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Functional Food Super Hero #2 – Egg

shutterstock_131803838The 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 a 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

Eggs are a 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 nutrients contained in an egg, is thought to assist with 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 meat. 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 are of the carotenoid family. Carotenoids support eye health and reduce the risk of macular degeneration, while giving the egg yolk its beautiful yellow colour. (1) The body cannot create its own carotenoids, therefore they must be supplied by the diet.

Got to love the egg!

Ethics around eggs

Something to consider is the quality of the egg you consume. Ideally, our supply of eggs would come from our own chickens – or from someone we know – that are happily clucking and foraging in the backyard.

As this is not a reality for most, 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, which in turn gives us the best quality egg.

Ideas to incorporate

The possibilities of cooking with eggs are endless, but here are a few ideas to get some inspiration:

  • Scrambled with homemade pesto
  • Omelette sliced into a stir fry, salad, or wrap
  • Frittata with zucchini, asparagus, and mushroom
  • Baked with potato and leek
  • Poached on smashed sweet potato, with avocado and sauerkraut on the side
Egg-cellent eggs

As always, we encourage the consumption of real, whole food, and the egg is a pretty fantastic addition to most diets.

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med)

 

References:

  1. 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.
  2. Nutrient Reference Values 2014, Riboflavin, National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Government and Ministry of Health, New Zealand Government, viewed February 2016.
  3. Nutrient Reference Values 2014, Vitamin B12, National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Government and Ministry of Health, New Zealand Government, viewed February 2016.
  4. Osiecki, H 2010, The Nutrient Bible, 8th edn., Bio Concpets Publishing, Eagle Farm, QLD, Australia
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