What Is the Boiled Egg Diet — and Should You Try It?
Raise your hand if you love hard-boiled eggs. Everyone? Makes sense. After all, they're nutritious, filling, and easy AF to prep. And if you're a fan, then odds are you're going to be pretty pumped to hear that there's something called the "hard-boiled egg diet." It's essentially an eating style that's high in, yup, hard-boiled eggs, and claims to promote weight loss.
But don't be so quick to jump on the egg-filled bandwagon just yet. See, the hard-boiled egg diet, aka the boiled egg diet, is pretty extreme — as are most fad diets, for that matter — and might not be a great idea after all.
Here, a breakdown of everything you need to know about the eating plan — plus what dietitians really think about the boiled egg diet.
What Is the Hard-Boiled Egg Diet?
The boiled-egg diet seems to come from Arielle Chandler, author of the book The Boiled Egg Diet: The Easy, Fast Way to Weight Loss!, but it's TBD whether or not Chandler is truly the originator, says Grace Clark-Hibbs, M.D.A., R.D.N., registered dietitian and founder of Nutrition with Grace. The hard-boiled egg diet focuses on, well, hard-boiled eggs (which tends to be a generally healthier cooking method than, say, scrambling or frying, since it doesn't require adding any oil for cooking). But despite its name, it doesn't always include only eggs. Some versions also emphasize lean protein and limit carbohydrates, essentially making it a type of a low-carb diet, says Clark-Hibbs. (Wait, what's the slow-carb diet?)
In addition to potentially promoting weight loss, the hard-boiled egg diet purportedly helps reduce appetite and burn calories, according to Charmaine Jones, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., registered dietitian nutritionist and founder of Food Jonezi. She also says that, as mentioned above, there are different versions: traditional, egg and grapefruit, and egg-only. Of the three versions, "the traditional version has become the most popular to follow," says Jones. So, for the sake of simplicity, let's focus on the traditional version of the boiled-egg diet from here on out.
Foods to Eat and Avoid on the Traditional Hard-Boiled Egg Diet
ICYMI above, "there are several versions of the hard-boiled egg diet," says Clark-Hibbs. But the traditional, most popular variation calls for three meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) with no snacks in between. At every meal, you consume at least two hard-boiled eggs, along with lean proteins (e.g. chicken, fish), non-starchy vegetables (e.g. leafy greens, tomatoes), some fruits ( especially those lower in carbs, e.g. grapefruits, oranges), and zero-calorie beverages (e.g. water, unsweetened tea), she explains.
As for the items that aren't allowed? "The main foods to limit or avoid [on this diet] are carbohydrates such as bread, rice, and pasta," adds Clark-Hibbs. This includes starchy veggies (e.g. potatoes) and legumes (e.g. beans, lentils), adds Jones. High-carb fruits, such as bananas and apples, are also a no-go, along with sugar-sweetened drinks such as sweetened tea or juice.
And the list of foods to exclude doesn't stop there: "Many processed snack foods (e.g. potato chips, tortilla chips, crackers, etc.) are high in carbs, so these would not fit into this diet at all. As for processed meats such as bacon and sausage, there are some allowances for these foods, but in moderation," notes Clark-Hibbs. (Related: Should You Really Hate On Processed Foods?)
In the dairy department, only full-fat dairy products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, and full-fat yogurt are allowed, says Clark-Hibbs. Why? "These types of dairy are higher in fat than they are in carbs," she explains. "There are no strict rules around how often you can have high-fat dairy [while following the diet]. However, since this diet is so restrictive, you will want to eat more fat in order to not be hungry all the time." (BTW, great news: A new study says eating more dairy fat is linked to lower risk of heart disease.)
Pros of the Hard-Boiled Egg Diet
First, let's get something out of the way: Eggs are healthy! In fact, "eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the market [when] consumed in healthy amounts," according to Jones.
Not only do eggs offer lean protein, but they also contain vitamins A, D, E, and K, along with zinc, selenium, and B vitamins, says Jones. "Eggs are also packed with lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that have major benefits for eye health," she adds. Lutein and zeaxanthin protect your peepers from light-induced oxidative damage, which can otherwise lead to issues like cataracts, according to a 2020 study. What's more, the humble egg contains iron (which contributes to cell growth), zinc (which strengthens the immune systems), and calcium (which promotes bone health), according to a 2019 scientific review in the journal Nutrients.
