The Role of Eggs in the Diet: Update

By ACSH Staff — Aug 01, 2002

Executive Summary
  • A substantial body of scientific research shows that dietary cholesterol has only a small effect on blood cholesterol and that the consumption of eggs up to an intake of one egg per day has no detectable effect on heart disease risk in healthy people. Experts no longer consider it necessary for healthy people to limit their intake of egg yolks to a specified number per week.
  • Consuming an average of one egg per day is acceptable for many people but not for everyone. Although specific recommendations for strict limitations on egg intake have been dropped, the American Heart Association still recommends that the intake of dietary cholesterol be limited to an average of no more than 300 mg/day. An egg a day fits within this limitation only if the individual's overall diet is otherwise low in cholesterol.
  • Eggs are highly nutritious. They are an excellent source of high-quality protein, and they provide significant amounts of several vitamins and minerals. Recent research indicates that egg eaters are more likely than non-egg eaters to have diets that provide adequate amounts of essential nutrients.
  • Eggs have other desirable properties in addition to their nutritional value. They are inexpensive, convenient, easy to prepare, and easy to chew, and they play important roles in a wide variety of recipes.
  • Eggs contain certain components that may have health benefits that go beyond basic nutrition. Research on these "functional" components is in its early stages, however, and no health benefits have been conclusively demonstrated.
  • It is possible to modify some aspects of the nutritional composition of eggs by feeding the hens special diets. Modified "designer" eggs containing increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E are now on the market. Whether these modified eggs have special health benefits has not been established.
  • Allergies to eggs are uncommon. However, those individuals who do have an egg allergy must avoid eggs and egg-containing products completely.
  • Eggs need to be handled and prepared with care to ensure their microbiological safety. They should always be stored under refrigeration and cooked thoroughly. Recent coordinated efforts to improve food safety in the U.S. appear to have resulted in a decrease in foodborne illnesses, including the type associated with Salmonella in eggs. Despite this improvement, however, all authorities recommend that people should continue to refrain from consuming raw or undercooked eggs.
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The Role of Eggs in the Diet

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