Eggs are good to include in a balanced diet. They are a great source of protein as well as some vitamins and minerals but it's important to store, handle and prepare them properly.
Eggs and your diet
There is no recommended limit on how many eggs you should eat. But to get the nutrients you need,make sure you eat as varied a diet as possible.
Eggs are a good source of:
Eggs and cholesterol
Eggs contain cholesterol, and high cholesterol levels in your blood increases your risk of heart disease. However, the cholesterol you get from food – including eggs – has less effect on the amount of cholesterol in your blood than the amount of saturated fat you eat.
If your GP or health professional has told you to watch your cholesterol level, your priority should be to cut down on saturated fat. Choose healthier alternatives of cooking your eggs, which will reduce your saturated fat intake, such as poaching, boiled or scrambled.
If you are eating a balanced diet, you only need to cut down on eggs if you have been told to by your GP or dietitian.
Eating raw eggs, eggs with runny yolks, or any food that is uncooked or only lightly cooked and contains raw eggs can cause food poisoning, especially in anyone who is:
- a baby or toddler
- already unwell
This is because some eggs may contain salmonella bacteria, which can cause serious illness.
If you are preparing food (especially food that won’t be cooked or will only be lightly cooked) for people who might be at risk, you can choose pasteurised egg as the safest option. Pasteurised eggs are available from some supermarkets. They can also come in liquid, dried or frozen form.
When using normal, unpasteurised eggs, remember the importance of:
- storing eggs safely
- avoiding the spread of bacteria from eggs to other foods, utensils or work surfaces
- cooking eggs properly– making sure both white and yolk are solid will kill any bacteria
People who are not in vulnerable groups who eat soft-boiled eggs or foods containing lightly cooked eggs should not experience any health problems, but cooking eggs thoroughly is the safest option if you are concerned about food poisoning.
Foods containing raw eggs
Foods that might contain raw eggs include:
- homemade mayonnaise
- hollandaise and béarnaise sauces
- salad dressings
- ice cream
If you are making these foods yourself, using pasteurised eggs is the safest choice.
Most commercially produced mayonnaise, salad dressings, sauces, ice cream, desserts or ready-made icing are made with pasteurised eggs. Check the label, and ask the retailer or manufacturer if you’re not sure.
If you're concerned about raw egg when eating out or buying food, ask the person serving you.
Storing eggs safely
Storing eggs safely helps to make sure the bacteria from the eggs and eggshell do not spread.
Here are some tips to help you store your eggs safely:
- store eggs in a cool, dry place, ideally in the fridge
- store eggs away from other foods - it's a good idea to use your fridge's egg tray
- eat dishes containing eggs as soon as possible after you've prepared them - if you're not planning to eat them straight away, cool them quickly and then keep them in the fridge for up to two days
Avoiding the spread of bacteria
Bacteria can spread very easily from eggs to other foods, as well as hands, utensils and worktops.
There can be bacteria on the eggshell as well as inside the egg, so take care when handling them.
These tips can help avoid the spread of bacteria:
- keep eggs away from other foods, both when they are in the shell and after you have cracked them
- be careful not to splash egg onto other foods, worktops or dishes
- always wash and dry your hands thoroughly after touching eggs or working with them
- clean surfaces, dishes and utensils thoroughly, using warm soapy water, after working with eggs
- don't use eggs with damaged shells