Do you like eggs? Do you really like eggs? Then the boiled-egg diet might appeal to you — especially if you’re looking to lose weight. The truth is that this fad diet will not lead to long-term changes that improve your health. Still curious? Read on to learn how this plan works, its pros and cons, and how to follow it safely.
What Is the Boiled-Egg Diet?
The boiled-egg diet is a type of diet that focuses on eggs, particularly hard-boiled eggs. You eat a minimum of two or three eggs per day, and you don’t even have to incorporate them into every meal. Why would someone want to eat this way?
It has a bit of celebrity backing: Nicole Kidman reportedly ate only hard-boiled eggs prior to starring in Cold Mountain, according to Vogue Italia. (1) Charles Saatchi, the ex-husband of chef Nigella Lawson and the founder of the ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, has also done the boiled-egg diet, according to some publications, such as the Daily Mail. (2)
How Does the Boiled-Egg Diet Work?
There are several versions of the boiled-egg diet, according to the e-book The Boiled Egg Diet: The Easy, Fast Way to Weight Loss!, by Arielle Chandler. (3) We’ll dive into the differing options below, but the typical version is similar to low-carb Atkins, writes Chandler, and requires eating:
Breakfast At least two eggs and one piece of fruit (low-carb vegetable or protein optional)
Lunch Eggs or lean protein and low-carb vegetables
Dinner Eggs or lean protein and low-carb vegetables
Is the Boiled-Egg Diet Good for You?
Overall, this diet contains healthy food, but it’s not a balanced, healthy diet. The boiled-egg diet is extremely restrictive, incredibly low-calorie, and faddish. “I don’t think you should be on a diet that requires an obsession with one food,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN, the New York City–based author of Finally Full, Finally Slim.
The crux of the diet — eggs — is a food that’s healthy for you — just not as your only or main food. The American Heart Association says that one egg (or two egg whites) per day can be part of a healthy diet. (4) “Eggs make a great breakfast. A hard-boiled egg is a nutritious snack, but I think that consuming a variety of foods is a healthier way to eat,” says Dr. Young.
The good thing about eggs is that they’re high in protein. One large boiled egg offers 71 calories, 6 grams (g) of protein, 5 g of fat, 0.4 g of carbohydrates, and 0 g fiber, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). (5) “Eggs are a complete protein and contain nutrients like vitamin D and choline,” says Amy Shapiro, RD, CDN, the founder and director of Real Nutrition in New York City. (A complete protein is one that contains all the essential amino acids, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA].) (6) Choline is a nutrient that helps produce neurotransmitters that regulate memory and mood, among other functions, according to the National Institutes of Health. (7)
While some past research has linked breakfasts high in protein that contain eggs with helping dieters shed pounds, “there’s nothing magical about eggs for weight loss,” says Shapiro. (8)
Side Effects of Eating Mostly Boiled Eggs
This diet is really low calorie and restricts many high-fiber foods like whole grains and beans. Because of that, you may miss the mark on fiber if you’re not careful. It’s recommended that men ages 50 and younger get at least 38 g of fiber and women get at least 25 g of fiber, per the Mayo Clinic. (9) Go too low and you may be at risk of constipation. The risk of constipation is especially high if you eat only eggs, as eggs have zero grams of fiber. (5)
Is It Safe to Follow the Boiled-Egg Diet?
If you do the boiled-egg diet for a short time and you’re generally healthy, it’s unlikely to cause any problems. “I consider this a red-carpet diet. It’s only something to try when you want to see results quickly and you’re okay with feeling restricted for a short period of time,” says Shapiro. She notes that this diet takes its cues from the 1960s, a time when “it was considered ladylike and demure to restrict yourself,” she says. But it goes without saying that that’s not a healthy headspace to be in.
