If there’s one food that stirs up some of the foremost nutrition confusion, it is eggs. Just as soon as the masses get a handle on the “truth about eggs,” another news story comes out causing everyone to change their breakfast plans. The truth is that the science about fat and cholesterin has evolved over recent years resulting in a different outlook on eggs.

Much of the buzz about eggs has to do with cholesterol. One egg contains over 200 mg of cholesterol. For folks with high blood cholesterol levels, it might seem like common sense to cut out foods that are high in cholesterol like eggs and shellfish, but this approach is shortsighted. In fact, based on the latest research, the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans no longer recommends a limit on dietary cholesterol intake as it did in the past.

It appears that foods containing saturated fat and trans, such as fatty meats and pastries, have more impact on blood cholesterol levels than do foods high in dietary cholesterol. Eggs contain 5 grams of fat each, which includes 1.6 grams of saturated fat. The other fats in eggs are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are known for their potential health benefits. If your cholesterol level is high or if you have a family history of cholesterol problems, it’s probably best to limit eggs to no more than two per week. Others without health concerns can safely eat up to an egg per day without increasing cardiac risk.

We can look past the fat to get a more complete picture of the egg’s nutritional value. Besides fat and protein, eggs are a great source of other nutrients like choline, lutein and vitamins and minerals. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that accumulate in the retina of the eye and may decreased the risk of age-related macular degeneration, an important cause of blindness in older folks. Choline, an often under-consumed nutrient, is important for pregnancy, infants and young children to help with brain development. While there is some choline in broccoli and beans, for example, animal products like meat, fish and eggs are among the richest sources of choline. Eggs also contain vitamin A, selenium, iron and vitamin B12.

It is important to consider both the total nutritional package an egg provides along with one’s own unique eating pattern when choosing whether to eat eggs. Most people who eat animal products and don’t have an allergy to eggs can fit eggs into a healthy diet at least once a week. A not-so-good move is to swap out the eggs for a high sugar breakfast like a sweet cereal or miss the morning meal altogether. An egg breakfast with cheese, bacon and a pancake can be upgraded to an egg and spinach scramble with avocado and whole-grain toast. Another strategy is to enjoy two egg whites with just one egg yolk, helping to slightly reduce the saturated fat while keeping some of the delicious yolk flavor.

Pasture-raised eggs may even have additional nutritional benefits with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and vitamin E. While there's no regulative policy from the USDA or the FDA regarding the term “pasture-raised,” farmers WHO use this term will usually outline the conditions under which they raise their hens and how they're completely different than “cage-free” and “free-range” chicken farms. It makes sense that chickens roaming in a pasture have a more varied diet than chickens living in confined spaces, leading to more nutrient-rich eggs.

If you’re not sure about your own cardiac risk and how eggs can fit into your meal plan, talk to your doctor about checking a blood lipid panel and reviewing your family medical history. This info can help inform the frequency with which you'll get pleasure from eggs and their nutritional benefits.