Many people can eat a couple of eggs per day. But the amount may vary for certain groups.
Eggs are a popular and highly nutritious food rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, protein, and fat. In parts of the world where eggs are affordable and easily accessible, many people eat them regularly or even daily (1, 2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source).
At some point, you may have heard that the cholesterol found in eggs contributes to heart disease — the leading cause of death around the world (3Trusted Source).
For years, this belief was perpetuated by health officials and medical and nutrition associations alike, leading some people to avoid eating eggs (5Trusted Source).
Eggs are undoubtedly higher in cholesterol than many other foods. Still, they’re also packed with beneficial bioactive compounds and other disease-fighting nutrients (3Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
Recent research suggests that the link between eating eggs and elevated heart disease risk may not be as strong as once thought — though there is still much debate on the topic (7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source).
Many health guidelines and recommendations have lessened the restrictions they once set around egg consumption. Yet, many people still worry that eggs could be detrimental to their heart health (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
This article explores the relationship between eggs, cholesterol, and heart health. It includes recommendations for how many eggs you can safely eat and who should consider limiting their intake.
Recent observational studies and meta-analyses have found that eating eggs may not increase your risk of heart disease or its risk factors, like inflammation, stiffening of the arteries, and high cholesterol levels (12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
A few randomized controlled trials (RCTs) — the gold standard of scientific research for their ability to reduce bias — note similar findings, though typically in smaller study groups of 20–50 healthy adults.
For example, one small RCT found that when compared with an egg-free high carb breakfast, eating 2 eggs or a 1/2 cup (118 mL) of liquid eggs for breakfast had no significant effects on blood cholesterol levels (16Trusted Source).
RCTs in people with diabetes have found that eating 6–12 eggs per week didn’t negatively affect total blood cholesterol levels or heart disease risk factors. Rather, it increased high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
HDL cholesterol is known as good cholesterol. It removes other types of cholesterol from the blood, so higher HDL levels are favorable.
On the contrary, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is often referred to as the bad type of cholesterol because it raises your risk of heart disease.
Trials comparing egg-based breakfasts and egg-free meals noted that cholesterol did increase in the egg-breakfast groups. However, the LDL-to-HDL ratio — a biomarker commonly used to assess heart disease risk — remained unchanged (19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source).
For example, a recent meta-analysis of 17 RCTs found that people with high egg consumption for an extended period of time tend to have higher cholesterol levels than those who eat fewer eggs (24Trusted Source).
Yet, some studies also say that the negative associations of eating eggs may be more notable if they’re eaten alongside other high cholesterol foods. Aside from eggs, this can include yogurt, cheese, processed meats, and fried foods (25Trusted Source).
All in all, discrepancies remain about exactly how eggs influence cholesterol and the overall role they play in the risk of heart disease and death. Many experts agree that more human studies are needed to better address these questions (6Trusted Source, 26Trusted Source, 27Trusted Source).
As we continue to learn how eggs interact with cholesterol and chronic diseases, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the risk associated with eating too many eggs differs among individuals.
Factors like your genetics, family history, how you prepare your eggs, your overall diet, and even where you live could influence how many eggs you can safely eat per day (28Trusted Source, 29Trusted Source).
Also, consider the amount of total cholesterol in your diet from foods besides eggs. If your diet is relatively low in cholesterol, you may have more room in it for eggs. However, if your diet is higher in cholesterol, it may be best to limit your egg intake.
For a healthy adult with normal cholesterol levels and no significant underlying heart disease risk factors, some research suggests that 1–2 eggs per day can be safe. It may even be healthy and benefit your heart health (30Trusted Source, 31Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source).
A small study in 38 healthy adults found that as many as 3 eggs per day improved LDL and HDL levels and the LDL-to-HDL ratio. Yet, experts might shy away from suggesting more than 2 eggs per day, with many still suggesting that you stick to 1 (34Trusted Source).
A study in Korean adults further observed that eating 2–7 eggs per week helped maintain high HDL cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome. Meanwhile, eating 2 or more eggs per day didn’t have the same protective effects (35Trusted Source).
Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that include high blood pressure, blood sugar, and blood fat levels, plus weight gain around the waist. Together, they contribute to an increased risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease (36Trusted Source).
The risk could vary for different groups
Though it appears that having a couple of eggs a day is safe for most healthy adults, it’s important to note that some research still suggests otherwise — particularly for certain groups (28Trusted Source, 37Trusted Source, 38Trusted Source).
One study in nearly 200,000 U.S. veterans associated eating just 1 egg per day with a slightly elevated risk of heart attacks. The effect was strongest in those with diabetes or overweight, suggesting that overall health status influences how many eggs are safe to eat (39Trusted Source).
Similarly, in European and Korean adults, eating 2–4 eggs each week may contribute substantially to dietary cholesterol intake and increase the risk of heart disease, especially in people with diabetes (40Trusted Source, 41Trusted Source, 42Trusted Source).
Another study looked at a sample of more than 100,000 U.S. adults and found that older adults who ate more than 5–6 eggs per week had a 30% increased risk of heart disease. However, it’s no guarantee the increased risk is due to eggs alone (43Trusted Source).
