The Answer: Eggs have been slammed and praised, and slammed and praised again. But research suggests they won’t raise your cholesterol—and in fact, might even boost your health.
A landmark study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that healthy men and women who eat one egg every day are unlikely to have a substantial change in heart disease or stroke risk. Another study showed that when people with metabolic syndrome (a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease) ate three eggs a day as part of a weight-loss diet, their cholesterol levels improved.
Cholesterol is found in the membrane of every cell in your body. The waxy, fat-like substance is necessary for the production of hormones and vitamin D, and it is vital for digestion. You often hear about “good cholesterol” and “bad cholesterol,” which refer to the lipoproteins that carry cholesterol throughout the body. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL, bad) cause cholesterol to build up in your arteries. High-density lipoproteins (HDL, good) collect cholesterol around your body and shuttle it to the liver for disposal. Having too much LDL and too little HDL increases heart disease risk.
The vast majority of cholesterol in your body—about 75%—is produced by your own cells. The rest comes from food. It may seem counterintuitive, but the cholesterol in your diet is less likely to impact your LDL/HDL ratio than how much saturated fat you eat. Foods high in saturated fat and trans fats, including processed and fried foods and high-fat meat and dairy, increase LDL. Yes, egg yolks are high in cholesterol—one fried egg has 210 mg, twice as much as a bacon double-cheeseburger at Burger King. But while the burger serves up a whopping 18 grams of saturated fat, the incredible, edible egg only has two.
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