Eggy Worries! How many can I eat?
November 17, 2011 1:40 PM   Subscribe

How many eggs can I eat? I'm a vegetarian on the South Beach diet. I'm healthy and have never had issues with cholesterol. What I'm wondering is, how many eggs is a reasonable number to eat? I've been doing at least one a day, often two. Is that too many? Does the vegetarianism mitigate it? I really love eggs. But I do want my blood to continue to be able to fit through my me!
posted by supercoollady to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
There's some controversy over whether or not eggs contribute to LDL cholesterol, and if so to what extent. It's true that eggs contain cholesterol, but most cholesterol in our bodies comes from excess saturated fat. So, although a food may not contain any cholesterol, if it's high in saturated fat, it might raise cholesterol in the body more than a food that is high in cholesterol but low in saturated fat. In fact, there's some evidence that eggs lower LDL cholesterol. Personally, I don't worry at all about cholesterol in eggs, but this is an area in which the science is unsettled. You can see the controversy for yourself if you google "eggs cholesterol."
posted by smorange at 1:53 PM on November 17, 2011

Research Review: Eggs and Cholesterol – Is the Easter Bunny Out To Get You?

Men's Health: Understanding Cholesterol and Heart Disease

TL;DR If you have already-high cholesterol, lowering your cholesterol intake will have some benefit. If you don't, you don't need to worry unless you're eating, like, a pound of butter at a time.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:55 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

The idea that eggs are terrible for you, with regard to cholesterol, is largely a myth. Eating one egg a day is perfectly fine. Eating a three-egg omelette everyday, however, is probably not.
posted by asnider at 1:55 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

This study by the American Medical Association concludes that 1 egg a day is fine.
posted by susanvance at 1:56 PM on November 17, 2011

But how do we know that eating a three egg omelette a day is not good for us? If smorange is right, and I just read something yesterday that echoed it, then 3 eggs a day would be no big deal?

Full disclosure: A three egg day is pretty average for me. So far my cholesterol is okay, but I hate to tempt fate.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:01 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! But what about my 2-a-day egg habit? Your thoughts?
posted by supercoollady at 2:03 PM on November 17, 2011

As mentioned, dietary cholesterol has a tenuous (at best) link with blood lipids. Eat all the freakin' eggs you want. 3 eggs a day won't harm you.

Everything in moderation of course. I wouldn't be concerned unless you were consuming a dozen eggs a day, and then I'd be more concerned for your sanity than your cholesterol.
posted by wrok at 2:06 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think it depends on a lot of factors. Does high cholesterol run in your family? Have you had your cholesterol checked recently? How old are you? For some people, 2-a-day is a terrible idea, and for others it would be no problem at all. I would just check things out regularly and go with it.
posted by bolognius maximus at 2:08 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I suspect you'd have to examine your whole diet to answer this question. I've known some vegetarians with high cholesterol from eating tons of cheese and butter. How is your cholesterol now? Some people have to keep an extremely strict diet to have low cholesterol and some don't.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 2:12 PM on November 17, 2011

Anecdotally, I'm a healthy 27-year-old male and I've probably averaged two eggs a day for my entire life. I have exactly normal cholesterol.
posted by cmoj at 2:14 PM on November 17, 2011

Men's Health: Understanding Cholesterol and Heart Disease

I assume that was supposed to link to this?
posted by John Cohen at 2:14 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Vegetarian here. I've been eating 2 eggs a day for almost 2 yrs now. My cholesterol is fine.
posted by Constant Reader at 2:15 PM on November 17, 2011

You should be fine, according to "Eggs and dietary cholesterol – dispelling the myth":, from the British Nutrition Foundation:

"Most health and heart advisory bodies in the UK, Europe and elsewhere no longer set limits on the number of eggs people should eat, provided they are consumed as part of a healthy diet that is not high in SFA. This is a message that health professionals need to communicate to the public."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:16 PM on November 17, 2011

I begin to be unhappy digestion-wise around four eggs a day. My cholesterol is fine. I'm 52.
posted by Namlit at 2:22 PM on November 17, 2011

Just an anecdote: my father ate 2 - 3 eggs every day of his life, fried in extravagant amounts of butter, until he died at a lean, vigorous 92. Anytime he had his cholesterol tested, it was stubbornly fine. So if you like eggs, enjoy them without any guilt whatsoever. People are very different -- some have to be very careful what they eat to keep their cholesterol in line, while others can get away with eating anything. The advice you hear about one egg per day is necessarily based on averages.

