Forget Goji berries, chia seeds and quinoa; for one of nature's greatest superfoods you need look no further than the humble egg! Here are 10 cracking reasons why the egg is such a nutritional hero.
1) Packed with protein - eggs provide one of the best dietary sources of protein; a large egg contains around 6g. Importantly, eggs are known as a complete protein, meaning they contain all 9 essential amino acids (the body's building blocks) that your body needs. The "biological value" which is a measure of protein quality of a food, is often evaluated by a comparison to eggs, which are given the gold standard of 100.
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2) Heart healthy - eggs have had a bad rap in the past, branded as "unhealthy" because they contain cholesterol. However, it has now been repeatedly proven that dietary cholesterol does not negatively affect blood cholesterol levels. In fact, eggs are rich in many nutrients that help lower the risk of heart disease, including vitamins B12, folate and riboflavin.
3) Brain boosting- egg yolks are packed full of choline, a B vitamin which aids brain function and memory. Choline is also required to make acetylcholine, a messenger in the brain that relays communication between the brain and the nerves and muscles. Two large egg yolks provide about half of your daily needs.
4) Better eyesight - eggs are rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which both have powerful protective effects on the eyes, and have been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related blindness. For a really potent eye-protecting meal, serve your eggs with some wilted spinach or kale, which both also contain an abundance of these antioxidants.
5) Keep hunger at bay - eggs are very satiating due to their high protein content. In fact, eating eggs for breakfast could even help you lose weight. A 2008 study in the International Journal of Obesity found that overweight adults who ate two eggs for breakfast consumed fewer calories later in the day, compared with those who ate the same calorie's worth of bagels for breakfast. In the 8 week period the egg-eaters lost 65% more weight than the bagel eaters.
6) Beauty food - eggs are rich in vitamin B12 and sulphur, which are wonderful for your hair, skin and nails.They are one of the best dietary sources of keratin, which is essential for growth and repair of every cell in your body. Keratin deficiency can cause hair to grow more slowly, and fingernails to become weak and discoloured. Not just for breakfast, raw egg also makes a fantastic hair mask to revive tired hair!
7) Vitamin D - Eggs are one of the only food sources of vitamin D. We rely largely on sunshine to get enough vitamin D, but sadly due to our lack of it in the UK, it is thought that over 50% of the population may be vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D brings a wide range of benefits, from preventing cancer to improving mental health, with other known roles in bone health, immunity and cardiovascular function.
8) Good fats - eggs contain omega-3 fats, termed "good fats" for their important role in both cardiovascular and brain health.
9) Building muscle - eggs are packed full of both quality protein for muscle growth and repair, and vitamin B12, the nutrient required to break down fat and contract muscles. Regular consumption can help prevent muscle loss in older adults.
10) Incredibly versatile - scrambled, boiled, poached, fried, omelette - what other food provides such a multitude of meals?! For a nutritious and easily portable ready-to-go snack, boil some eggs and keep them in the fridge. These make a particularly great post-exercise snack.
And lastly, a couple of eggs-tra tips:
· Forget white egg omelettes, always eat the whole egg. The white is where the protein is found, but all the wonderful nutrients and antioxidants are found in the yolk
· Always choose free-range eggs - not only are they from happier chickens, they contain a higher proportion of omega-3 and vitamins A and E.
In essence - eggs really are all they're cracked up to be!
Naomi Mead is a Nutrition Therapist with a real passion for food and its therapeutic powers. Naomi is trained and accredited at the renowned Institute of Optimum Nutrition. She writes for Nutrition Expertand on Food First.