Myth Busting: Eggs and Cholesterol

Worried about the myth that eggs might impact your cholesterol? It’s time to show why an egg a day is A-OK when it comes to cholesterol and heart health.

two eggs in a yellow bowl on a wooden surface

Maybe you love your eggs scrambled or in an omelet. Or perhaps you prefer them sunny-side up and gooey on a slice of toast. Or could be you love to snack on hardboiled eggs and beeline for deviled eggs at a party.

No matter how you take your eggs, you may be confused about whether they’re a nutritious pick for your diet. So many people come to me who are afraid to eat eggs and have burning questions about this topic.

Disclosure: Thanks to the American Egg Board for sponsoring this blog post. All opinions, as always, are my own.

deviled eggs arranged on a blue plate

One of the biggest concerns I hear: When folks have heard the myth about cholesterol and eggs and worry that adding eggs to their diet could raise their cholesterol levels, their risk of heart disease—or both.

What many people don’t realize? Research related to eggs and cholesterol has evolved a lot over the past few decades. So, are they or aren’t they a part of healthy eating patterns?

Short answer: They are, and I’m going to clear up the confusion for you! Here, I’m answering burning questions about eggs and cholesterol myths. I’m also explaining just how much nutrition you’ll find in one egg.

What we know about eggs and cholesterol

When it comes to addressing people’s concerns about the egg-cholesterol myth, it helps to dive into the background on eggs and cholesterol.

We’ll also take a look at how the science has really evolved in this area. It’s true that some foods, like whole eggs, contain dietary cholesterol. In the past—and it’s beginning to look like the distant past—experts cautioned against consuming too much dietary cholesterol.

This is the cholesterol naturally found in food.

Why? High cholesterol levels in the blood, particularly “bad” LDL levels, drive up your risk for heart disease. The thinking used to be that cholesterol naturally present in food would raise blood cholesterol levels and gum up your arteries.

Experts then cautioned against eating foods containing dietary cholesterol. And thus, recommendations came out more than 50 years ago that discouraged egg consumption.

Unfortunately, all of this created a fear surrounding eggs that has persisted. But luckily, the science on cholesterol and eggs has seriously advanced since then.

Nowadays, experts (including yours truly!) advise that you don’t need to be so concerned about your intake of dietary cholesterol.

It’s more your intake of saturated fat and trans fat (and you must entirely avoid the latter!) that really impacts blood cholesterol levels.

In 2015, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee took dietary cholesterol off of the list of nutrients of public health concern.

And this is unchanged in the current 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

So here’s the good news in an eggshell: You don’t have to give the side-eye to the scrambled eggs on your plate anymore. Experts now understand that it’s not cholesterol from the foods that you eat that make the biggest impact on your blood cholesterol levels.

Rather, it’s the types of fat (such as saturated fat) and carbohydrates in your diet that you should pay attention to.

What’s more, other research in Nutrients indicates that the dietary cholesterol in eggs isn’t well absorbed by the body—and therefore has a minimal effect on blood cholesterol levels.

Isn’t it amazing how nutrition science continues to evolve?! So long, egg-cholesterol myths!

brown eggs in a carton with yellow flowers next to it

What about eggs and overall heart health?

If your ideal grab-and-go snack is a hardboiled egg or your favorite diner order is an omelet, you’re in luck.

For most people, heart-healthy eating can include eggs, as supported by an abundance of research including a 2020 Harvard study published in BMJ evaluating up to 32 years of data.

And for most people, eating eggs doesn’t have any negative impact on blood cholesterol levels.

Case in point: In the BMJ review and meta-analysis that looked at over 1.7 million people, eating one egg per day did not increase the risk of heart disease.

What’s more, when divided by location, eating eggs was associated with an 8 percent lower likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease among Asian groups. Woah!

As for eating eggs and risk of heart health, here are the facts. Research, including a cohort study in JAMA, links eating eggs with cholesterol levels and heart disease.

But concern is the highest among people who eat the Standard American Diet, which tends to be rich in processed foods and animal fats—and low in fruits, veggies, and fiber.

This is underscored by a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study found that people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes who ate at least 12 eggs per week in the context of a healthy weight-loss diet did not see a change in their cardiometabolic risk factors (including total cholesterol and fasting glucose levels).

This was versus another weight-loss group whose members consumed less than two eggs per week.

Even better: Substituting 100 calories per day from red and processed meat for 100 calories of eggs, fatty fish, yogurt, or cheese may help lower the likelihood of developing coronary artery disease by 20 percent, found research in Circulation.

The bottom line: Focusing on a well-rounded, plant-based diet that includes eggs can be part of a health-promoting diet. And yes, a plant-based diet can absolutely include animal products such as eggs!

burrito on a plate stuffed with scrambled egg, rice, vegetables

Are eggs nutritious?

