nutrition  |  17 / 11 / 2015

Eggs: The Original Superfood?

By Linia Patel

 

In a never-ending quest for the next ground-breaking superfood, it's easy to overlook the potential that lies within an egg. 

eggs: mixed messages

Over the years, we've received mixed messages on eggs. Are they healthy or not? Not too long ago there was a constant buzz around cholesterol possibly causing heart disease that frightened many away from eating eggs. Further research has now provided new information, prompting nutritional experts to take a fresh look at the health benefits eggs can offer.

What’s in an egg?

Eggs are composed of four main parts; the yolk, the white (albumen), the shell membrane and the shell. Although small, eggs are a nutrition powerhouse. They contain high quality protein, fat (a greater percentage of the healthy fats), a range of vitamins and minerals as well as connective tissue building blocks (glycosaminoglycans). Here are some reasons to ensure you include some egg-cellent nutrients in your diet.

Yolk

Health and nutrition benefits: Excellent source of B vitamins (i.e. B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B12, folate). A good source of the fat-soluble vitamins A and D and E. Contains many of the minerals the body requires for good health such as iodine, selenium, phosphorus and zinc. A good source of lutein and zeanthin which are known to protect the eye. Although high in fat, the majority of fat contained is from healthy fats that we need in our diet.

Top tips: Get enough of the sunshine vitamin. Although eggs are one of the few foods that contain vitamin D, we tend to make the levels we need when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Get your vitamin D levels assessed as the majority of people need to top up their levels with a supplement.

White (albumen)

Health and nutrition benefits: A cheap source of high quality protein.

Top tips: Perk up. Including some protein in your meals helps stabilize your blood sugar and prevents those mid afternoon dips.

Egg Shell Membrane

Health and nutrition benefits: Rich source of proteins and connective tissue building blocks (glycosaminoglycans) such as glucosamine sulphate, chondroitin sulphate, hyaluronan, collagen type 1 and calcium. These are the elements needed to repair and rebuild cartilage and ligaments.

Top tips: Be on top. If you suffer from a connective tissue disorder such as osteoarthritis, lupus, gout, and fibromyalgia research shows that taking 500mg of an egg shell membrane supplement significantly reduces pain, swelling and increases flexibility.

What about cholesterol?

Although the yolk contains cholesterol, science has shown that this has much less affect on our blood cholesterol than the cholesterol we make in our body ourselves in response to a high saturated fat diet. Although no official recommendation exists for egg intake, research suggests that heart disease risk does not increase in healthy adults consuming up to 6 or 7 eggs per week as part of a healthy diet.

Friend or Foe?

The bottom line is: eggs are your friend. With the previous limits on consumption, due to their cholesterol content, now removed, eggs are a healthy fast food for all the family as part of a varied and balanced diet. Make them one of your top foods for this month. 

Linia Patel is a leading dietitian and sports nutritionist. She's passionate about empowering people to better manage their health and optimise their performance through learning the essence of healthy eating. Outside of work, Linia is a wannabe triathlete. Visit her website: www.liniapatel.com.

References

  1. World Health Organisation (2003) Report of a Joint WHO/ FAO Expert Consultation on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. WHO, Geneva
  2. British Heart Foundation www.bhf.org.uk/keeping_your_heart_healthy/default.aspx
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  8. Ruxton C. New evidence and recommendations for the use of eggs in the diet, Nursing Standard, 19 May 2010.
  9. Ruff KJ, Devore DP, Leu MD, Robinson MA. Eggshell membrane: A possible new natural therapeutic for joint and connective tissue disorders. Results from two open-label human clinical studies. Clin Interv Aging. 2009;4(1):235-40. Epub 2009 Jun 9.
  10. Takahashi K et al. (1996). Soluble egg shell membrane protein as a regulating material for collagen matrix reconstruction. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 1996 Aug;60(8):1299-302.