So you want to eat a little bit better, but refuse to subsist entirely on sad salads and depressing handfuls of mixed nuts? Good news: You can have the best of both worlds — that is, good health and good food — so long as you mind your portion sizes and limit how often you indulge in the less-than-healthy stuff. To help you stay healthy and satisfied, we’re asking nutrition experts how often you can dig into your favorite unhealthy snacks without setting yourself back too far. The focus this time around: Eggs.
Eggs are, without a doubt, one of the most popular foods around the world. They’re in everything: Some breads, many desserts, fried foods and even salad dressings — not to mention how often they’re consumed just by themselves.
For good reason, too, because eggs have a lot of things going for them: They add color, structure and moisture to all manner of baked goods and make a fantastic thickener and emulsifier in sauces; they’re jam-packed with nutrition, from their incredibly high ratio of protein to calories to their laundry list of potent antioxidants; and don’t forget that they taste real flippin’ good when you eat them for breakfast with a li’l seasoning and a li’l butter.
But despite all the really good things about eggs, there’s also some bad. Eggs are, for example, extremely high in cholesterol. According to the Mayo Clinic, one large egg contains around 180 milligrams, well over half of the recommended daily intake suggested by many health experts.
So where does that leave us? The sands of the “Are eggs good for you?” discussion have shifted more times in the last 25 years than you can count on all 10 of your fingers. Some research even suggests that the human body doesn’t get its cholesterol directly from food like eggs but instead from the liver — converted from trans and saturated fats, which eggs aren’t high in.
To get to the bottom of the matter, I checked in with Dana Hunnes, senior dietitian at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. “I wouldn’t recommend eating more than one whole egg per day,” Hunnes tells me. “Plus, if you don’t eat eggs daily, I don’t recommend putting them all in one day. A study came out not too long ago that demonstrated even as little as one-half egg yolk per day increases risk of all-cause mortality and chronic diseases.”
That’s not good news for egg-lovers out there. But what if you just ate the whites, the part of the egg that’s high in protein and low in cholesterol? “Eating just the egg whites mitigates some of the risk to your cardiovascular health,” Hunnes says, “however, from an environmental standpoint, I personally have a hard time advocating for eating only whites as it wastes over half the egg and the resources that went into creating that egg.”
“My suggestion is, if you want to eat eggs (and we know it is better for your health to get primarily plant-based proteins), then I would definitely limit it to one whole egg per day and not more than that. Sub in scrambled tofu!”
And there you have it: Right now, at least, it’s one whole egg per day at most — no ifs, ands or buts. That said, be sure to check back in six months in case a new study comes out and eggs are once again back on the menu!