The health benefits of eggs

The humble egg has impressive health credentials. Nutritionist Jo Lewin shares recipes, nutritional highlights and tips on choosing a good egg.

Soft boiled eggs with marmite toast soldiers

An introduction to eggs

Both the white and yolk of an egg are rich in nutrients, including proteins, vitamins and minerals. The yolk also contains cholesterol, fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins D and E) and essential fatty acids. Eggs are also an important and versatile ingredient for cooking, as their particular chemical make-up is literally the glue of many important baking reactions.

Since the domestication of the chicken, people have been enjoying and nourishing themselves with eggs. As a long time symbol of fertility and rebirth, the egg has taken its place in religious as well as culinary history. In Christianity, the symbol of the decorated egg has become synonymous with Easter. There are lots of different types of egg available, the most commonly raised are chicken eggs while more gourmet choices include duck, goose and quail eggs.

Nutritional highlights

Eggs are a very good source of inexpensive, high-quality protein. More than half the protein of an egg is found in the egg white, which also includes vitamin B2 and lower amounts of fat than the yolk. Eggs are rich sources of selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper. Egg yolks contain more calories and fat than the whites. They are a source of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and lecithin, the compound that enables emulsification in recipes such as hollandaise or mayonnaise.

Some brands of egg now contain omega-3 fatty acids, depending on what the chickens have been fed (always check the box). Eggs are regarded as a 'complete' source of protein as they contain all nine essential amino acids, the ones we cannot synthesise in our bodies and must obtain from our diet.

One medium egg (boiled) contains:

  • 84 calories
  • 8.3g protein
  • 5.7g fat
  • 1.6g sat fat

Did you know?

A study published in Paediatrics magazine has suggested that giving young children just one egg a day for six months, alongside a diet with reduced sugar-sweetened foods, may help them achieve a healthy height and prevent stunting.

A poached egg on a piece of toast topped with avocado with tomatoes on the side

The cholesterol question

For years, eggs were considered more of a health risk than a healthy food. This is because they were considered a high-cholesterol food, so those with high cholesterol levels were advised to avoid them. We now know that the cholesterol found in food has much less of an effect on our blood cholesterol than the amount of saturated fat we eat. If you’ve been advised by your GP to change your diet in an attempt to reduce your blood cholesterol levels, the best thing to do is to keep to daily guideline intakes for saturated fat (20g for the average woman and 30g for the average man) opting instead for monounsaturated fats found in olive and rapeseed oils. It's also a good idea to increase your intake of vegetables, wholegrains, lean meats and low-fat dairy while minimising sugars and refined carbs.
If you are concerned about your cholesterol or are unsure whether it is safe for you to consume eggs, please consult your GP.

Eggs for health

Eggs are rich in several nutrients that promote heart health, such as betaine and choline. A recent study of nearly half a million people in China suggests that eating one egg a day may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, although experts stress that eggs need to be consumed as part of a healthy lifestyle in order to be beneficial.

During pregnancy and breast feeding, an adequate supply of choline is particularly important, since choline is essential for normal brain development.

Eggs are a useful source of vitamin D, which helps to protect bones and prevent osteoporosis and rickets. Shop wisely, because the method of production – free range, organic or barn-raised – can make a difference to vitamin D content. Eggs should be included as part of a varied and balanced diet. They are filling, and when enjoyed for breakfast, may help with weight management as part of a weight-loss programme, as the high protein content helps us to feel fuller for longer.

Quail eggs

Quail eggs have a similar flavour to chicken eggs, but their petite size (five quail eggs are usually equal to one large chicken egg) and pretty, speckled shell have made them popular in gourmet cooking. The shells range in colour from dark brown to blue or white. Quail eggs are often hard-boiled and served with sea salt.

Duck eggs

Duck eggs look like chicken eggs but are larger. As with chicken eggs, they are sold in sizes ranging from small to large. Duck eggs have more protein and are richer than chicken eggs, but they also have a higher fat content. When boiled, the white turns bluish and the yolk turns red-orange.

