For decades, eggs were considered to be bad for our health. Eggs were allegedly supposed to increase our blood cholesterol levels, resulting in an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. In recent years, this view has changed radically due to numerous studies which have demonstrated exactly the opposite: eggs contain cardio-protective properties, are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and even act as nerve protectors.
Eggs are considered to be an excellent source of animal protein and are considered comparable to human milk. They are rich in:
■ Vitamins (one being vitamin D, responsible for depositing calcium in the bones)
■ Minerals (iron and zinc, important to the immune system)
■ Protein (albumin is related to muscle mass, cell regeneration and maintaining immunity)
■ Antioxidants (vitamin E, choline, biotin and carotenoids) which besides being responsible for the colour of the yolk, also act as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agents
Choline plays a very important role in the transmission of nerve impulses and memory. It is essential for mothers-to-be to consume eggs during pregnancy. Eggs are essential for the development of the nervous system of the foetus and are also responsible for the formation of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that controls memory.
Choline deficiency is related to inflammatory processes, responsible for cardiovascular disease. Eating two eggs a day provides 50% of the nutritional needs of an adult woman.
The idea that eggs are responsible for the increase in blood cholesterol levels has been proven to be incorrect; eggs are not responsible for high cholesterol levels in healthy individuals. There are, however, some rare exceptions (diabetes, high LDL).
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, “the consumption of up to one egg per day had no impact on the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases in both men and women (non-diabetic)”.
For this reason, the American Heart Association amended its recommendations on the consumption of eggs: “There is no longer a specific recommendation as to the amount of egg yolks a person can consume per week.”
We now know that egg yolks contain lecithins which prevent the metabolic increase of cholesterol in the human body. High cholesterol levels in the blood are mainly due to the consumption of saturated fats, contained in red meat, sausages, smoked meat, butter and full cream milk. We also know that if we combine the consumption of eggs with fruit and vegetables there is a decrease in the absorption of cholesterol through the intestines.
There are those who like to eat raw eggs. To avoid the risk of contracting Salmonella, various precautions must be taken. This infection is caused by Salmonella bacteria. This bacteria is transmitted through human or animal faeces to other humans or animals, from eating food contaminated with animal faeces. Most people when infected with Salmonella develop diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal pain, fever and shivers.
The main protection against Salmonella is to prevent the bacteria from multiplying:
■ egg packages should not be reused as they might have been contaminated with Salmonella which will then be passed onto other food
■ only use eggs when the eggshell is clean and without cracks
■ bacteria is destroyed when eggs are cooked at a temperature of 60°C for 15 to 20 minutes
■ after handling eggs or food containing traces of egg, hands should be washed and all utensils, kitchen appliances, work surfaces should be washed with hot water and detergent
Eggs are delicious, practical and healthy. There are numerous recipes for cooking eggs: fried, scrambled and boiled or in an omelette. Depending on how you cook them or what you add to them, they taste differently every time.
Eat eggs for the sake of your good health!
By Ana Rita Horta
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Ana Rita Horta is a Dietitian at the Hospital Particular do Algarve