Are Egg Yolks Healthy? Nutritional Facts, Benefits, and Risks

Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on November 10, 2017Written by Ashely Marcin on November 10, 2017


You may already know that chicken eggs are an excellent source of protein. They’re also relatively low in calories, with an average cooked egg containing about , depending on the size. Four grams (g) of the total of protein per egg come from the egg whites. That means that the egg yolk contains less protein than the egg white. It also contains about , as well as cholesterol. Many people choose to skip eating the yolk for these reasons.

But should you eat egg yolks? The short answer is: Yes! The yellow stuff in eggs contains many important vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to your health. Egg yolks contain nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for your eyes. (You can find more information on foods that are healthy for your eyes here.) They also contain choline, which is good for your brain and nerves.

Nutritional value of egg yolk vs. egg whites

If you eat only egg whites, you’re missing out on a lot of the nutrition eggs contain. The following nutrients found in eggs are only in the yolk:

Additionally, the majority of these nutrients in an egg come from the yolk:

An egg yolk also contains about 1.5 to 2 g of protein. Egg yolk is one of the only foods that naturally contains vitamin D.

If you only care about protein, egg whites are a great food. You can buy them pre-cracked and pasteurized in cartons at your grocery store for easy cooking. Some people even add them raw to smoothies. The white of one egg generally contains 4 to 4.5 g of protein and only around 17 calories, making it an excellent part of a healthy diet. Eating egg whites in combination with egg yolks makes the whole egg a nutritional powerhouse.

Egg yolk and cholesterol

You may have heard that egg yolks contain a high amount of cholesterol. This is true. A yolk from one large egg has around of cholesterol. People with no underlying health conditions are sometimes to consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day. People with health conditions like diabetes or heart disease are sometimes recommended to limit daily cholesterol intake to no more than 200 mg. For more on eggs and diabetes, read here.

shows, however, that cholesterol in the body is primarily made by the liver and doesn’t come from the cholesterol we eat. Instead, it’s the saturated and trans fats in our diet that may raise cholesterol levels. from the last few years helps to dispel many long-held beliefs that even saturated fat can worsen cardiovascular health. Doctors do not recommend replacing saturated fat with refined, low-fiber carbohydrates, because worse health outcomes are observed when people do so.

While a large egg contains around 5 g of fat, of this content is saturated fat. In the big picture, this means that each egg yolk supplies less than 10 percent of your daily saturated fat recommendation.

Some experts believe most people can consume a whole egg each day without increasing their risk of heart attack or other types of cardiovascular disease, like stroke. If you do have heart disease or diabetes, or if you’re at increased risk for these conditions, you can still eat egg yolks but you may want to limit yourself to just , according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

One reason to limit consumption is that choline found in foods like egg yolks may increase trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO) which is associated with .

While TMAO research raises concerns, other research shows that for people with diabetes, eating more eggs, about per week, does not raise blood sugar and can actually lower waist circumference.

Either way, you could try combining egg whites with whole eggs. This lets you enjoy the nutrition of egg yolks while mitigating potential risks.

Egg yolk pros vs. cons

There are many benefits of eating egg yolks:

  • They contain solid concentrations of essential nutrients your body needs.
  • They’re inexpensive.
  • They’re easy to prepare.
  • They’re readily available at most grocery stores and farm stands.

If you prepare a whole egg, meaning the white and yolk, by poaching it or hard boiling it, you will be eating the same quantity of calories and nutrients as if the egg were raw. If you fry that egg in butter or oil, these numbers change dramatically.

What you eat with your eggs also factors into the nutrition of your total meal. Remember: It’s the saturated and trans fat in your diet that contribute to your cholesterol levels rather than the actual cholesterol you consume. Eating eggs with other fatty foods — like butter or cheese, bacon or sausage, or even muffins and scones — may not be the best choice. Simple carbohydrates may pair well with eggs, but too much white toast or sugar-laden pastries on the side contribute to your risk of developing heart disease. (To learn more about the connection between cholesterol and heart disease, read here.)

Instead, try eating poached eggs with roasted or steamed vegetables or fresh berries on the side. Salsa or herbs are other good choices. If you still have concerns about egg yolks in your diet, ask your doctor or a dietitian for guidelines specific to your health issues. Otherwise, you don’t always need to skip the yolk. It can be a tasty part of a healthy diet.

Q&A: Non-chicken egg nutrition


Are eggs from other birds, like quail or duck, more or less nutritious than chicken eggs?


Duck eggs are typically larger in size and therefore contain more nutrition. However, even for eggs that are the same size, duck eggs contain more fat, calories, cholesterol, vitamin B-12, and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A and D. Quail eggs are very small eggs, so you would have to eat at least 5 quail eggs to equal the size of 1 chicken egg. They contain many of the same nutrients, though quail eggs are higher in cholesterol, iron, and B vitamins. Though they’re not as readily available, duck and quail eggs are often praised for their superior flavor profiles.

Natalie Butler, RD, LDAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
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