Eggs do contain a substantial amount of cholesterol in their yolks—about 211 milligrams (mg) per large egg. And yes, cholesterol is the fatty stuff in our blood that contributes to clogged arteries and heart attacks. But labeling eggs as “bad for your heart” is connecting the wrong dots, experts say. “Epidemiologic studies show that most healthy people can eat an egg a day without problems,” says Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State University.
How? For most of us the cholesterol we eat—in eggs or any other food—doesn’t have a huge impact on raising our blood cholesterol; the body simply compensates by manufacturing less cholesterol itself. The chief heart-disease culprits are “saturated and trans fats, which have much greater impact on raising blood cholesterol,” notes Kris-Etherton. Seen through that lens, eggs look more benign: a large egg contains 2 grams of saturated fat (10 percent of the Daily Value) and no trans fats.
But before you celebrate with a three-egg omelet, consider the American Heart Association’s diet and lifestyle recommendations, which Kris-Etherton helped write: Limit your cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg daily—less than 200 mg if you have a history of heart problems or diabetes or are over 55 (women) or 45 (men). “If you do the math, that works out to less than an egg a day for this population—more like two eggs over the course of the week,” she notes. “Eggs can fit in, as long as you make room for them in the rest of what you’re eating.”