Historically, the theory was that eating egg yolks was bad for you because you were increasing your risk of heart disease due to the cholesterol and fats found in the yolk. But that has been dispelled by research tracking egg consumption and further discouraged because if you remove the egg yolk, you are also cutting out the majority of the nutrition. And who is a fan of throwing away nutritious food?
One single large egg is actually a great low-calorie source of protein. It contains about 7l calories and 6 grams of high-quality protein. In addition to containing almost all the amino acids, a single egg provides 23% of your daily need for selenium. Selenium is a trace mineral that is important for cell growth, immune function and works with vitamin E as an antioxidant to protect cells from damage that may lead to heart disease. It even has some omega 3s and 6s in addition to being a vegetarian source of B12. A single egg white contains only 16 calories and 3.6 grams of protein, but nearly none of the vitamins, minerals and healthy fats found in a whole egg.
The issue is that a single egg contains 70% of your Daily Value for cholesterol, whereas egg whites contain none of the cholesterol. Most research on eggs has shown that dietary cholesterol seems to have a smaller effect on total blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol than previously thought.
However, this is not giving the okay to eating three-egg omelets every day! A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that moderate consumption of up to one egg a day does not appear to increase heart disease or stroke risk in healthy individuals. Review of the Physicians' Health Study did find that "Although egg consumption up to 6 times per week was not associated with incident HF (heart failure), egg consumption of greater than or equal to 7 per week was associated with an increased risk of HF (heart failure)."
So for people who have talked to their doctors and are concerned about controlling their total and LDL cholesterol, you may want to be conscious of your egg/yolk consumption. This goes for both people at risk of developing/have heart disease or diabetes. The Nurses' Health Study did find that people who had diabetes and ate more than one egg a day had an increase in developing heart disease. The current recommendation for people who are at risk of heart disease or diabetes is to limit egg yolk consumption to 3 per week.
Also take into consideration how you are preparing your omelets. If you are frying in a pan full of butter or topping with cheese, sides of sausages and fried potatoes, you may be overdoing it with the saturated fats, total calories and cholesterol. Consider cooking in a dab of olive oil with salsa, cilantro and a handful of baked tortilla chips for a different take on the typical 'American' breakfast.
And as with everything, eating a variety of foods every day is the key to optimal health. So mix up your breakfasts with whole grains, fruits, vegetables and other sources of protein, rather than just eggs, white toast and sausages every day.
Emily DeLacey MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and currently working in Jamaica as a HIV/ AIDS Prevention Specialist. She attended Central Washington University for her Bachelor's Degree in Science and Dietetics and continued on after her internship to Kent State University for her Master's Degree in Science and Nutrition, with a focus on public health and advocacy. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi 2012-2014 working as a Community Health Advisor in a rural village, immersing in the joys of life without electricity or running water. She has been to 20+ countries and 47 of the 50 states in the US. Traveling, adventuring and experiencing new cultures has made her a passionate advocate for the equality of nutrition and wellness for all people.