Now we know that eating eggs in moderation isn’t connected to heart-health risk factors for most people, and we’ve answered your questions about the egg-cholesterol myth. So you might be wondering: Are there health benefits to eating eggs?

The answer: Yes, eggs are little nutrient powerhouses! So, let’s take a look at the amazing package of nutrients wrapped up in a single egg. The most recent 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes eggs in its list of nutrient-dense foods to eat more of.

Indeed, for just 70 calories, one large egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein, along with eight essential nutrients, including:

Vitamin B12: Eggs are an excellent source of vitamin B12, providing 0.5 micrograms (mcg) per large egg. This is 20 percent of the daily value.

Biotin: Eggs are an excellent source of biotin, known to help grow strong hair and nails.

Iodine: Did you know eggs are an excellent source of iodine, providing 28 mcg—or 20 percent of the daily value—per large egg?

Indeed, iodine is noted as an underconsumed nutrient of public health concern for pregnant or lactating women in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Selenium: Eggs are an excellent source of this mineral and provide 6 mcg per large egg.

Riboflavin: Per large egg, you get 0.13 mg, an excellent amount, of this B vitamin.

Pantothenic acid: Eggs are a good source of this B vitamin.

Choline: This essential nutrient supports brain and nervous system health—you need it for thinking, memory, and mood. It’s also especially important for prenatal nutrition.

Protein: Your body absorbs the type of protein in eggs very well. Per large egg, you get 6 grams of high-quality protein.

Eggs also have other important nutrients, including:

Vitamin D: Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally have vitamin D (6 percent DV), the sunshine vitamin that works alongside calcium to help keep bones strong.

Lutein and zeaxanthin: These carotenoids help protect your eyes from blue light and help slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Dutch pancake in a frying pan on a blue cloth

How many eggs should you eat each day?

Good news! Eggs are recommended for healthy adults as part of a heart-healthy diet according to the American Heart Association (AHA)! In fact, a 2019 AHA Nutrition Committee science advisory on Dietary Cholesterol and Cardiovascular risk made the following conclusions about eggs:  

  • Healthy people can include up to a whole egg daily in heart-healthy dietary patterns.
  • For older healthy people, given the nutritional benefits and convenience of eggs, eating up to 2 eggs per day is acceptable within the context of a heart-healthy dietary pattern.
  • Vegetarians who do not consume meat-based cholesterol-containing foods may include more eggs in their diets within the context of moderation.

Given all the egg white omelets on restaurant menus, you may be under the impression that egg whites are better for you. But please, please, please don’t forget about the yolk!

Nearly half of an egg’s protein and most of its vitamins and minerals—including those essential for supporting our brains and bodies—are found in the yolk. Bottom line: Eat the whole egg to get the most nutrients!

Now, I’m really glad we discussed the evolving science when it comes to egg-cholesterol myths and how many eggs you can eat in a day!

crustless egg quiche in a scalloped dish

Nutritious ways to include eggs in your diet

Eggs make a great breakfast, but that’s not all they can do. A hardboiled egg is an ideal stand-in as a snack, eggs atop a salad or sandwich make for a filling lunch, and eggs can even be the star at dinner.

The nutrient-packed food is a stellar addition to a plant-based diet because it can add even more high-quality protein and staying power to your meals. What’s more, eggs are a carrier for under-consumed veggies—so that’s a win win!

So, grab an egg! Try these three egg-based meals:

  • Vegetarian Chopped Salad with Hard-Boiled Eggs: With a base of greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and chickpeas—studded with olives and roasted red peppers—this salad is tossed with a zippy vinaigrette and topped with hardboiled eggs for more high-quality protein.
  • Vegetarian Lentils with Egg Toast: Hearty enough with plant-based protein from the lentils and an egg, this spin on eggs-in-a-basket is filling, satisfying—and a little bit spicy, too.  

The bottom line

In summary, eggs are a complete protein with essential vitamins and minerals that support the health of your brain, bones, eyes, and blood vessels.

Although eggs do contain cholesterol, dietary cholesterol has not been found to have as big of an impact on blood cholesterol levels as once thought. Thank goodness, we can set the egg-cholesterol myth aside now that we know what science has proven.

In fact, research has shown that most people can enjoy about one egg per day regularly as part of a heart-healthy diet. I hope this clears up some confusion about egg and cholesterol myths. Now, time to get crackin’!


Worried about the myth about eggs and cholesterol? If you’re concerned about the myth that eggs might impact your cholesterol, don’t fret. It’s time to show why an egg a day is A-OK when it comes to cholesterol and heart health
Plant-Based Eating |

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