Also, there is continuing confusion about whether or not eggs are good for you, as they contain dietary cholesterol. Each egg has 184 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol, according to the USDA. (4) A study published in March 2019 in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that each additional 300 mg of dietary cholesterol consumed per day was associated with a 17 and 18 percent increased risk, respectively, of cardiovascular disease and death from any cause. (10) Meanwhile, another study, which was published in May 2018 in the American Journal of Nutrition, suggested that cholesterol is less risky in adults with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Authors reported that participants who consumed a “high-egg diet” for three months did not experience changes in blood lipid levels or markers of inflammation (which would indicate a change in cardiovascular health) compared with those on a low-egg diet. Researchers defined a high-egg diet as consuming 12 or more eggs per week, while they said a low-egg diet involved eating fewer than 2 eggs per week. (11)
While some people continue to express concern over dietary cholesterol, the limit was removed from the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines. (12) But, the guidelines read, “this change does not suggest that dietary cholesterol is no longer important to consider when building healthy eating patterns”; going on to advise people to “consume as little dietary cholesterol as possible.”
Eggs are also flagged for their saturated fat content. Each large egg contains 1.5 g of saturated fat. (5) The guidelines recommend capping daily intake of saturated fat at less than 10 percent of calories per day for optimal heart health.
So, are eggs good or bad for you? Taking into account the research as a whole, Shapiro notes that it’s saturated fat in food that raises cholesterol, not necessarily dietary cholesterol. What’s more, “it’s the simple carbohydrates and sugars in foods that increase cholesterol and triglycerides. I wouldn’t worry about eating hard-boiled eggs daily,” she says. Yet if that’s the majority of what you’re eating, the saturated fat could add up.
Shapiro gives her clients the green light to eat two eggs per day, but this health advice seems to vary yearly according to other health organizations. To be safe, if you have diabetes or any risk factors for heart disease, ask your healthcare team how many eggs are right for you to eat.
What to Eat and Avoid
According to Arielle Chandler’s e-book, the following foods are recommended on the boiled-egg diet. As for what to avoid, this eating plan is strict: You’re not to stray from this list.
- Skinless poultry
- Lean beef
- Lamb and pork
- Low-carb vegetables including leafy greens like kale, collard greens, spinach, and mustard greens; zucchini; and bell peppers
- Low-carb fruits, such as tomatoes, oranges, lemons, limes, watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches, and grapefruit
- Calorie-free drinks like plain water and sparkling water
- Coconut oil
A 7-Day Sample Menu for the Boiled-Egg Diet
Breakfast Two eggs, spinach, orange
Lunch Grilled salmon on salad
Dinner Grilled pork chop with broccoli
Breakfast Two eggs, tomatoes, cantaloupe
Lunch Grilled chicken on salad
Dinner Ahi tuna with kale
Breakfast Two eggs, orange
Lunch Sliced steak on salad
Dinner Baked salmon with mushrooms
Breakfast Two eggs, asparagus, strawberries
Lunch Egg salad on lettuce
Dinner Beef roast with cauliflower
Breakfast Two eggs, slice of ham, strawberries
Lunch Baked cod with asparagus
Dinner Grilled chicken skewers with bell peppers and onions
Breakfast Two eggs, cantaloupe
Lunch Egg salad on lettuce
Dinner Mahi-mahi with green beans
Breakfast Two eggs, watermelon
Lunch Grilled salmon on salad
Dinner Pork chop with bok choy
Other Versions of the Egg Diet
You don’t have to stick to the traditional boiled-egg diet. If you’d like to try a twist on the original, some alternative versions include egg and grapefruit (a half a grapefruit is added to each meal) and the self-explanatory egg-only diet (only eggs and water are allowed). (3) There was also a “wine and egg diet,” popularized by Vogue, which went viral in 2018. (13)
A Final Word on the Boiled-Egg Diet
The boiled-egg diet is a fad diet that requires eating only eggs, some fruit, nonstarchy vegetables, lean protein, and some fat, and it promises to help you lose weight. While cutting calories may initially lead to weight loss, it’s unlikely that you’ll stick to this way of eating, experts say. In addition, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have a history of an eating disorder, you should skip a faddish, restrictive diet.
“If you want to do this as a quick fix, you might lose a lot of water weight initially, but you can’t live that way forever,” says Young. “These types of diets can lead to overeating and a lot of frustration later.”