Eggs: the ultimate nutrition all-rounder
When it comes to eating eggs, you shouldn’t be chicken. Not only are they a tasty addition to any brunch or lunch and an essential ingredient in cakes and quiches, eggs also contain an impressive shell-ection of vitamins and other nutrients that your body needs.
There’s no need to avoid the yolk, either. Despite the fact that some studies still claim the cholesterol found in egg yolks can cause health problems, many more assure us that this humble kitchen staple is actually really good for you. So, to get the maximum nutritional value out of your morning scramble, Accredited Practising Dietitian Sharon Natoli recommends that whole eggs should be your go-to.
“Eggs include vitamins A, B2, B5, B12, D and E along with minerals such as iron, selenium and iodine and other important nutrients including choline and protein,” Natoli explains. “These nutrients, among others, are spread out in the yolk and the white, so to make sure you get all the goodness, enjoy the whole egg.
“While egg whites contain most of the protein and B2, vitamins A, B12, D, E and choline are found only in the yolk. This bundle of nutrients helps to maintain healthy skin and supports the immune system, bone and muscle function, metabolism and heart health.”
So go ahead and enjoy your eggs like you would any other food – in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. Below we’ve cracked open the facts on the nutrients you’ll find inside.
When buying eggs, make sure you choose wisely and go for cage-free. Or for the freshest eggs you’ve ever tasted, why not consider getting your own backyard chickens? Our first Eativity chicken started laying recently, and we couldn’t be more egg-cited about it.
From A to Z in a single egg
Here’s a quick round-up of the many important vitamins and other key nutrients that you’ll find in this inexpensive and indispensable kitchen classic.
Egg yolks contain vitamin A, which is needed for maintaining healthy skin, a functioning immune system and eye health. A deficiency in vitamin A can cause hair loss, skin problems, dry eyes and an increased risk of infections.
Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, is important for growth, energy metabolism, red blood cell development, vision and the healthy functioning of the nervous system. It’s also an antioxidant that the human body is unable to store, which means you need to eat foods containing B2 to get the recommended daily intake.
Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
Pantothenic acid is found in egg yolks. Commonly called vitamin B5, this plays a role in converting food into energy and breaking down fat. It also helps in the production of vitamin D. Although it’s uncommon, a deficiency in vitamin B5 can cause symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, numbness and muscle cramps.
Found in the yolk, vitamin B12 is essential in the formation of red blood cells, converting food into energy and maintaining the healthy function of the immune and nervous systems. The body can’t make B12 on its own, which means you need to eat foods that contain it.
Egg yolks contain a high amount of choline – a little-known yet important nutrient that plays a role in liver and nerve function, as well as brain development and function. Choline is essential in prenatal health for both mother and baby, as well as all stages through adulthood. The human body can produce choline but not in the amounts needed daily by the body. Ninety percent of Australians don’t meet the adequate intake level of choline, which can be easily corrected by including eggs regularly in your daily diet.
Eggs are one of the very few foods that naturally contain vitamin D (fatty fish is another good source). This vitamin, found in the yolk, plays an important role in calcium and phosphorus absorption, making it essential for the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. It also contributes to healthy muscle function and immune system maintenance.
Also found in the yolk, vitamin E has beneficial antioxidant properties that play a role in maintaining good health. It may be important for heart health, with studies linking it to lower rates of heart disease. Studies have also found links between vitamin E and immune function, a reduction in age-related eye disorders and slowing cognitive decline.
Found mostly in the yolk, folate is an important nutrient that contributes to healthy red blood cell formation. It’s especially important for pregnant women, as it helps to produce and maintain new cells and protect against serious birth defects, such as spina bifida.
Also found mostly in the yolk, this essential mineral is needed for your thyroid to produce hormones that regulate your body’s metabolic rate, as well as assisting with cognitive function and brain development and maintaining healthy skin.
Iron is found mostly in the yolk, and is an important mineral that produces haemoglobin, which carries oxygen to tissues in your body. Iron is also essential in helping muscles store and use oxygen. Despite its importance, an estimated one in eight Australians is iron deficient, and it’s one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world.
Found in much higher levels in the yolk than in the white, phosphorus is essential for the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth, as well as cell membranes. It also contributes to energy metabolism and muscle growth. Low levels of phosphorus can result in a loss of appetite or bone pain.
Although only required in trace amounts compared to other vitamins and minerals, selenium is an important antioxidant that helps prevent free radical damage to cells in the body. Selenium, which is found in both the white and the yolk, supports the immune system, thyroid gland function and the maintenance of healthy hair and nails.
Zinc & zeaxanthin
Egg yolks contain the antioxidant zeaxanthin which, along with lutein, is vital for eye health, helping to protect the retina from damaging blue light. As a neat package deal, eggs also contain zinc, which can help your body to use the lutein and zeaxanthin. Zinc also helps vitamin A to produce melanin, which protects your eyes.
For more on eggs, including cooking tips and tricks, info about egg nutrition and egg farming, and recipes for all times of the day, head to australianeggs.org.au