Nutrition: eggs

Tuesday 08 May 2018

Yes I know, eggs may seem to be a bit of an odd topic for a blog but if I had five pounds for every time someone asked me if eggs are ok and how many can they eat a week, I would be quite a rich woman.

From negative press to a superfood

Eggs carry a lot of negative baggage and this really influences people’s perception of them and their use in the diet. I think it all began in 1988 when Edwina Curry announced that the level of salmonella in British eggs was high. This statement was of course very powerful and had a catastrophic effect on farmers and egg producers. Sales dropped by 60%. Following on from this, eggs have long been associated with being high in cholesterol and bad for the heart and causing circulatory problems. At one time we were told to limit our consumption to no more than 4 a week.

Well, all of this has been turned on its head. Recent research has shown that eggs are by no means the bad guys but have been in fact been labelled a 'Superfood’. So let’s look at why this U turn has come about.  

New thinking about eggs
A meta-analysis published in the ‘American Journal of Clinical Nutrition’, in 2013 looked at 22 prospective studies on egg consumption and health. They reported that eggs had no association with either heart disease or stroke in otherwise healthy people. This isn’t the only data as multiple other studies have led to the same conclusion.

One study took a group of healthy men who were asked to eat 4 eggs a day for a month. Their cholesterol levels were measured at the beginning and end of the trial period. It showed there was no increase in their levels of cholesterol. In fact the results showed that their good cholesterol (HDL) had improved.

Eggs and cancer?
I know that this does not seem to have much to do with cancer but as a holistic therapist I look at the complete health of the visitors that I see and my advice would reflect this. Also as I move on with this blog looking at the nutrients in eggs you will see that they prove very useful for those with cancer as they contain vital nutrients like choline, biotin, vitamin D and essential fats.

Benefits of eggs

We know that eggs are easily available, easy to prepare, and a very versatile ingredient. They are also nutritionally very useful.

  • They contain high quality protein. Protein is essential to the body for growth repair of tissues and for the production of enzymes, antibodies and hormones. Protein also helps to prevent muscle mass loss which can be a problem for people with cancer who are losing weight. As we know, proteins are made up of building blocks called amino acids. The sulphur containing amino acids help with the detoxification process in the liver.
  • They are rich in biotin (also found in liver, hazelnuts, almonds, sweet potatoes and tomatoes). Biotin is often referred to as vitamin B7 one of the less well known vitamins. It works with other enzymes to speed up chemical reactions and it works closely with vitamin B5 giving it a role in the formation of essential fats (these are building blocks for every cell in the body). Biotin is needed for energy production and works with insulin to help stabilise blood sugar levels. This is important for people with cancer as it is a good idea to keep blood sugar stable and prevent spikes that encourage insulin release.  More recent research has shown that Biotin pays a role in the formation of DNA and the control of cell replication which is significant in the prevention of cancer.
  • Choline is another important nutrient found in eggs. Choline is essential as it is the precursor to important neurotransmitters involved in muscle control, memory and many other functions. It also helps to prevent the accumulation of fat and cholesterol in the liver as it acts like an emulsifier, breaking down fats into particles that are easily digested and absorbed. Finally choline is one of a group of nutrients that helps to prevent an accumulation of homocysteine. Homocysteine is a toxic intermediary in the production of our natural antioxidants. Lack of biotin (along with the other nutrients) prevent the process of anti-oxidant production hence the accumulation of homocysteine. Homocysteine acts in the body in a similar way to too much cholesterol. According to research by the Linus Pauling institute, deficiency of choline is linked to increased sensitivity to carcinogenic chemicals. Deficiency is also linked to abnormal DNA repair and may stimulate changes in programmed cell death (apoptosis) of liver cells.
  • Vitamin D is contained in eggs and they are one of the very few foods with levels of natural vitamin D (the other good source being oily fish). As we know from research into vitamin D it is vital for good bone health and as an immune booster, amongst many other things. For more information see my blog about vitamin D and its importance if you have cancer.
  • Fats in eggs contain a good percentage of mono and polyunsaturated fats which are associated with good heart health. An average egg contains 5g of fat. Two grams is saturated and the 3g of healthy fats. We can now buy omega 3 rich eggs. The hens are fed a diet high in flaxseed and the eggs have twelve times more omega 3 than standard eggs. Omega 3 has so many vital roles to play in the body, for good cell communication and hormone balance amongst others. Omega 3 rich eggs are of course more expensive because as we know the food industry always seem to up the price of any food that is good for us. 

So what is all of this new information about eggs telling us? It appears that it does not matter how  many eggs you eat a day. In fact it appears that eggs eaten very regularly are very beneficial not only to the purse strings but nutritionally.

One word of caution  if your white blood cells (infection fighters) are low
If you are neutropenic make sure that any eggs you eat are well cooked and that you avoid any foods with raw eggs, like mayonnaise or mousse.

Finally an eggy fact  ….
Just out of interest did you know that if you want a hard boiled ostrich egg it would take 2 hours boiling!! And it is roughly the equivalent of 24 hens’ eggs.

Blog originally written by Caroline August 2014 - checked April 2020

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