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Eggs: Dietary Friend or Foe?

Nutritionists are taking a fresh look at the health benefits of eggs.

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

How could anyone hate an egg? Yet, 20 years ago, the dietary naysayers decided that the cholesterol in eggs was translating to artery-clogging cholesterol in the blood -- and eggs splattered onto the no-no list.

Finally, some scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at a population of 117,000 nurses who had been followed for eight to 14 years and found no difference in heart disease risk between those who ate one egg a week and those who ate more than one egg a day.

Another study reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that eggs tended to satisfy obese and overweight subjects more than a bagel breakfast with an equal calorie count. Eggs might even be a good diet food!

Nutritionists Weigh In

"I am very happy with eggs," Ruth Kava, PhD, RD, director of nutrition for the American Council on Science and Health, tells WebMD. "Eggs have a high nutritional value, an excellent quality of protein, are only 70 to 80 calories each, and are not high in fat."

Patricia Kendall, PhD, RD, professor and food and nutrition specialist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, tells WebMD she agrees that the cholesterol in eggs should not put them on the roster of the forbidden.

On the Food Guide Pyramid put out by the government, eggs are part of the protein-rich food group of meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs, and nuts. Two to three servings from this group are recommended each day. One egg would be equal to one-third to one-half of a serving from this group.

The American Heart Association says that one egg a day is acceptable, but to keep in mind the cholesterol in that egg along with the other foods that you eat in the day. Those with heart disease, diabetes, or a high level of LDL 'bad' cholesterol should probably choose a small or medium egg vs. larger ones which have more cholesterol. Remember that egg whites have no cholesterol.

A large egg represents less than 4% of the daily calorie intake of a person eating 2,000 calories a day; it provides 10% of a person's daily recommended protein, and valuable iron, B vitamins, and minerals, including the folate recommended for pregnant women.

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