If you really want to be cautious and know what effect the eggs might have for you, get a cholesterol test now, and then re-test after 6 months or a year of eggy indulgence, and see if there's any difference. If there's not, you could be worry-free, and have good grounds to tell any anti-egg people to mind their own business.
posted by Corvid at 2:46 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I eat a mostly-vegetarian diet, and low carb since January, and average a couple of eggs a day. My cholesterol has improved since I dropped my carbs and upped my eggs (L went down; H went up). That's all anecdotal, of course, but there you have it.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:54 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is a lot of bogosity in food-alarmism. This year's conventional wisdom is next year's complete nonsense.

For example, recent studies have found that a low salt diet increases the death rate. It turns out that it doesn't help blood pressure for those with high blood pressure, and it increases cholesterol buildup. More salt in your diet improves the situation with regard to cholesterol and apparently has no effect on the rate of strokes.

But a few years ago, if you asked those who claim to know about such things, they'd tell you that salt was only about two steps away from cyanide. And right now the city of New York is trying to curb salt use within its borders. (Haven't they got anything else to worry about? Anyway, it seems like they haven't gotten the most recent memo.)

I generally pay little or no attention to those kinds of dicta; I've seen them come and I've seen them go.

If you like eggs, eat them. Eggs are good food, and tasty, too.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:08 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have an egg or 2 every day and eat mostly vegetarian. I also eat a lot of butter and haven't had any problems with blood test. As others have mentioned I've also mostly stopped listening to food-alarmism and just try to eat real food and avoid processed stuff. I also try to buy better eggs("pastured," cage free, whatever, I usually try to get local ones from farmers market) because I've read that grass fed chicken eggs have higher levels of omega 3s and some other benefits. I'm too lazy to google for a source right now. They've got brighter colored yolks so I figure they must have something going for them.
posted by fromageball at 3:25 PM on November 17, 2011

Another anecdote suggesting that diet isn't as big a factor as genetics in cholesterol: my brother is extremely overweight maybe obese and has a high cholesterol diet but tests great along with the rest of my family. My coworker on the other hand is 5'10 and looks to be about 125 and her cholesterol is so bad her dr put her on a very extreme diet consisting literally of brown rice and vegetables. Advice to you is check your cholesterol and if all is great eat those eggs, if it is not looking so good find other sources of protein.
posted by boobjob at 3:32 PM on November 17, 2011

"One egg a day" or two or three is a largely meaningless prescription outside of the context of your overall diet, isn't it?

If you are a healthy, high-fiber vegetarian (as opposed to a high-carb or Dorito-crunching vegetarian), you probably can get away with more eggs than someone who is eating other high cholesterol foods as well.

If you are otherwise healthy, why don't you get your levels checked, binge on eggs for a few months, and check them again? That's really going to be the best way to evaluate your response.
posted by quarterframer at 3:40 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a blood test before starting the Tim Ferriss "Slow Carb" diet, and got a 163 for my cholesterol. I ate TEN whole eggs a day for the next six weeks and my cholesterol count went down six points.

Note that I was avoiding all forms of carbs (except for beans) 6 six days a week; I don't know what would have happened if I were eating ten eggs on top of my what I normally ate.
posted by holterbarbour at 3:41 PM on November 17, 2011

why not remove one of the yolks if you're eating two eggs? (works best for scrambled, of course.) I've done it for years. tastes fine!
posted by changeling at 4:13 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally, I know an otherwise thin dude who developed gynecomastia in his twenties; his doctor attributed it to his eating six eggs a day. However, I just googled and couldn't find any mention of a causal link, so perhaps the doctor's explanation was hokum.
posted by hot soup girl at 4:59 PM on November 17, 2011

FWIW, I eat three eggs every morning... plus bacon, toast, butter. My total cholesterol a couple months ago was 157. HDL could be a bit better, but overall.... my anecdata suggests that dieary cholesterol (at least for me!) isn't very significant.
posted by drhydro at 8:47 PM on November 17, 2011

why not remove one of the yolks if you're eating two eggs? (works best for scrambled, of course.) I've done it for years. tastes fine!

My brother who was trying to grow muscles did just that - IIRC, i once saw him boil 6 eggs for himself. ("What? I only eat the egg whites")

I don't know how much the egg yolk contributes to cholesterol, but there are always nuts and fish oils to keep things level.
posted by revikim at 2:46 AM on November 18, 2011

As many eggs a day as you want is fine - the cholesterol you eat doesn't magically turn into cholesterol floating around your blood. That's bunk, and thankfully people are waking up to the fact that the lipid hypothesis is wrong and Ancel Keys screwed up in the 1960s with his garbage nutrition studies. Eggs are one of nature's most perfect foods. Just be sure to cook your eggs in real butter or coconut oil, and not "cooking spray" or some other canola or soybean oil derivative.
posted by sunnychef88 at 6:21 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Be sure to eat the yolk, too - they're the most nutritionally dense part of the egg!
posted by sunnychef88 at 6:22 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

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