Should You Try the Egg Diet to Lose Weight? An Expert Weighs In
When you think of fad diets, novel trends such as the baby food diet, the grapefruit diet, and maybe even the Morning Banana diet come to mind. Following in the footsteps of these other outlandish eating plans comes the egg diet, the newest craze that is taking the nutrition world by storm.
The diet is quick—lasting as little as 14 days—and claims to help cut pounds fast. Could a rapid diet like this truly work, and if so, is it healthy? It turns out that an eating plan with as simple as a name as "the egg diet" can be as complex as the toughest nutrient regimens.
What is the egg diet?
While you may have never heard of it, the egg diet has been around since the 1970s when Vogue published a guide to an egg-and-wine diet. The eating plan evolved based around starting your day with eggs and continuing to eat small portions of lean protein, such as fish, chicken, or other eggs while supplementing this amount with a few select vegetables. You may only eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and most variations of the diet only lasts for 14 days.
Carbohydrate-rich food and items naturally high in sugars, like most fruits and all breads, alcohol, fried food, pastas, and rice are off-limits on the diet. Snacking and any beverages containing calories must also be cut, making it even harder to adjust to if you are new to dieting.
Are there different kinds of egg diets?
Since its inception, multiple variations of egg-centric diets have popped up. These include such extreme examples as the egg-and-grapefruit diet (where the individual eats only hard-boiled eggs and grapefruit for 14 days while supplementing with vegetables and small amounts of lean meat), the egg-only diet (a mono eating plan where the individual only consumes hard-boiled eggs and water), and the keto egg diet (where the dieter eats eggs with butter and cheese to produce ketones.)
The sudden public interest in the keto diet may be the driving factor behind the growing popularity of the egg diet. Eggs form a basis of the keto diet, packing in protein, fat, vitamin D, phosphorus, vitamin A, and two B-complex vitamins that are essential for your everyday life. Combine the fact that eggs contain high amounts of riboflavin, selenium, and choline and only contain around 75 calories (depending on the size of the egg), you now have a food source many trendy health-food nuts would describe as a "superfood."
If you decide to pursue any kind of egg-centric eating plan, previous nutritionists have developed several strategies to make sure you optimize your egg intake while minimizing the work involved. Those who live by the diet have chopped hard-boiled eggs up and added them to salads for lunch, blended whole eggs with egg whites to cut cholesterol and calories, and many have opted to consume more egg whites, which contain a higher ratio of protein to fat.
Is it healthy?
If all of these examples sound extreme, you wouldn't be far off base. The diet is designed to limit your calorie and carbohydrate intake while boosting protein levels to lose weight fast. Unfortunately, each variation of the egg diet amplifies certain nutritional extremes to borderline-dangerous levels.
Rachel Paul, PhD, RD from CollegeNutritionist.com, explains that one would choose the egg diet over another established diet because "the egg diet is very high [in] protein while low calorie and low carb, so it's helpful for maintaining muscle mass while one is losing weight."
This specific nutrient intake can have some noted health perks. "The benefits include weight loss, maintaining muscle mass and therefore metabolism as much as possible, and structure," Paul continued. Consuming eggs to this magnitude can have a variety of positive health effects, such as improving your cholesterol profile, lowering inflammation, and building muscle.
What are the risks?
The health benefits come at a cost. "With any low carb diet, some people may first experience less energy when it comes to high-intensity exercise," Paul says. "The potential drastic decrease in calories may be too few and dangerous for a person. With any 'fast action' diet, a person isn't building good habits for the long term, and is likely going to put the weight back on."
Paul's advice has the backing of multiple scientific studies. It has been advised that the average person should not consume over 300 mg of cholesterol a day, and with eggs packing in 185 mg of cholesterol apiece, that means you can only have 1.5 eggs a day. Furthermore, A 2015 study reported that men who ate more than six eggs per week had a 30 percent higher risk of heart failure, while also increasing their risk of ischemic stroke.
The greatest pitfall to the egg diet may lie in the fact that its core meal plans don't supply you with enough calories on a daily basis to live a healthy lifestyle. According to a Harvard Medical School study, women should not consume less than 1,200 calories a day and men should not consume less than 1,500 calories a day unless supervised by a medical professional. The egg diet severely undercuts these numbers, as it can be hard to breach 1,200 calories on some days.
If the long term health risks don't scare you away, the fact that short-term weight loss is difficult to sustain stands out as one of the main deterrents of the diet. The eating plan does not promote healthy eating habits, such as portion control, balanced meal planning or mindful eating, and in the end, many who try the diet end up relapsing and returning to foods that caused their weight gain in the first place.
The immediate weight gain after completing an egg diet comes as a result of the extreme restrictions that one must follow in order to lose weight. By not permitting snacks or caloric beverages, egg dieters often feel extreme hunger and discomfort through the course of the eating plan. This is not to mention the other symptoms of eating so much protein, which includes nausea, bloating, and constipation. In the end, many who try the egg diet return to their old eating habits or abandon the eating plan midway.
Is the egg diet here to stay?
It might be daunting to figure out if this is a diet that is worth your time, especially because the effects of eating this many eggs for an extended period of time are still being tested.
"The research is still unclear in this area," says Paul. "Nutrition is a difficult arm of science because people are often untruthful when relaying what they eat (even when they don't mean to be) or just don't remember. Many studies use food frequency questionnaires, which ask a person to remember what they ate 1-20 years ago; It's very difficult for anyone to remember that amount of detail. Or, studies ask individuals to track what they're eating – and people aren't generally accurate estimators of portion size. In addition, lab settings aren't practical settings for the real world."
With all of this being said, this diet may not be the way to go. "I wouldn't recommend such a low-calorie diet to someone who is currently eating much more than [eggs]," says Paul. "The person won't learn the skills and habits that will help them for the long term."
For a better approach, similar diets can be pursued instead. "Low carb diets that are high in protein (I.e. not keto which is high fat) are similar to this approach," says Paul.
At the end of the day, the egg diet will most likely be branded a fad and an unhealthy way to lose weight. It may seem great if you want to drop pounds fast, but the lack of balanced nutrition found in this eating plan makes it a suboptimal weight loss plan. The egg diet pushes these limits and would be a detriment to anyone looking to safely lose weight.
Paul couldn't agree more.
"The notion of low carb, high protein will likely always be around—but this specific 'egg diet' may be a fad."