The great egg debate: Should we really ditch egg yolks for a healthier diet?

Are eating egg yolks safe for the heart and liver? What are the nutritional benefits? South First speaks to doctors to break common myths.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Feb 24, 2024 | 8:00 AMUpdatedFeb 24, 2024 | 8:00 AM

Eggs are a rich source of vitamins, proteins, minerals, and good fats. (Creative Commons)

Eggs, revered globally for their nutritional prowess, culinary versatility, and budget-friendly nature, have found themselves at the centre of a culinary conundrum.

Many are advocating for the removal of egg yolk from our diet, due to concerns over cholesterol and heart health, and the incorporation of only egg whites.

The argument spilt on to X when hepatologist Dr Cyriac Abby Philips — popularly known as TheLiverDoc on X — commented on a recent interview of general practitioner Dr Bimal Chhajer, who vehemently advocated for banishing egg yolks from our diets.

To gain a more nuanced perspective, South First spoke to experts from various medical disciplines. The burning question emerged: to yolk or not to yolk?

The resounding consensus from the medical fraternity was a swift affirmation — a collective nod from almost every doctor. They contended that egg yolks are veritable treasure troves of essential nutrients crucial for diverse bodily functions.

They argued that eggs are a rich source of Vitamins A, D, E, and K, alongside an array of Vitamin B including B12, riboflavin, and folate. Yolks boast essential fatty acids and minerals such as iron, phosphorus, and selenium.

Notably, the yolk serves as the primary reservoir of an egg’s Vitamin D content, a critical nutrient for bone health and immune function.

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Debunking the cholesterol myth

The primary bone of contention surrounding egg yolks revolves around their cholesterol content.

For decades, the prevailing belief linked dietary cholesterol to blood cholesterol levels, ostensibly contributing to heart disease. However, recent research has substantially altered this narrative.

TheLiverDoc, in a compelling post, underscored, “There is now scientific evidence that dietary cholesterol does not significantly impact blood cholesterol and that consumption of eggs is healthy.”

Studies have revealed that, for the majority, dietary cholesterol exerts minimal influence on blood cholesterol levels.

The body adeptly regulates cholesterol production based on dietary intake, meaning that indulging in cholesterol-rich foods like egg yolks doesn’t necessarily elevate blood cholesterol levels for most individuals.

Heart and liver unharmed

Speaking to South First, Dr Sudhir Kumar, a renowned neurologist from Apollo Hospitals in Telangana, promptly dismissed concerns, asserting, “Egg yolk is healthy, with no adverse effects on the heart or liver. Whole eggs are unequivocally beneficial.”

Citing recent research, he highlighted positive outcomes for young males who consumed three whole eggs or six egg whites post-resistance training for 12 weeks.

Following up after 12 weeks, the researchers found that those who had consumed whole eggs had better knee extension and handgrip strength, higher testosterone levels, and lower body fat percentage.

Dr Sudhir emphasised that the benefits extend beyond exercise enthusiasts, making whole eggs advantageous for everyone.

On a similar note, Dr Deepak Krishnamurthy, a renowned cardiologist from Kaveri Hospital in Bengaluru, emphasised, “Eating eggs doesn’t lead to increased cholesterol and is not detrimental to heart health.”

Shashikant Iyengar, a metabolic and health coach who advocates for a low-carb diet, reassured that cholesterol from eggs is poorly absorbed, with the liver producing 80 percent of the body’s cholesterol. He, too, emphasised that egg yolks don’t contribute to weight gain.

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How many egg yolks a day is safe?

Regarding the quantity of egg yolks deemed safe, opinions varied.

While Shashikant suggested that consuming up to two to four whole eggs is safe, Dr Sudhir recommended up to two whole eggs per day for most individuals. He added that those engaging in moderate to heavy workouts could consume more.

Dr Philips echoed, “Please consume at one whole egg a day even if you have metabolic disease. It does not increase risk of all-cause mortality or other adverse events. Many studies have shown safe levels of daily egg consumption and it has been associated with lower risk of heart disease.”

Dr Sudhir emphasised that while eggs are an excellent protein source with numerous nutritional benefits, diversifying protein sources enhances overall health.

“Rather than relying solely on one food, non-vegetarians can incorporate fish, poultry, and meat, while vegetarians can opt for paneer, tofu, and whey protein to meet their daily protein requirements,” he added.

So back to the question: To yolk or not to yolk? What will it be for you?