Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on April 10, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
In terms of nutrition, eggs are best known for being a good source of protein without too many calories. One egg typically has about six to eight grams of protein and just 70 calories. Eggs also contain a whole host of nutrients, which has made them a good go-to for athletes, bodybuilders, and anyone looking to build muscle.
However, one of the constant questions surrounding eggs is their cholesterol content. Eggs do contain cholesterol, but how much do they contain and is it an unhealthy amount? Read on to learn more about the answer to these questions and whether or not you should consider taking a cholesterol test based on your diet.
Cholesterol is a type of lipid that appears as a waxy substance in its physical form and is necessary for certain basic functions throughout the body. It builds cells and synthesizes certain vitamins, and it is required to make the digestive substance known as bile.
Doctors and health professionals make a big deal of cholesterol levels — and for good reasons. Cholesterol is an important health marker, and high levels of cholesterol can point to potential health issues, particularly coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States.
Related: What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?
Cholesterol itself can be complicated as your body has two forms: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). A lipoprotein is simply a protein that transports cholesterol through your blood. LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol as it contributes to the buildup of plaque in the blood vessels, which directly contributes to an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and peripheral artery disease. HDL cholesterol is considered the “good” cholesterol because it can help to absorb and eliminate some LDL cholesterol.
For ideal health, you want your LDL cholesterol level to be low while your HDL cholesterol stays high.
Cholesterol comes from two sources: your liver and your diet. Your liver technically creates all the cholesterol that you will ever need, but the food you eat can also contribute to your blood cholesterol level. So what are the worst foods for high cholesterol? These foods mainly come in the form of animal-based foods, including meats, dairy products, and, of course, eggs.
Yes, eggs do indeed contain some cholesterol. Specifically, egg yolks are high in cholesterol and a significant source of dietary cholesterol. However, evidence suggests that eggs have an extremely minor effect on your blood cholesterol levels. The exact amount of cholesterol in an egg will obviously vary, but one large egg contains about 186 mg of cholesterol. That comes from about 1.5 grams of saturated fat in the yolk.
For the average person, eggs are actually a fairly healthy, nutritious food. As mentioned, eggs are packed with protein with relatively few calories. They also contain a wide range of nutrients, including:
Lutein and zeaxanthin, which may support good eye health Choline, a nutrient that contributes to a healthy brain and nerves Carotenoids, an antioxidant Selenium, a mineral that maintains metabolism and thyroid function
Eggs are also an excellent source of vitamins A, B, and D. One egg contains about 270 international units of vitamin A and 41 international units of vitamin D.
Most studies show that the total cholesterol found in eggs is safe for most people. However, the main thing to consider is what you are eating with your eggs. For example, most people tend to eat eggs with other foods, typically bacon, sausage, and ham. These are processed meats that contain a higher concentration of saturated fats, which are known to increase your LDL cholesterol. Other people may eat their eggs with scones, muffins, or other pastries that could be made using trans fats, which are decidedly bad for your cholesterol. You also have to account for the butter or oils that are involved with cooking an egg.
Most people also eat their eggs with highly refined carbohydrates, like white bread, hash browns, and home fries. These carbohydrates can affect your blood sugar and calories, which can also contribute to heart issues.
Based on most evidence, the average person can eat one egg per day (seven eggs per week) without increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease. Some studies suggest that an egg a day may actually help to prevent certain types of stroke and reduce your risk of macular degeneration, a serious eye condition that can potentially lead to vision loss.
How you prepare your eggs can obviously affect your cholesterol. For the most heart-healthy benefits, experts recommend that you boil, poach, or scramble your eggs. Avoid using too much butter or margarine.
Be aware of the foods you also eat with your eggs. Limit your refined carbohydrates, butter, salt, and processed meats. Instead, opt for fresh vegetables, herbs, whole grain toast, and soft margarine (made from vegetable oils and generally low in trans fats and saturated fats).
Keep in mind that some people respond differently to eggs based on the amount and intake. Hyper-responders refer to people who are more sensitive to cholesterol-rich foods. This results in a greater increase in blood cholesterol when eating foods containing even small amounts of cholesterol. You should consult your doctor and/or a dietitian to better understand your individual response to eggs.
Some research suggests that eating eggs may increase your heart disease risk if you have type 2 diabetes. Other research suggests that consuming eggs can increase your risk of diabetes on its own. Much of the findings are conflicted, and more evidence is necessary to determine if there is any real link between egg consumption, heart disease, and diabetes. If it is a concern for you, consider talking to your doctor.
If you do like eating eggs but have concerns about cholesterol, consider using only egg whites. Egg whites are also rich in protein but do not contain any cholesterol. Alternately, you can find egg substitutes that are cholesterol-free.
Cholesterol in eggs is mostly negligible. While you obviously shouldn’t make a habit of only consuming large quantities of eggs, there are numerous other changes to focus on when considering a low cholesterol diet aside from restricting your egg intake to keep your cholesterol in check. That includes:
Along with the above, it’s a good idea to know your cholesterol numbers. If you don’t want to do that in a doctor’s office, Everlywell offers an at-home cholesterol and lipids test. This test offers accurate results for both HDL and LDL cholesterol, as well as your triglycerides. Each test comes with a telehealth consultation with a doctor, who can go over your results and provide any insight and guidance for next steps.