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The healthy way to eat eggs

Eggs are a good source of protein, but it's important to store, handle and prepare them properly.

Eggs are a good source of protein, but it's important to store, handle and prepare them properly.

Eggs are a good choice as part of a healthy, balanced diet. As well as being a source of protein, they also contain vitamins and minerals. They can be part of a healthy meal that's quick and easy to make.

To avoid any risk of food poisoning, it's important to always buy eggs from a reputable supplier, and to ensure you store, handle and prepare the eggs properly.

This advice especially applies to people in vulnerable groups, including young children, pregnant women and older people.

People who have a weakened immune system and are on special diets should cook eggs thoroughly (until the white and the yolk are solid). 

Eggs and your diet

Eggs are a good source of:

How many eggs is it safe to eat?

There is no recommended limit on how many eggs people should eat.

Eggs can be enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced diet, but it's best to cook them without adding salt or fat. For example:

  • hard-boiled or poached, without added salt
  • scrambled without butter, which is high in saturated fat

Frying eggs can increase their fat content by around 50%.

To get the nutrients you need, make sure you eat as varied a diet as possible. You can learn more about healthy eating in A balanced diet.

Eggs and cholesterol

Having high cholesterol levels in our blood increases our risk of heart disease.

Although eggs contain cholesterol, the amount of saturated fat we eat has more effect on the amount of cholesterol in our blood than the cholesterol we get from eating eggs.

If your GP or health professional has told you to watch your cholesterol levels, your priority should be to cut down on saturated fat across your diet. You can get advice in Eat less saturated fat.

If you are eating a balanced diet, you only need to cut down on eggs if you have been told to do so by your GP or dietitian.

Raw eggs and food poisoning

Due to improved food safety controls in recent years, healthy people are unlikely to get food poisoning through eating raw or lightly cooked UK hen eggs from reputable suppliers.

This means you should be able to safely enjoy soft boiled eggs and foods that include raw or lightly cooked eggs, such as:

  • mousses
  • soufflés
  • fresh mayonnaise

People who are more vulnerable to infection or who are likely to have more serious symptoms from food poisoning can also eat these foods, as long as the eggs are produced under the British Lion Code of Practice.

 

These people include:

However, people who have a weakened immune system and are on special diets should cook eggs thoroughly (until the white and yolk are solid).

When eating raw or lightly cooked eggs, remember to:

  • store eggs safely in a cool, dry place such as the refrigerator
  • follow good hygiene practices in the kitchen; avoiding cross contamination, cleaning all work surfaces, dishes and utensils and making sure you wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling eggs
  • observing best before dates
  • avoiding eggs with damaged shells, as these may allow dirt or bacteria to get inside

Cooking eggs thoroughly is the safest option if you are concerned about food poisoning.

Foods containing raw eggs

Any of the following might contain raw eggs:

  • homemade mayonnaise
  • hollandaise and béarnaise sauces
  • salad dressings
  • ice cream
  • icing
  • mousse
  • tiramisu

If you're concerned about raw egg when eating out or buying food, ask the person serving you whether the product contains raw egg and if so, if they were produced under the British Lion Code.

Storing eggs safely

Storing eggs safely helps to make sure the bacteria from the eggs and eggshells do not spread.

  • Eggs need to be stored at a constant temperature below 20C and, in most kitchens, the fridge is the best place to keep them.
  • Store eggs away from other foods. It's a good idea to use your fridge's egg tray, if you have one, because this helps to keep eggs separate.
  • 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. Cakes can be safely stored somewhere cool and dry, as long as they don't contain any additions, such as custard or cream.
  • If you have a hard-boiled egg you want to keep in the fridge, don't leave it for more than two days.

Avoiding the spread of bacteria

Bacteria can spread very easily from eggs to other foods, as well as to hands, utensils and worktops.

There can be bacteria on the shell 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 your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap, and then dry them after touching or working with eggs.
  • Clean surfaces, dishes and utensils thoroughly using warm soapy water after working with eggs.
  • Don't use eggs with damaged shells, because dirt or bacteria might have got inside them.

Find out more about how to store food safely.

'Best before' dates of eggs

Eggs have a shelf life of 28 days (from date laid to their "best before" date). Eggs can be eaten a day or two after their "best before" date as long as they are cooked thoroughly until both yolk and white are solid, or if they are used in dishes where they will be fully cooked, such as a cake.

Cooking eggs until both the white and yolk are solid will kill bacteria, such as salmonella.

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