protein, high bioavailability, cheap, easy to prepare and versatile.
Of course, if you want to build muscle you’ve also got to be resistance training. This is highly recommended if you just want to maintain your existing muscle, too. You need to at least follow a simple resistance training program, making sure it includes progressive overload and you prioritise recovery.
Eggs are also a great fat loss food….
If you want to lose fat, you’ve got to be in a calorie deficit. People often say “lean protein” is the way to go for dieting, because you cut out the calories from fat, which can add up.
Egg whites are often chosen instead of whole eggs because you can get fewer calories per gram of protein.
I argue you should still eat whole eggs, however.
Whole eggs are an incredibly satiating food for the calories they contain.
A large egg is about 75 calories. Eat 6 and you’ll get about 36 grams of protein & 450 calories.
That’s a low calorie, high protein meal that will fill you up, and you didn’t need to skip the yolks!
Personally, I find eating eggs for breakfast keeps me fuller for longer than if I’d eaten something else. I end up eating fewer calories at my next meal and overall in the day.
Scientific studies, such as this one, have also found the same results. 50 overweight people participated in this study. They were free to eat whatever they wanted at lunch, 4 hours after their breakfast meal.
The group who had eggs & toast for breakfast ate significantly fewer calories at lunch than the group who had eaten cereal.
Here’s another similar study with a similar result.
The takeaway from this?
Eggs for breakfast are a good idea if you’re trying to lose weight. You’ll likely eat a smaller lunch and be better at controlling your overall calorie intake.
Eggs help you to retain muscle mass as you lose weight
Retaining muscle is very important as you lose weight. Too many people focus too much on losing weight when what they should focus on is losing fat.
Losing muscle along with fat isn’t going to make you look better. You’ll look the same, but get smaller and lighter. If you lose fat and keep your muscle, your body will totally transform.
The scale might not drop as fast, but who cares about some number? Why not care more about how much better you look and feel?
Having less muscle also means having a lower metabolic rate, meaning you burn fewer calories at rest. This will make it easier to eat in a calorie surplus and gain weight.
To most effectively keep your muscle mass, you need to make sure you’re getting protein at every meal. This has been found to improve muscle hypertrophy, and to more effectively prevent sarcopenia in older adults (when compared with an equivalent intake of protein but skewed towards the evening meal). This study supports this.
Muscle is also very important for quality of life and is correlated with longer life too. Increased muscle mass correlates with lower all cause mortality.
Are Eggs a Healthy Food?
OK, so eggs are good for keeping you feeling full (helpful on a diet) and getting in protein – which is useful for building and maintaining muscle (which should be of interest to everyone).
But are they healthy?
Let’s look at the yolk since this is the bit most people take issue with.
In the yolk you’ll find most of the micronutrients.
Egg yolks contain:
- Vitamin A
They also contain small amounts of Vitamins D, E, B1, B3, B6, B8, B9, and K.
Eggs are therefore one of the most nutrient dense foods you can eat.
The yolks also contain fat. People worry about saturated fat, due to links with heart disease. However, only about a quarter of the fat in eggs is saturated fat, and the rest unsaturated.
This is about 1.6g of saturated fat per large egg, which is about 8% of the recommended daily allowance.
So 3 large eggs is about 25% of the RDA for saturated fat.
It’s important to point out that RDAs are based on a 2,000 calorie diet – so if you need more calories than this (and many people do) then the percentage of your RDA will be lower.
The overall amount of saturated fat in your diet is what matters, so you can easily eat eggs without this being a problem.
Is the cholesterol in eggs a problem?
People really worry about cholesterol in eggs, thinking it will raise their blood cholesterol levels.
This is mainly because this was the tune of government guidance and media narrative for years.
There’s about 185mg of cholesterol in 1 large egg, which is high compared to other foods.
However, recent research is not clear that eating eggs increases heart disease risk:
“Summary associations show no clear association between egg intake and increased or decreased risk of CHD.
Eggs are a low-cost & nutrient-dense whole food providing a valuable source of protein, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, choline, vitamins & minerals.”
Studies on the link with cholesterol found positive outcomes.
This study found no link to increased LDL or total cholesterol from consumption of 6-12 eggs per week, but did find increases in the “good” HDL cholesterol in 4 of the 6 studies analysed.
All of this new evidence in recent years has led to a lot of governments and nutrition associations revising their guidance on how many eggs you can safely eat.
Most experts have lessened their restrictions, but still shy away from recommending more than 2 per day.
- Very filling so good for fat loss
- Very nutritious
- High protein
- High bioavailability
- Good for building/maintaining muscle
And the evidence does not support that they’re bad for you! NHS (the UK health service) says there is “no recommended limit on how many eggs people should eat.”
Personally, I love to eat eggs. My breakfast is often 4-6 of them fried with olive oil, hard boiled or poached with toast. Sometimes I’ll have an omelette with onions, mushrooms, cheese, peppers, chilli etc.
This was one of my best omelette creations – basil, feta cheese and tomato were added to this one (amongst other things):