Super nutritious, cheap, and highly versatile. The humble egg has earned its place as a grocery cupboard stable. Eggs are a source of protein and contain a range of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin and vitamin B12, choline and zinc. Yet despite its great reputation in nutrition circles, there are so many mixed messages doing the rounds that it’s hard to know fact from fiction. Let’s crack four myths about eggs and highlight why it’s time to put this nutrient-packed food back on the menu. And it’s egg-cellent news for egg lovers.
Eggs are good for muscle building.
When combined with resistance (weight) training, protein provides the building blocks for muscle building, as well as help with the repair that is necessary from muscle damage that results from training. Protein is also needed to keep the immune system strong, which often takes a knock with hard training sessions.
The average person needs 0.8 g of protein per kg body weight each day which calculates to 56g of protein for a person weighing 70kg. Eggs are an excellent source of high quality protein. One large egg contains 7g of protein so the myth that eggs are a good addition to the diet of those who train is true. In particular, researchers in Canada found that eating whole eggs immediately after resistance exercise resulted in better muscle building than if just the egg white was eaten.
Eggs raise cholesterol.
Many people associate eggs with cholesterol, a type of blood fat that at high levels may affect heart health negatively. Though it is true that eggs are high in cholesterol, the body has compensatory mechanisms to deal with consumed cholesterol. More of concern is saturated fat as a bigger culprit in raising blood cholesterol. When excess saturated fat is eaten, the liver releases more cholesterol into the blood stream, thereby slowing down the removal of blood cholesterol. This is why dietary saturated fat is a bigger implicator in raising blood cholesterol than dietary cholesterol. There is about 5g of fat per egg, most of which is unsaturated fats and very little of these fats are cholesterol-raising saturated fats.
In fact, when it comes to eggs and cholesterol, the opposite of what we once thought may in fact be true. When Chinese researchers examined the link between eating eggs and heart disease, ischaemic heart disease (reduced blood supply to the heart) and stroke in 500 000 participants, the results were very positive for eggs. Compared to non-egg eaters, those who ate eggs daily had a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Daily egg eaters also had an 18% lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 28% lower risk of dying from a stroke. Researchers concluded that eating up to one egg per day was significantly associated with improved heart and stroke outcomes. This finding was supported by a Spanish study which showed no link between all causes of death and eating up to one egg per day.
You should only eat the egg whites.
Many consumers are happy to announce that they toss the golden egg yolk when eating eggs. While the egg white contains protein, selenium and the B-vitamin riboflavin, most of the nutrition is actually found in the egg yolk. This unsubstantiated belief was likely born when people heard that the fat and cholesterol in egg is found in the egg yolk. However, egg yolks contain the heart healthy fats called monounsaturated fats. Eggs are also low in saturated fat. Added to this, egg yolks contain half of the protein of the whole egg and if you avoid eating the egg yolk, you’re missing out on vitamin D, too. Therefore it seems removing yolk from the diet may be counterproductive to optimising on our heath.
Pregnant women should stay away from eggs.
A vital nutrient for pregnant women is choline which plays a key role in the development of a baby’s brain and nervous system. There are higher demands for choline when pregnant. Research has shown that extra choline in pregnancy, whether from diet or supplements, improves a variety of developmental and health outcomes in the baby. Pregnant women should aim for 450mg of choline daily. Two eggs contain about 250mg of choline, or roughly half the recommended needs, making eggs a good food choice for pregnancy want to help close the choline gap.
Don’t be scared to enjoy your eggs!