Why Eggs Don’t Deserve Their Bad Rap

As long as you’re smart about it, eating egg yolks won’t kill you.

Contrary to results from a recent study, nutrition experts say eating eggs are not worse for your health than smoking. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Whether you like your eggs over easy or sunny-side up, the versatile food is a staple in many diets. So when a study published this month suggested they’re just as bad for you as cigarettes, people freaked.

The report, published in the journal Atherosclerosis, found that patients at higher risk for heart disease who consumed three or more whole eggs per week developed the same amount of carotid plaque as smokers. The more plaque, or buildup of fatty substances and cholesterol deposits, in the arteries, the more at risk one is for stroke. 

Like the rest of the population, we at Well+Being were a bit worried after reading headlines like “Eggs Can Kill” and “Eggs Are Worse Than Smoking”—not to mention confused, since just a few months ago we included the theory that eggs are bad for you among 14 common myths about food and nutrition.

So we spoke with registered dietitian Nicole Ferring Holovach to clarify the study’s claims, and her own belief that eating an entire egg is good for you.

“Good grief,” Holovach said of the study, which she noted was full of caveats.

The biggest misleading factor? It was a correlation study. “There were no controls, and the patients were already at risk for heart disease,” Holovach explained. “They didn’t include any healthy people.” 

In addition, the study made no note of the participants’ health and exercise habits, nor their other dietary habits other than egg consumption.

The truth is that unless you are at high risk for cardiovascular disease (as the study’s participants were), incorporating entire eggs into your diet is a really good idea. And even if you are at risk, Holovach says various health organizations such as the US Department of Agriculture have found that eating one egg a day won’t hurt, as long as you limit other dietary sources of cholesterol. (It’s worth noting that those at risk should consume less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol a day—one egg has about 186 milligrams already.) 

In general, along with being a good source of protein and vitamins A and D, eggs are high in choline, a nutrient that is vital for brain development and is hard to come by in other foods. What’s another good source of choline? “Beef liver,” Holovach said. “That’s the thing—people aren’t eating a lot of the foods that are high in choline. Eggs are an easy source.”

The type of eggs you eat also plays a key role, she notes. Whether they’re white or brown isn’t so important, but she recommends pastured farm eggs, since they have an even better nutrient profile than factory-farmed eggs. However, they’re often hard to come by in grocery stores. In that case, try omega-3 eggs.