The humble egg. A pantry staple. Loved by most, incredibly versatile, low cost, and full of so much goodness!
Eggs are traditionally thought to be a very warming food, particularly useful in nourishing the sick or elderly, or those with increased demand for nutrients such as pregnant women and children.
Over the past 40 years however, egg consumption was thought to negatively impact blood cholesterol levels, due to the naturally occurring cholesterol (200-300mg/100g) and saturated fat (3g/100g) content. (1) However, more recent research indicates that dietary cholesterol has limited impact on blood cholesterol levels, and therefore the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Eggs are a bit of an all-rounder on the health benefit front, recognised for supporting brain development and function, having anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, and contains compounds that may be of benefit in infectious and chronic diseases.
But that isn’t all it has to offer!
P is for protein
According to Gaston (of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast), he would chow down on 5 dozen eggs growing up in order to help him get large. What he means is, eggs are high quality source of protein, required for growth and development in children and adolescents, and maintaining overall health in adults. The protein as well as many of the other fabulous nutrients, is thought to assist in fertility for men and women!
Sure, we certainly get enough protein daily as it exists in nearly everything we eat, including vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy and meats. By having a high quality protein like eggs for breakfast, you can get through the day more satisfied and with sustained energy (therefore less likely to eat those more refined foods in reaction to a blood glucose crash).
Choc full of nutrients
Egg nutritional status can vary depending on the quality of the egg (more on that later). Overall, they are a great source of zinc, selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E and choline. In fact, selenium and Vitamin E are fabulous antioxidants that have been seen to protect blood vessels from damage, and therefore reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. (1) Amazing!
In addition, the B vitamins feature highly in the egg nutritional profile, offering:
- B12 (cyanocobalamin), needed to protect nerves, support brain and cognition, and for the biosynthesis of DNA and blood cells. (3,4)
- B9 (folate), also needed for healthy nerve function and DNA synthesis. Folate is integral for mental and emotional health, as well as avoiding neural tube defects in pregnancy. (4)
- B2 (riboflavin), required for the body’s energy pathways, helps metabolise fat and protein, and deficiency is associated with cataracts, migraine, and cracks around the edges of the mouth. (2,4)
Lutein and zeaxanthin – say what?
These two fancy sounding nutrients of the carotenoid may sound familiar as supporting eye health and reducing risk of macular degeneration, and give the egg yolk its beautiful yellow colour. (1) The body cannot create its own carotenoids, therefore they must be supplied by the diet; and whilst eggs aren’t the only carotenoid source, they are a good and delicious one, brimming with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers.
Got to love the egg!
Ethics around eggs
Now, a small note about the quality of the egg you may wish to consider. Ideally, we would all have your own chicken in the backyard, or know someone who does, and eat the eggs from there. The next best thing is buying eggs from your local farmers market, or looking for the organic or biodynamic label on the egg carton. This ensures the eggs are nutrient rich, and from chickens given the best quality of life, to give us the best quality egg.
So all in all, the egg is a pretty fantastic addition to most diets. As always, we encourage the consumption of real food, meaning if you are going to eat egg, limit the intake of egg derived products, and get the goodness straight from the egg itself.
Ideas to incorporate
The possibilities of cooking with eggs seem endless, but here are a few ideas to get some inspiration:
- Egg on a cloud
- Scrambled with homemade basil or parsley pesto
- Omelette sliced into soups, salads and wraps
- Frittata with zucchini, asparagus and mushroom
- Baked with potato and leek
- Poached on smashed sweet potato, with avocado and sauerkraut on the side
- Miranda, JM, Anton, X, Redondo-Valbuena, C, Roca-Saavedra, P, Rodriguez, JA, Lamas, A, Franco, CM, & Cepeda, A 2015, ‘Egg and egg-derived foods: effects on human health and use as functional foods’, Nutrients, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 706-729.
- Nutrient Reference Values 2014, Riboflavin, National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Government and Ministry of Health, New Zealand Government, viewed February 2016.
- Nutrient Reference Values 2014, Vitamin B12, National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Government and Ministry of Health, New Zealand Government, viewed February 2016.
- Osiecki, H 2010, The Nutrient Bible, 8th edn., Bio Concpets Publishing, Eagle Farm, QLD, Australia