Eggs present a conundrum because they’re low in total fat, yet high in cholesterol. Since all of the egg’s fat is found in the yolk, it’s safe to say it is fatty. On the plus side, the yolk also contains half of the egg’s protein and more than 90 percent of the its beneficial nutrients, including all of its vitamins A, E and D.
Fats are essential nutrients, which is why 25 to 35 percent of your total daily calories should come from dietary fats. Your body uses fat for energy, it’s needed to absorb some nutrients and your nerves won’t work properly if you don’t get sufficient dietary fats. The yolk from one large egg has 4.5 grams of total fat, which qualifies as low fat, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This amount of fat contains 41 of the whole egg’s 72 calories. Based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, this value represents just 2 percent of your daily calories.
The amount of saturated fat in the yolk from one large egg -- 1.6 grams -- doesn’t qualify as low fat, but it still only represents 14 calories, or about 1 percent of daily calories based on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fats to less than 7 percent of your daily calories, because they increase levels of cholesterol and contribute to cardiovascular disease. Depending on the amount of saturated fat you get from the rest of your food, you may be able to include one egg yolk in your daily diet without going over the recommended intake.
All of the cholesterol in eggs comes from the yolk. If you eat the yolk in one large egg, you’ll get 185 milligrams of cholesterol, or 61 percent of the maximum amount you should consume in a day. Cholesterol intake should be limited to less than 300 milligrams daily, unless you already have high cholesterol, and then you shouldn’t consume more than 200 milligrams daily. Watching cholesterol is essential if you have high cholesterol or heart disease. If you’re healthy, the amount of cholesterol you consume may have less impact on your cholesterol levels than saturated and trans fats.
The egg yolk from one large egg has 2.7 grams of healthy unsaturated fats, which lower levels of total cholesterol and bad cholesterol, or LDL. When hens are fed grains high in omega-3 fatty acids, the eggs they produce also contain more omega-3 than a typical egg. The University of Michigan notes that omega-3-enriched eggs should have 100 to 200 milligrams more than other non-enriched eggs, but check the label on the eggs you buy to see how much they contain. In addition to lowering cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids decrease your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by reducing inflammation and preventing irregular heartbeats.
- NutritionValue.org: Egg, Fresh, Raw, Yolk
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Appendix B: Additional Requirements for Nutrient Content Claims
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- Harvard School of Public Health: Fats and Cholesterol: Out With the Bad, In With the Good
- Harvard Health Publications: Fat Resource Center
- New York University Langone Medical Center: Eggs By Design
Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.