Basically, eggs are an eggs-cellent (sorry, not sorry) source of nutrients. This means you'll consume all that good stuff while following the diet. It also doesn't hurt that eggs are pretty inexpensive, meaning the bulk of your diet menu will be easy on the wallet. This is an advantage over some other fad diets, such as the GOLO diet (which consists of a purchasable plan, including a supplement) and the Nordic diet (which focuses on locally-sourced organic items and game meats). These diets can cost a pretty penny, so they're not accessible for everyone. (Related: Your Guide to Buying the Healthiest Eggs)
Looking to lose weight? The diet will likely promote weight loss in the short term, due to its low-calorie eating style, notes Clark-Hibbs. And while there's no research on how this specific diet supports weight loss, there's some evidence that short-term low-carb diets, in general, can do just that. For example, according to a 2020 review, following a low-carb diet for six to 11 months can lead to weight loss. Other effects included higher HDL ("good") cholesterol, plus lower high blood pressure and LDL ("bad") cholesterol, all of which reduce your risk of heart disease. (Related: Low-Carb Diets May Be the Best Quick and Healthy Way to Lose Weight)
But again, there's no research specifically examining how (and if) the boiled egg diet can lead to weight loss, let alone long-term sustainable weight maintenance. It also comes with its fair share of drawbacks.
Cons of the Hard-Boiled Egg Diet
As mentioned earlier, the low-calorie, low-carb nature of the boiled egg diet can potentially induce weight loss in the short term. But that's the thing: It's short-term. "The initial pounds lost will be due to lost water weight, but you won't actually lose any fat," explains Clark-Hibbs. This is due to the way carbs are stored in the body. A quick explainer: Carbs are stored as glycogen, which is found in the liver and muscles, and, according to an article in the Journal of Applied Physiology, binds to water. A low intake of carbs reduces your body's glycogen stores, thus increasing water loss in the urine, according to a 2020 article, and, in turn, increased water (not fat) loss.
Even if you are able to stick to the diet for a couple of weeks or longer, the effects likely won't be sustainable. "You will start to lose body fat, but the likelihood of keeping the weight off is low because of how restrictive [the diet] is," she says. Translation? When too many calories are cut — due to being on the boiled egg diet or otherwise — your metabolism will slow down in order to save energy, says Clark-Hibbs. The result is a weight loss plateau, plus too many eggs in the fridge.
This leads to the next point: The diet is restrictive AF. Most notably, "it allows for little to no carbs, which are your body's primary fuel source," explains Clark-Hibbs. The combo of low carbs and calories will "likely leave you feeling unsatisfied and hungry," she adds. (Related: Why You Should Give Up Restrictive Dieting Once and for All)
Drastically curbing carbs will also make it difficult to meet your daily fiber needs. After all, fiber is a type of carb that's found in foods restricted by the diet, such as bananas and lentils. (Both foods, along with many of the aforementioned foods to "avoid," are high in fiber, according to the Mayo Clinic.) A low fiber intake can increase your risk of irregular bowel movements (hello, constipation) and persistent hunger, as fiber has a satiating effect, says Jones. It can also increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, she adds, as getting enough fiber can help manage high cholesterol and blood sugar, aka risk factors for heart disease and type 2 diabetes, respectively.
There's also the issue of overemphasizing one food — in this case, eggs. Yes, eggs are generally considered healthy — but note that they're considered nutritious, as Jones put it, "in healthy amounts." The American Heart Association defines a "healthy amount" as one whole egg or two egg whites a day, a recommendation that applies to all adults with or without a risk for heart disease. With a requirement of at least two eggs a meal, three times a day, the hard-boiled egg diet includes significantly more eggs than the AHA's recommendation. Other health authorities are a little more lenient; for example, the Cleveland Clinic says there's no real recommendation, as long as you don't have heart disease or high cholesterol, in which case you should consider limiting yourself to four egg yolks per week.
Ultimately, "focusing on one nutrient or food, like eggs, is not a healthful strategy in the long run," shares Clark-Hibbs. It presents "a risk of becoming deficient in nutrients that keep your body functioning properly," adds Jones. In this case, those missing nutrients stem from the diet's limit on carbs and fiber, which you'd typically get from nutritious foods such as whole grains, lentils, and bananas.
The Bottom Line
Though the hard-boiled egg diet includes more than just eggs, it's still super restrictive. The eating plan is low in calories and carbs, so it lacks the nutrients the body needs to stay healthy. And while these features can spur short-term weight loss, the effect likely won't be sustainable. Not to mention, eating two to three eggs at every meal can get pretty boring, even if you truly love them.
As Clark-Hibbs notes, "the 'best' diet is one that is well-balanced, includes a variety of foods, and doesn't require willpower to follow." Unfortunately, the hard-boiled egg diet falls short on all accounts. If you still want to try the diet — or any diet, for that matter — your best bet is to work with a health care provider such as a nutritionist or registered dietitian, who "can [help you develop] a safe eating plan that will meet your daily nutritional and weight loss goals," should such goals be on your agenda, says Jones. What's more, when you work with an expert, "you'll have an opportunity to set realistic goals that don't compromise your health," she adds.