Years ago, eggs had a bad rep for being high in cholesterol and fat – we were told to eat no more than two a week. Of course, the egg white has always been known to be a rich source of protein – it’s nothing new to hear of bodybuilders scoffing down six egg whites at a time. The protein in eggs is more readily absorbed and used by the body than protein in any other foods – great for those vulnerable to poor nutrition, including older people with weaker digestive absorption, or fussy young eaters. But what about the cholesterol and fat in eggs?
New research is out to change perceptions of eggs – they are actually really good for you, being high in protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. In fact, it is better for everyone to eat more eggs!
Can I really eat eggs without fear?
A 60g egg contains about 300 kilojoules, a moderate amount of energy. The same egg also contains around 5g of fat. But most of this is healthy, unsaturated fat; and the small remainder of saturated fat is only about 1.5g per egg.
Another great thing about eggs – they contain 11 different vitamins and minerals and are a good source of vitamin D, an essential vitamin that most of us lack. A lack of vitamin D increases our risk for a range of conditions including brittle bones and cancer.
But do be careful about what you eat with your eggs. Yes, they can be rather decadent when paired with creamy, fried and baked goods, but eating these foods cooked or accompanied with egg will still mean a lot of unhealthy saturated fat from the accompanying foods.
Busted: The cholesterol and fat myths
Arguably the greatest confusion surrounding eggs concerns their cholesterol content. It was once believed that eating high-cholesterol foods, particularly those with the ‘bad’ cholesterol, led to higher blood cholesterol levels. But it has now been found that for most people, eating food containing cholesterol has little impact on their blood cholesterol. In fact, the ‘bad’ cholesterol levels in your blood are more likely to soar because of a diet with a lot of saturated fat or trans fat (found commonly in deep-friend and commercially baked food). Eggs contain very little saturated fat, and no trans fat (which is linked to increases in bad cholesterol blood levels and the risk of heart disease). Contrary to being bad for you and your heart, eggs contain healthy amounts of omega-3 fats that boost your heart health in a variety of ways.
The National Heart Foundation revised its stand of eggs in 2009, saying ‘all Australians who follow a healthy balanced diet low in saturated fat can eat up to six eggs each week without increasing their risk of heart disease.’ And it specifically states that this statement is inclusive of those with diabetes or metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions that increase your risk of heart disease, stroke or diabetes). All Australian eggs automatically get a Heart Foundation Tick However, research points to higher levels of consumption (above six eggs a week) being more associated with heart disease.. so be careful there.
Eggs and weight management
Recent studies show that because eggs make you feel full, they may help with weight management. The high protein content in eggs has been found to make a greater contribution to satiety than carbohydrates and fat, so you don’t feel as hungry. A British Nutrition Foundation review paper in 2006 concluded that ‘moderate consumption of eggs (one to two eggs per day) should be actively encouraged as part of an energy-restricted, weight-losing dietary regimen.’
It’s great to finally get proof of how great eggs are for your body and for them to be fully endorsed as a health food, busting all the old myths. And the best thing is that they’re so easy and affordable to cook! Scrambled, poached, soft-boiled, hard-boiled, sunny side up.. so take your pick and add it to your meal or snack!