Health benefits of eggs

Everything you thought you knew about eggs is wrong: eggs don't raise cholesterol and they don't cause heart disease. Here's why you should include eggs in your diet.

HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis (TB)  -  A nutritionally adequate diet plays an important role in how the immune system of the body functions. Deficiencies of protein and essential nutrients have a particularly detrimental effect on the ability of the body to fight HIV/AIDS and TB. Eggs are a naturally nutrient-dense food, which means that they have a high ratio of nutrients to energy (kilojoules). One large egg has 315 kJ and provides the highest quality protein (6 g/egg) and 13 essential vitamins and minerals. This makes an egg a valuable contributor to a nutritious diet for these diseases.

Heart Disease - In recent years numerous studies have clearly demonstrated that there is no relationship between egg intake, blood cholesterol levels and the risk of coronary heart diseaseFoods high in fat, especially saturated and trans-fatty acids, such as those found in fatty meats, sausages and hard cheese, have a far greater detrimental impact on heart health than the cholesterol found in food. Eggs are low in saturated fats and higher in the ‘heart-healthy’ mono- and poly-unsaturated fats. Healthy people can eat eggs every day, provided they are ingested as part of a balanced diet which is low in saturated fats and trans-fats. People with Familial Hypercholesterolaemia (an inherited form of cholesterol which carries a high risk of heart disease) should restrict their intake to 3 – 4 eggs per week.

Overweight and Obesity - Several studies have reported that starting the day with eggs, as part of a reduced-energy (low kJ) diet, helps overweight adults to feel more satisfied and energetic for a longer period of time; and causes them to lose more weight. At 315 kJ per large egg very few kJ are added for all the nutrients they provide. When teamed up with whole grains (e.g. whole-wheat bread) and fruit or vegetables, eggs provide a complete meal, are readily available, easy to prepare and inexpensive ; making them an extremely useful tool in weight control programmes.

Pregnancy and foetal brain development - Eggs are an excellent source of choline, a nutrient which is essential for the normal functioning of all cells, for brain and nerve functioning and for the transportation of nutrients throughout the body. Not only does it help to prevent birth defects, but it also helps to promote brain and memory development in the foetus, which is continued at birth and well into old age. Choline is therefore of extreme importance during pregnancy and lactation when a woman’s reserves can rapidly be depleted. Only one egg per day will provide 28% of a pregnant woman’s choline requirement.

Eye Health - Eggs are a good source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthine which play an important role in keeping the eyes healthy and helping prevent the most common causes of age-related blindness. These two antioxidants are found in the egg yolk and help to reduce the risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, a disease that develops with age and causes blurred or distorted vision. They accumulate in the eye where they protect against some types of the harmful, high-energy wavelengths of light. Lutein and zeaxanthine seem to be more bio-available in eggs than in any other source.

Protein Quality - Protein is one of the most important elements of our diet. Our bodies use protein to build new and repair old tissue. Eggs are champions at providing high quality protein. Amino-acids are the building blocks of protein. Nine of these amino-acids cannot be manufactured by the body and must be derived from the diet. A complete protein food contains enough of these 9 essential amino-acids to promote growth and maintain body tissue. 

The proteins in eggs, milk and meat (including poultry and fish) are all complete proteins, but egg protein is of the highest quality, rating 100, compared to milk at 93 and fish and beef at 75. One egg has approximately the same protein content as 30g of cooked meat, fish or poultry. And apart from being the most versatile and best source of protein in our diet, it is also the cheapest. 

Nobody can afford not to have an egg a day!

- (Madeleine de Villiers, registered dietician)

- (Health24, November 2010)

Read more:

10 health benefits of eggs
Eggs now pasteurised too
Egg breakfast keeps you slim

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