Regardless of egg intake, heart disease risk increases as you age due to changes like fat buildup and stiffening of the arteries. Therefore, it’s important to consider your overall picture and health status when deciding how many eggs are safe to eat.
If you have high LDL cholesterol levels, overweight or obesity, a chronic disease like diabetes, or a family history of heart disease, it may be best to eat no more than 1 egg per day or 4–5 eggs per week.
It can be hard to evaluate so many different risk factors on your own. Therefore, working directly with a physician, dietitian, or trained healthcare professional may be the best way to decide how many eggs are safe to eat each day or week.
On average, 1 large egg contains around 200 mg of cholesterol (44Trusted Source).
The cholesterol is concentrated in the yolk. Therefore, some people eat only egg whites to reduce their cholesterol intake while still getting a good source of lean protein.
However, you shouldn’t dismiss the yolk completely because of its cholesterol content. The yolk is also the part of the egg that’s packed with iron, vitamin D, carotenoids, and more (3Trusted Source, 45Trusted Source).
These bioactive nutrients are thought to be responsible for many of the health-promoting qualities of eggs, like reduced inflammation, increased HDL cholesterol levels, and improved metabolic health (46Trusted Source, 47Trusted Source, 48Trusted Source, 49Trusted Source).
For example, one study in 37 adults with metabolic syndrome found that those who ate a low carb diet including 3 whole eggs per day for 12 weeks had improved markers of inflammation and cholesterol balance, compared with those who ate a yolk-free egg substitute (50Trusted Source).
At this time, there isn’t much evidence to support eating only egg whites in healthy individuals. In fact, by avoiding the yolk, you might be missing out on many of the health benefits eggs have to offer (51Trusted Source).
On the other hand, if you’re at high risk of heart disease or already have high cholesterol, prioritizing egg whites and moderating how much egg yolk you eat during the week could help prevent further increases in your cholesterol.
Studies show that too much cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans fat from any source can increase blood cholesterol levels — particularly LDL cholesterol, which subsequently raises your risk of heart disease (52Trusted Source, 53Trusted Source, 54Trusted Source, 55Trusted Source).
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans once recommended consuming no more than 200–300 mg of cholesterol per day depending on your heart disease risk factors. A breakfast with 2–3 eggs could easily set you over that limit.
However, that recommendation has since been restated. Now, the same guidelines place no limit on the daily amount of cholesterol in your diet. Instead, they suggest limiting your intake to keep your blood cholesterol levels within normal limits, which is an individual amount.
Though dietary cholesterol can raise LDL levels, it’s important to note that dietary cholesterol is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to assessing a person’s overall risk of heart disease (56Trusted Source).
Eggs are high in cholesterol, but they’re not the only food that affects LDL cholesterol levels. For example, high blood cholesterol levels can also be a result of a diet that is (54Trusted Source):
- High in saturated fat. Saturated fats like butter, cheese, and processed meats tend to raise LDL cholesterol levels, especially when compared with unsaturated fats (57Trusted Source).
- High in trans fat. Though some forms of trans fat do occur naturally, they’re usually artificially made and found in fast foods, baked goods, and processed margarine and shortening.
- Low in fiber. Adding high fiber foods like oats, beans, peas, seeds, and fruit to your diet might help reduce LDL cholesterol levels and reduce your overall risk of heart disease (58Trusted Source, 59Trusted Source).
- Too high in calories. For some people, limiting their calorie intake — and particularly calories from fat — has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels (60Trusted Source).
Thus, when you’re trying to decide how many eggs it’s safe to eat each day or week, it’s important to consider your whole diet.
If you don’t eat many other cholesterol-containing foods, it may be fine to eat more eggs. However, if you often have eggs with other cholesterol-rich foods like bacon, sausages, or butter, it’s likely better to limit your egg intake.
Eggs are affordable, versatile, a great source of lean protein, and easy to prepare.
They also offer many health benefits that extend outside of the debate surrounding their cholesterol content.
Notably, eggs are:
- Packed with vitamins and minerals. Especially choline, selenium, and the B vitamins (61Trusted Source, 62Trusted Source).
- Rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect your body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals and associated chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer (34Trusted Source, 63Trusted Source).
- Believed to improve some biomarkers of heart disease. These include inflammatory biomarkers like blood levels of interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein (62Trusted Source, 63Trusted Source).
- Filling and could support weight loss. Thanks to their high content of lean protein, eggs may be more filling than high carb breakfasts like cereal, which could help you feel full for longer and thus eat fewer calories throughout the day (20Trusted Source, 64Trusted Source, 65Trusted Source).
Lastly, eggs can be prepared deliciously in many different ways.
You can enjoy them in veggie-packed omelets, frittatas, and breakfast burritos. You can also simply boil, scramble, panfry, or poach them. Or, you can incorporate them into baked goods, sauces, salad dressings, shakshuka, stir-fries, and more.
When it comes to preparing eggs, the only limits are your imagination and your taste buds.
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