Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: Why I'll still be cracking into eggs for breakfast

If you have a poached egg with, say, grilled tomatoes and avocado, it's a different prospect to a greasy one in an Ulster fry

IS THERE another food that has had such a hard time from headlines and more health scares than the humble egg?

The original ‘Go to work on an egg' headlines encouraged us to swap our cornflakes for a boiled egg as a nourishing way to start the day. Then along came the fear of high cholesterol and the salmonella scare in the 1980s and we all backed away from eggs for fear of being poisoned or having a heart attack.

This month, another scare story has hit the headlines to make us stop and think about how many eggs we eat. This time, it's back to the same old story that people who eat eggs are likely to have higher cholesterol and risk of cardiovascular disease than those who don't.

This is the kind of stuff that triggers emotions about how nutrition is reported in the headlines. There is no such thing as a ‘good' or ‘bad' food, but there is (of course!) such thing as a ‘good' or ‘bad' diet.

How the eggs are cooked, what else we eat at that meal, or on that day, and how nourishing and varied our diet is – these are the things that are important.

:: Here is why I will, still, be cracking into an egg for breakfast:

There is a vast body of research that shows no link between eating eggs and an increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

Eating a boiled or poached egg for breakfast, with some grilled tomatoes, maybe a little spinach, or some avocado makes a nutritious and tasty breakfast that helps support blood sugar levels and keeps hunger at bay until lunchtime, so we are less likely to snack on scones, biscuits and junk food.

Not just for breakfast, eggs are versatile and economical. They can be combined with herbs and chopped veg to make mini egg muffins of an omelette for lunch or dinner, used as a health ingredient for baking healthy treats, or added to meals to increase the protein content to help maintain and sustain insulin and blood sugar balance – a known factor to help support heart health and reduce cardiovascular risk.

There are so many other risk factors to consider when looking at what is causing high death rates in people who eat eggs. This study does not differentiate how the eggs are cooked (a healthy poached egg for brekkie, or a great, big, greasy fry up have a very different impact on our health).

:: Egg nutrition:

Both the white and the yolk of eggs are packed with essential nutrients. In fact, when we take a closer look, eggs are little powerhouses of nutrition.

A great source of high quality protein: Did you know that more than half the protein of an egg is found in the egg white? Eggs are a rich source of selenium, vitamin D, B6, B2, B12 and minerals like zinc, iron and copper. Egg yolks are a great source of fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, as well as an emulsifying ingredient called lecithin – which makes eggs such a essential ingredient for making mayonnaise or hollandaise sauce.

:: The cholesterol question:

The link eggs and cholesterol has been around for many years, and many people have avoided eating eggs because of this. This is because eggs were considered a high cholesterol food, so if you were told you had high blood cholesterol levels, your GP probably told you to stay off eggs.

We now know that the cholesterol found in food has much less of an effect on our blood cholesterol than we thought, so most people are safe to eat eggs as part of a healthy, balanced diet…and isn't that the deal?!

There will never be one food in particular that is the downfall of our diet, to the detriment of our overall health. It's all about balance.

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