The Easter egg is a huge temptation and whilst we know some of you are going to treat yourselves this Easter, don’t forget to include the natural egg in your diet all year round. Eggs pack a nutritional punch and are great for muscle recovery after a workout. They are affordable and best of all tasty!
Bord Bia say eggs are a great source of natural protein and are packed with nutrients such as: B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, selenium, zinc and iodine. Also, they provide vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin which most Irish are lacking.
Eggs contain all nine essential amino acids, including the amino acid leucine which is effective for stimulating muscle building.
Eggs – health insurance for vegetarians
The presence of all the amino acids means eggs are a complete protein and could be important in your diet if you don’t eat meat as while though it is of course possible to get all your amino acids from a plant based diet you need to be careful to eat different foods offering complementary proteins. Lentils and rice eaten together will do this but on their own don’t contain complete amino acids, though some plant foods like quinoa and soya beans do.
Cholesterol – eggs are not the villains
So why on earth did eggs get such a bad press in the past? Well, the yolk is high in cholesterol and too much of this in the bloodstream can accumulate on artery walls raising the risk of heart attacks and strokes. This is why in the past we were advised to limit eggs to a few a week.
However, scientific consensus now is the cholesterol in eggs has little effect on us and rather it’s the higher consumption of trans and saturated fats in the wider diet from foods such as fatty meat and fried foods, confectionary, processed refined foods that affects the heart.
Last year a team of University of Sydney nutrition scientists reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that a 12 eggs a week diet or a low-egg diet (less than two a week) made no difference to cardiovascular risk.
Super post-workout snack
Not that long ago athletes used to eat only the white and leave the yolks because they had concerns about the fat in the yolk. However, now it is known that egg yolks contain healthy fats and other nutrients that boost muscle recovery.
Recent research at the University of Illinois researchers showed how the post-workout muscle-building response in people who ate whole eggs after a weight-training session was 40 per cent greater than in those who ate the same amount of protein from the whites alone. The study also found there is protein in the yolk that seem to enhance the muscles’ ability to use that protein for growth and recovery.
The consultant dietitian Paula Mee, whose excellent new book ‘Mediterranean Mood Food’ is out in April, says that although eggs do contain some saturated fat, approximately two thirds of the fat found in an egg is either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.
“If you’re eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, eggs are not the problem; it’s the umpteen other sources of trans fat and saturated fat that are. Take the Japanese for example: they are among the biggest egg consumers in the world, yet have the lowest rates of Coronary Heart Disease. Their overall diet is lower in saturated fat and higher in polyunsaturated”, she said.
Paula says eggs are good complete proteins, with one egg having 7g of protein and that high protein foods are good choices for athletes and for older adults especially, as aging tends to reduce lean body mass.
“Good news for slimmers, as the average egg contains just 87 calories so for most of us involved in recreational exercise eggs are a good food to include any meal of the day”, she said.
Paulaʻs new book Mediterranean Mood Food contains is available now in all good bookshops and has some great ideas how to cook your eggs. Here is a taster below.
Baked egg with spinach and tomato
- 100g bag spinach
- 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- Lots of black pepper to season
- Heat oven to 200C/180C fan.
- Put the spinach into a colander and pour over a kettle of boiling water to wilt the leaves. Squeeze out excess water and divide between 4 small ovenproof dishes. (You can take a short cut and just let the oven do the wilting).
- Mix the tomatoes, garlic, with the chilli flakes and some seasoning, then add to the dishes with the spinach. Make a small well in the centre of each and crack in an egg. Bake for 15 mins or more depending on how you like your eggs. Serve with crusty whole grain seeded bread and salad, if you like.
Serving suggestions: cube of melted goat’s cheese, drizzle of chilli oil, sprinkle of black olives or handful of capers.
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