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Scrambled. Poached. Over easy. Soft-boiled. Hard-boiled. In an omelet. In a salad. On a hamburger. The egg is perhaps the most versatile food staple in our modern diet—with many nutrients packed into a such a compact shell. Yet somehow eggs have gotten a slightly negative rap over the past few years; perhaps due to worries about the cholesterol they naturally contain. But when you crack open the shell, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn how many calories are in eggs, as well as how they stack up on other basic nutrition info.
One large raw egg has just 70 calories, according to the USDA’s Food Facts database. An egg also contains 5 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of which is saturated fat. An egg does provide 71% of your daily intake of cholesterol—but more later on why that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Eggs are a great source of protein, with 6 grams per egg.
When compared to their large number of nutrients, eggs are relatively low in calories. This is why “eggs are becoming a dietitian’s favorite food,” says nutritionist Lauren Maneker MS, RDN.
Those sunny yolks contain the egg’s dietary fat and cholesterol, so some people avoid egg yolks and only eat the egg white. (Enter the universal popularity of egg-white omelets on brunch menus!).
But egg yolks are also where the main nutrition magic happens: They have the bulk of the egg’s vitamins and minerals, including iron, folate, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. The yolk is also home to two antioxidant nutrients eggs are famous for: lutein and zeaxanthin, which may boost eye and brain health. “The yolk packs a punch when it comes to nutrition,” says Maneker. “Egg yolks are one of the best food sources of choline, which is particularly important for women during the reproductive years.”
In a word, according to the latest research: no. Years ago, egg yolks were deemed a less-than-heart-healthy food because the 186 milligrams of cholesterol they contain were thought to be linked to an increased risk of heart disease. But now we know that the amount of cholesterol we consume from our diet plays a less important role in actual blood cholesterol levels.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance your body’s liver naturally produces; it manufactures cholesterol using different “raw materials,” including saturated fat and trans fat, which is why your intake of these fats appears to play a more significant role in your blood cholesterol levels than the cholesterol in the food you eat.
Eggs do have some saturated fat, so eating them in moderation is recommended, but there is no need to avoid egg yolks outright. In fact, the heart risks associated with an egg-packed diet may be more linked with the foods we tend to eat alongside our eggs, such as stacks of fluffy pancakes, crispy strips of bacon, or heaps of greasy hash browns.
A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that even for people whose genes put them at an increased risk of cholesterol-related heart problems, eating eggs every day didn’t appear to affect their heart disease risk. What’s more, a new study in BMJ, which looked at the eating patterns of more than 400,000 people in China, found that those who ate roughly five eggs a week had a 12 percent *decreased* risk of heart disease compared with people who rarely ate eggs.
Most healthy people can eat the equivalent of an egg a day (yes, that does mean you can eat a three-egg omelet on Sundays if you balance it out the rest of the week) with no negative impact on their heart health, according to the Mayo Clinic. (Some evidence suggests people with diabetes should limit their egg consumption to only a few eggs a week, but more research is needed.)
Preparing eggs can be done in a range of healthy to indulgent ways. Avoid adding calories and fat to your eggs by boiling or poaching them. (If you cook your eggs with oils, butter, or bacon grease, that will add fat and calories.) Additionally, any toppings such as hollandaise or cheese will add to the caloric content. Instead, try adding lean meats such as turkey or chopped vegetables to your scrambled eggs for a good breakfast option. Eggs can also be added to a salad to provide protein. Check out some of these healthy recipes that put eggs to good use: