October 1st, 2008

Whole Eggs: Dietary Evil or The New Superfood?

QUESTION: Tom I’m really confused about eggs. I’m not even sure if youre going to be able to answer this or not, but to me and I’m sure others, it’s a very confusing and important topic. I only use egg whites because I did believe that the yolks are bad because of cholesterol and saturated fat. But with the studies coming out saying we are missing all of the best nutrients by throwing the yolks out it is very confusing. Could you please help clarify this issue and I have attached an article I got from another book author for your reference about what I’ve been reading, which spurred my frustration to contact you.  -Michael

egg 521ANSWER: I agree with the latest opinions voiced by other authors that it’s overly simplistic to say saturated or animal fats cause heart disease. It’s even more simplistic and incorrect to say that foods high in dietary cholesterol such as egg yolks,will always lead to an increase in cholesterol in the blood.

We may not have all the answers yet, but it appears that other factors are involved, including the type of saturated fat,individual genetics, current health status, exercise and the big picture of what else is consumed in the rest of the diet.

Research Says Eggs Are Not Evil

I’ve read a lot of the recent research. Some studies suggest that the cholesterol in eggs is handled by most people’s bodies in a way that doesn’t cause heart disease. Studies also show that dietary cholesterol does not necessarily translate to increased blood cholesterol or an unfavorable ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol.

In one study published in The Journal Of Nutrition, Dr. Robert Nicolosi at the University of Massachusetts said, “Our data show that eating an egg a day is not a factor for raising cholesterol.”

A study reported at the 2006 experimental biology meeting in San Francisco made similar findings. The researchers discovered that when people ate three or more eggs per day, the amount of low density lipoprotein (LDL) in their bloodstream did in fact increase as previously reported.

However they also found that the subjects actually made bigger LDL particles which were less likely to enter artery walls and build up as artery-clogging plaque.

As a result of these and similar findings, head researcher Christine Green said that a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that eggs should not be considered a “dietary evil.”

Nutritional value of whole eggs

Whole eggs have a lot going for them nutritionally speaking. The egg yolks contain a highly bioavailable source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are carotenoids that protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.

Eggs are a great source of high biological value complete protein and the protein is split almost evenly between the yolk and the white.One large egg contains 6.3 grams of protein with 3.5 grams in the white and 2.8 grams in the yolk.

Although whole eggs may appear to have been exonerated, it’s still probably not wise to suggest that anyone can eat eggs in unlimited quantities, for both health and body composition reasons.

Dr. Udo Erasumus in his book, Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill,said that in 70% of the affluent populations of the world, increased cholesterol consumption decreases cholesterol production in the body through a regulating feedback system that protects them. The other 30% of the population may nothave adequate feedback, and are wise to limit their dietary cholesterol consumption. This appears to be supported by some of the recent research that has suggested that some people are hyper responders, who do in fact experience increases in blood cholesterol in response to dietary cholesterol intake.

Unlimited egg consumption is also not wise from a caloric perspective.In a fat loss program, you need to consider calories as well as nutritional value and health impact.

Whole Eggs And Fat Loss

Whole eggs are fairly calorie dense, while egg whites are extremely low in calories, which explains why egg whites are one of the top choices for lean protein on calorie-restricted fat loss and bodybuilding diets.

Now that this news about the health value of whole eggs has become more widely circulated, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts have been criticized for their long held practice of throwing away the egg yolks.

However, in all my years of training, even back in the late 1980’s, and 1990’s I’ve never thrown away all my yolks.

My daily meal plans typically contain one or two whole eggs, sometimes with as many as 8-12 egg whites. I know that’s a lot of whites, but that’s a man-sized bodybuilder meal. For non-bodybuilders or people with lower calorie needs, it might be one whole egg and 3-6 whites.

Why not ALL whole eggs? Well you could do that, but using more whites than yolks provides the high protein without so many calories. Using all whole eggs would be more appropriate in a low carb diet, and I usually use more balanced diets with moderate amounts of natural carbs to fuel my training.

Take a look at this egg white – egg yolk comparison:

3 whole large eggs: 225 calories, 18.9 g protein, 15 g fat

8 egg whites & 1 whole egg: 211 calories, 34.3 g protein, 5 g fat

Do you see what was accomplished here? I didn’t remove egg yolks because I’m afraid of cholesterol. I removed most of the egg yolks because I was on a calorie budget and I was on a higher protein diet and I wanted more protein with fewer calories. Make sense?

Another reason that bodybuilders use liquid eqq whites so often is for convenience. They can pour them from the carton right into the fry pan and they don’t have to do all that shell cracking and egg white separating.

vince_smLet me leave you with a funny story.

Whole Eggs – “Better Than Steroids???

When I started bodybuilding as a teenager, I latched onto the teachings of a bodybuilding guru trainer from North Hollywood named Vince Gironda.

Gironda trained all the top movie stars back in his day including Erik Estrada, Clint Eastwood, Tommy Chong, Carl “Apollo Creed”Weathers and too many others to mention.

He was also the Trainer of bodybuilding champions such as Larry Scott, the First Mr. Olympia, and believe it or not, he was Arnold’s first trainer when Joe Weider sent the budding young star to America from Austria.

Gironda had been saying from day one (back in the 1950’s and 1960’s) that the whole egg was”nature’s perfect food” and he compared them to “natural steroids.”

On some of his low carb “muscle definition” diets, he said you could eat as many whole eggs as you wanted and even scramble them in butter. He said that he had some of his champion bodybuilders on up to three dozen eggs a day!

I didn’t really understand what a ketogenic diet was at the time,but being an obedient, guru-following teenage bodybuilder, desperate for muscle, I did what he said. I ate up to 3 dozen whole eggs a day for months on end.

Well, there was no miraculous steroid-like effect, and I didn’t drop dead of a heart attack either.

One thing I did notice is that I DID NOT LOSE FAT like Gironda said I would.

The reason should be obvious: three dozen whole eggs is 2700 calories (more if you use extra large or jumbo eggs). I was at nearly maintenance calories from the eggs alone, and eggs weren’t the only thing I was eating.

Gironda, like many other low carb gurus, did not place any restrictions on calories, only on foods. Gironda was called a genius, years ahead of his time, but this was one little flaw in his program. Even on low carb diets, you STILL need a caloric deficit to lose body fat.

Thus, my approach changed and I went back to more “normal” quantities of eggs and I started removing some of the yolks to keep me more easily within my caloric deficit without losing the high quality protein… but I never cut all the yolks because of their excellent nutritional value…

To this day, I still keep one or two yolks in my omelets and scrambles… sometimes more, as long as it fits in my calorie budget.


Train hard and expect success,

Tom Venuto, author of
Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle,
The Bible of Fat Loss

Get Burn the Fat:

tomvenuto-blogAbout Tom Venuto

Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, fitness writer and author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of Bodybuilders and Fitness Models and the national bestseller, The Body Fat Solution, which was an Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine pick. Tom has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Oprah Magazine, Muscle and Fitness Magazine, Ironman Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine, as well as on dozens of radio shows including Sirius Satellite Radio, ESPN-1250 and WCBS. Tom is also the founder and CEO of Burn The Fat Inner Circle – a fitness support community for inspiration and transformation


Applegate, E, Nutritional and functional roles of eggs in the diet. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 19:90005, 495S – 498S, 2000, University of California at Davis.

Fernandez ML., Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006 Jan;9(1):8-12. Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Connecticut

Herron KL, Lofgren IE, Sharman M, Volek JS, Fernandez ML, High intake of cholesterol results in less atherogenic low-density lipoprotein particles in men and women independent of response classification. Metabolism. 2004 Jun;53(6):823-30. .Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA.

Herron and Fernandez, Are the current dietary guidelines regarding egg consumption appropriate? J. Nutr, 134: 187-190, Jan 2004. Dept of Nutritional sciences, University of Connecticut

Kritchevsky SB.J Am Coll Nutr. 2004 Dec;23(6 Suppl):596S-600S. A review of scientific research and recommendations regarding eggs. Wake Forest University School of Medicine,Winston-Salem, NC, USA.

Nicolosi, R, et al, Consumption of One Egg Per Day Increases Serum Lutein and Zeaxanthin Concentrations in Older Adults without Altering Serum Lipid and Lipoprotein Cholesterol Concentrations, J. Nutr. 136:2519-2524, October 2006, Center for Health and Disease Research, University of Massachusetts Lowell, MA

Ohman M, et al, Biochemical effects of consumption of eggs containing omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, Ups J Med Sci, 113(3): 315-323, 2008, Uppsala University Hospital, Sweden

Vander Wal JS, et al, Egg breakfast enhances weight loss, Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Oct;32(10):1545-51. Department of Psychology, Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO, USA.

Won O. Song, PhD, MPH, RD and Jean M. Kerver, MS, RD, Nutritional Contribution of Eggs to American Diets, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 19, No. 90005, 556S-562S (2000)Food and Nutrition Database Research Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan


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15 Responses to “Whole Eggs: Dietary Evil or The New Superfood?”

  • David

    Hey Tom. How can I get an autographed copy of your new book?

  • david. thanks for asking about the new book. Just stay tuned to this blog and the e-zine for all the announcements. Im going to use this blog to talk about the new book as well as Burn The Fat – including the differences between the two, which is a question I know is going to come up. The release date isnt until January 8th… (or email me privately: http://www.burnthefat.com/contact/contact.php

  • mike m

    I eat the whole egg 3 or 4 at a time. I would think you would have to eat dozens at a time to get fat. The research lately has been the exact opposite of the past. The cholesterol is in mg’s not grams.

  • RE: Egg consumption.First the Framingham study some years back showed conclusively that the consumption of two (2) eggs daily have no unfavourable impact on cardiovascular health.About 2002 a professor at University of Sydney (Aust) showed that eggs may lower cholesterol and do lower blood pressure.Now importantly we need to consume only free range eggs! Grain fed may be hazardous.Eggs contain Lecithin, a proven FAT emulsifier. Lecithin contains choline the precursor to acetylcholine our number 1 neurotransmitter and more, especially little known phosphatydilserine, another very essential neurotransmitter and just about the best treatment for Stroke!At 78 years of age, with a biological (true) age of 62, in spite of “Hashimoto’s disease” (thyroid) which keeps cholesterol elevated, one consumes with great gusto at least 8 eggs a week.In case you youngin’s don’t get the drift here, most of you are not going to make it to 78, because of the amount of cereal, grains and bread you consume and the lack of saturated fat.Free range beef, dairy, lamb and turkey all contain (in their fat) conjugated linoleic acid proven to prevent and treat obesity, cardiovascular disease, metastasis in breast cancer, and enhance immune function. Best known source Aberdeen Angus beef tallow.Devoted to life exxtension, with quality and never ever equating physical fitness with wellness, one is headed for attaining 130 years this time around.Australian Institute for Functional Medicine(not-for-profit)

  • Clarinda

    Can’t agree more with the above comment from Geofrey Leigh! On the calorific value of whole eggs – and for us folk not body building but just losing weight! – one whole egg is 75 calories and is extremely sustaining.So, 1 egg plus 1 a peice of wholemeal toast with butter for breakfast will see anyone through to lunchtime and is lower in calories than a bowl of porridge (oatmeal to our American cousins).QED methinks…Clarinda – who has lost 42 lbs in the last 9 months! And I’d settle for 120!!

  • Hey Tom,I’m glad that this questions was proposed to you and even happier that you took the time to provide a detailed response.The fear around whole eggs seems to be greater than ever and at the same time the doctors eagerness to prescribe you cholesterol medication is skyrocketing… This drives me nuts.Whole eggs are a staple in my diet. I have 3 for breakfast every day along with mixed veggies or spinach mixed in. I do take into consideration the caloric content and the amount of fat and it actually works out to a perfect meal for me.Often times I will have 2 more whole eggs later in the day. I get my cholesterol checked yearly and it has not gone up since adopting this eating style.When I was trying to put on muscle mass I was consuming 6 to 9 whole eggs per day on many days and still no rise in cholesterol.Here’s the thing that gets me Tom…Many people are quick to point out reasons to avoid a healthy natural food such as cholesterol in eggs or sugar in fruit. Because of a published study or magazine article they will completely eliminate that healthy food from their diet and they have no problem doing it.Yet, these many of these same people are still diving into their fast food greasy meals, tubs of ice cream, and fist fulls of candy.The reasons for avoiding these unhealthy foods are obvious, but if you ask them to give that up it’s like asking for their 1st born.When the majority of your diet is natural foods as you teach us in Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle, it’s a lot easier to include 3 whole eggs into your meal plan and not exceed your calories. But add just one fast food meal or a grande frappaccino and forget about it.My advice… spend less time fussing over the reasons to avoid a healthy natural food and more time focusing on how you can add more of it to your meal plan which will leave you much more satisfied and full of energy throughout your day.Love the Q and A’s on your blog Tom. Keep it up!Scott Tousignanthttp://www.Unstoppable-FatLoss.com

  • Josh

    Thanks for the info!!! Love the Girobnda story at the end…..JoshNew Orleans, Louisiana

  • Kenneth

    Tom I enjoyed your Vince Gironda story.Kenneth

  • Scott

    Tom,The egg is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet. I did a study of thirty-plus vitamins/minerals/etc., placing that list down the side of a spreadsheet, and then listing all the best food sources for each along the top of the spreadsheet. Eggs were among the ‘best’ foodsources for half of those thirty-plus nutrients.From another angle (a more important angle), God settled the ‘egg issue’ thousands of years ago in the Bible…”If a son asks for bread (a good thing) from any father among you, will he give him a stone (a bad thing)?Or if he asks for a fish (a good thing), will he give him a snake (a bad thing)?Or if he asks for an egg (a good thing), will he give him a scorpion (a bad thing)?If you then, being sinful, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”- Luke 11:11-13In another passage, the Bible mentions eating the yoke with the egg because that is where the flavor is, as opposed to the whites only.So there you have it. The Creator of our bodies and what should be food for us has said that eggs (including the yoke) are a ‘good thing’.It’s interesting to note that the man-author for this passage was Luke, a physician at that time, before physician became a bad word (Dr. Luke).You would be amazed with the ‘health’ wisdom found in the Bible. I refer to it as The Biblical Doctrine of Physical Health, which includes the topics of diet, rest, exercise, cleanliness, medical care, fasting, etc., as well as indirect issues that effect our health; bitterness, unforgiveness, etc.Check out Ecclesiastes 10:17 for the best summary of ‘diet’ ever put together. In about 25 words, God has better communicated a healthy diet plan than every diet book put together.Best wishes for your continuing book project.Scott

  • Bruce Pursell

    What is the differance in calories and nutrition on free range eggs vs. store bought. You can see and taste the differance with the free range having a much darker and richer yoke.

  • Gary

    I recently entered a bodybuilding competition in the masters division. It has been over 20 yrs since I’ve competed but I was amazed at the misinformation backstage re fat. Americans are eating less fat than ever yet a trip to any mall will reveal that the low fat mania has been a miserable failure. For the skinny on fats /cholesterol, see Dr. Mary Enig, one of the world’s top lipid biochemist. This fat /cholesterol axiom is 20 yr old archaic thinking based on food politics and not fact. Cut the junk food/drink carbs and watch the fat go at the rate of @ 2- 2 1/2 lbs per week.

  • at22

    You should remind folks (or I will here) that you can buy just the whites along with your whole eggs in order not to waste all those yolks! You can also freeze the yolks for use in cooking and baking later.Thanks for that perspective.

  • Mindy

    I agree with the whole egg perspective, being especially careful to note that free range eggs, even locally grown are best if possible. Protein content varies from approx. 6-7grams for a free range egg to 3 for a typical store bought egg. Thank you for all the detailed information in this article.I also appreciate the feedback from Scott regarding the Biblical perspective. Awesome. I am a Certified Natural Health Professional and deal with people concerning dietary habits everyday.

  • Paul Jacob

    Scott: Enjoyed your Biblical input on this thread and I thought “Dr. Luke” was very funny 🙂

  • Excellent stuff and a timely read as a few of my personal training clients have been asking me some of the questions recently.Even though I know the reason for the practice, some times you just need a little refresher and that example of the calories in the 3 vs 8 eggs is brilliant.Kind regards, Clayton.Personal Trainer | Adelaide Australia

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