A basil omelette in a pan topped with mushrooms

How to select and store

Choose eggs from free-range or organically raised chickens. Eggs should always be visually inspected before buying. It is best to check for cracks or liquid in the box to ensure there are no broken ones. Eggs are best stored in the main body of the refrigerator where they may remain for up to one month (check the best-before date on the box). Eggs higher in omega-3 fatty acids are best eaten as early as possible to keep these oils fresh.


The main safety concern used to be salmonella food poisoning, but the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have recently changed their guidelines on eating runny eggs. They now say that infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people can safely eat raw or lightly cooked eggs that are produced under the British Lion Code of Practice. Visit the FSA website for more information.

Another safety concern regarding eggs is that they are a common food allergen, particularly among young children. See your GP if you have any concerns regarding allergies to eggs.

Enjoyed this? Read more

Our favourite healthy egg recipes
All our health benefits guides
Am I getting enough vitamin D?
How to eat a balanced diet

This article was last reviewed on 6th November 2019 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a Registered Nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.

Jo Lewin is a registered nutritionist (RNutr) with the Association for Nutrition with a specialism in public health. Follow her on Twitter @nutri_jo.

All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact  your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Comments, questions and tips

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Count Iblis
13th Oct, 2018
The truth about eggs:
JOHN Millington's picture
JOHN Millington
8th Sep, 2018
the comments I have read regarding eggs some people are very bias or ignorant of certain facts, with everything we eat a lot of it is self chosen we must eat to stay alive. some people can eat what others cannot. eggs are a great source of food, but like every thing eat in moderation. the male chicken when eggs are hatched is put down humanly, unfortunately these males are no good for the broiler industry, as they don't grow like those particularly bred for meat chicken. how about comments about that cruel industry but we must have our chicken eh. i have free range hens if they were so stressed out, they swarm around my feet making it difficult to walk, love there wet food.
Nigel Osborne's picture
Nigel Osborne
5th Jul, 2018
The claims as it relates to cholesterol in this article is false and misleading. Studies that measure "fasting cholesterol" vs. "postpandrial (post-meal)" cholesterol as a measurement to show dietary cholesterol does not increase blood cholesterol is, quite simply, flawed - and the egg industry knows it. Conversely, the levels of fasting cholesterol are determined mainly by heredity, insulin resistance, obesity, and factors other than what was consumed the previous day. Thus more important than the effects on fasting lipids are the post-pandrial effects. Dietary cholesterol above 140mg in a single meal markedly potentiates post-pandrial lipemia. To learn more read:
13th Jun, 2018
Why can't bbcgoodfood employ proper dieticians to provide advice instead of someone who just provides links to other (better educated) sources of information. Any of us could do that actually.
Turn legs over....
24th May, 2018
People, please just look at the cruelty factor in the chicken industries. I have not ate eggs for 7 years. Cycle 90km every Sunday at speed with my club mates. We don't need to push such cruelty on baby animals to feel well.
John McNulty's picture
John McNulty
24th May, 2018
Eggs sold for consumption are not fertilized and are nit one day old embryos.
Scott Green's picture
Scott Green
24th May, 2018
Every time you purchase eggs you sentence a 1-day old male chick to a violent death in an industrial blender. I'd rather get my protein from cruelty free sources.
Turn legs over....
24th May, 2018
Well said Scott, I said a similar thing yesterday. They took it down. I bet they do the same to you. But hope not. Thanks Scott for speaking out for the voiceless
Turn legs over....
23rd May, 2018
Also can you tell us what happens to the male chicks, the first day they are born. I understand they are killed, as they are no use because they don't lay eggs. People if you don't believe me look it up yourself's. They are very high in cholesterol, Again don't believe the above, they are lying to sell their eggs for profit. Blow your health .
22nd May, 2015
No doubt eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. A single large boiled egg contains: Vitamin A: 6% of the RDA. Folate: 5% of the RDA. Vitamin B5: 7% of the RDA. Vitamin B12: 9% of the RDA. Vitamin B2: 15% of the RDA. Phosphorus: 9% of the RDA. Selenium: 22% of the RDA. Also, It is true that eggs are high in cholesterol. Thanks, Krhsma


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Amit Chavan's picture
Amit Chavan
16th Mar, 2020
It's really good article. I had researched on it. I think it would be helpful. Thanks