Could eggs be the most nutritious food on the planet?
Eggs have finally kicked their bad rep to the curb and have proved to be the perfect source of protein, writes Karen Coghlan
You can't beat eggs.
Well you can, physically, with a fork or whisk. But metaphorically, as a source of nutrition, it's hard to find a better food with as good a nutritional profile as eggs. They have it all. Protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, versatility, convenience, affordability and taste.
Eggs are a great source of protein and fat, both of which are necessary in our daily diet for optimum health.
Protein is the basic building blocks of our bodies, so it is essential that we get adequate amounts daily in our diet. Not only for building and repairing muscles in the gym, but also to grow strong hair and nails, to produce hormones, brain chemicals and antibodies to help fight infection. Without enough protein in our diet, our bodies would cease to function.
How much protein we need in our daily diet depends on a few factors. Mainly body size and activity level. Adult protein requirements in Ireland for a moderately active man weighing 70kg is 70g daily, and for a moderately active woman weighing 55kg is 55g daily.
However, if you are more active then you should be aiming to eat up to 50pc more protein than these recommendations.
On average, a large egg contains 6g of protein. So a three-egg omelette would provide nearly 33pc of the RDA for a less active woman. Egg protein is of very high quality and is pretty much the perfect protein source.
Contrary to popular belief, half of the protein content of the egg is in the yolk and the other half in the white of the egg. The other essential macronutrient in the yolk is fat. All of the fat is contained in the yolk.
The fat in the yolk of an egg is a combination of saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, which include heart healthy omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. All three types of fats should be included in a healthy balanced diet.
Consuming sufficient omega-3 essential fatty acids in our diet is well known to reduce risk of heart disease as well as playing a vital role in our brain health, with low intakes being linked to depression. Omega-3 literally oils the brain and helps mood-elevating neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, move freely between brain cells so they can do their job.
It is still recommended to get sources of omega-3 elsewhere in your diet from oily fish such as salmon, walnuts, brazil nuts, and flaxseeds.
The yolk is also the power house of the egg and contains most of the egg's essential micronutrients. A single egg contains the following RDAs:
nVitamin A, 5pc
nVitamin B2, 14pc
nVitamin B12, 11pc
nVitamin B5, 7pc
And a decent amount of Vitamin D, E, K, B6, Calcium, Zinc and Iron.
All of the above are required daily in our diet to fight disease and to obtain best health. Eggs also contain lutein, zeaxanthin and choline, which can help reduce the risk of age-related blindness and enhance brain and development function in children.
If the egg is such a power house of nutrients then why has eating too many eggs got such a rotten rep?
Back in the 1960s, science suggested that the dietary cholesterol in eggs directly contributed to high blood cholesterol. However, this research was based on diabetic patients.
This misinformation somehow got scrambled over the years and current dietary guidelines have not been updated to reflect the latest research.
In healthy people, who consume a healthy balanced diet, dietary cholesterol is not directly linked to coronary heart disease.
There is no upper limit on the amount of eggs we should consume in our diet to prevent cholesterol. In a healthy individual there is no evidence to suggest that anything up to six eggs a day does any harm.
To sum it up, eggs are a high-quality source of protein, fats, micronutrients, and are possibly the most nutritious food on the planet. How do you take yours?
Karen is a nutrition coach and personal trainer and runs monthly online group nutrition coaching programs. The May program kicks off today, May 4. See www.thenutcoach.com for more details.