It has long been drilled into us that eggs need to be avoided because they contain lots of cholesterol. That might be true, but our blood cholesterol is largely impacted by the amount of saturated fat in our diets rather than the amount of dietary cholesterol. The bad wrap that eggs have received over the years is slowly changing and new guidelines on consuming them are beginning to change. Let’s look at these nutrition filled powerhouses in more detail.
Eggs are a symbol of new life. At Easter time, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus using chocolate eggs, a modern twist on tradition. In many cultures, traditional ‘new life’ symbolism used actual eggs, mostly from chickens. Chocolate companies cottoned on to the marketing opportunities of the chocolate egg and introduced the pleasurable alternative in the last century. But what is worse for us, chocolate eggs or chicken eggs for health?
Saturated fat is the culprit to raising our blood cholesterol and the fats in chocolate are predominantly saturated. In a serve of chocolate, 25g or 1 row from a block, ~50% of the fat is saturated. When it comes to chicken eggs, one egg has ~5g of total fat with only ~1.5g being saturated fat. The daily recommended maximum target for saturated fat is 16g for Australian adults. So although eggs might have more cholesterol than chocolate, remember, unless you have an existing heart condition and need to avoid both saturated fat and cholesterol, eggs are your healthier option.
Eggs can make an important contribution to a healthy diet, counting towards the food group that provide us protein. For vegetarians that include eggs, (called ovo vegetarians), they can also form an important source of vitamin B12 to their diets. Eggs contain at least 11 vitamins and minerals, plus the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, not to mention omega-3 fatty acids.
Being so rich in nutrients and protein, eggs make a great start to the day. For most Australians, our traditional diet patterns see us consume very little protein at the start of the day. Research has shown that distributing protein evenly over the day can lead to lower body fat and high amounts of lean muscle. Including eggs at breakfast is great to mix up from those sweet yoghurt or cereal starts and provide a nice savoury alternative, sometimes more appealing for those that don’t really like breakfast.
There are many dishes that use eggs like omelettes, frittatas, scrambled, poached or baked. Two eggs with a side of beans or wrapped up in a wholegrain flat bread with cheese and spinach can be all you need to get some much needed protein in the morning.
If you want to get lean and control your hunger, try eggs this Easter choosing chicken over chocolate and reap the benefits by including them at breakfast time every now and then.
Remember, 6 a week is ok unless you have an existing heart condition so go ethical, free range and mix it up for variety.
Jennifer Madz, Senior Dietitian