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Eggs

Eggs are a nutritious concentrated source of good quality protein with a wide range of vitamins and minerals. BLT with an egg photoEggs are great value, easy to cook and a very versatile ingredient for both savoury and sweet dishes. They provide meals in minutes either on their own (boiled, poached, scrambled) or added to other ingredients (quiche, pancakes, omelette.

Remember, dietary guidelines do not apply to a single meal, recipe or food, but to your diet over a period of days or even a week.

Cholesterol : Clearing up the confusion

Today, thanks to years of research, we know more than ever about the relationship between diet, lifestyle and good health. It is becoming clear that old perceptions of some dietary issues are inaccurate. For example, research has shown that saturated fat in the diet and not cholesterol in foods has the most influence on blood cholesterol levels¹.

For most healthy people saturated fat intake is a more important factor than dietary cholesterol. Although eggs do contain some saturated fat more than half of the fat found in eggs is either monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Reduce your total intake of fat and eat a balance of the different types of fat.

Two forms of cholesterol exist in your body:

HDL

  • High-Density Lipoprotein good cholesterol.
  • Picks up excess cholesterol from the walls of blood vessels and eliminates it from the body.
  • Regular exercise can help maintain a high level of this good cholesterol.

LDL

  • Low-Density Lipoprotein bad cholesterol.
  • Carries cholesterol around the body and can deposit it in the walls of the blood vessels.
  • Eating foods high in saturated fat and being overweight can lead to an increased level of this bad cholesterol.

Nutrition guidelines recommend that a healthy individual can have up to seven eggs a week² and those on a cholesterol lowering diet can have four to six eggs a week³.

Fats

The fats found in food fall into three main groups.

Each has a different effect on your cholesterol level.

Fat Types: Where they come from, what they do

Saturated Fat

  • Found mainly in butter, cream, lard, meat fat, chicken skin, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, crisps and deep-fried foods.

    Saturated fats increase cholesterol levels.

Polyunsaturated Fats - PUFA

  • Found mainly in vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, corn and soya bean. Brazil nuts, walnuts and oily fish are also rich sources of this type of fat.

    PUFA in small amounts can help lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Monounsaturated Fats - MUFA

  • Found mainly in olive, peanut and rapeseed oils as well as avocados, olives, almonds, hazelnuts and peanuts.

    When substituted for saturated fat, MUFA in moderate amounts can help lower cholesterol levels and maintain the HDL cholesterol levels.

Protein

An adequate protein intake is vital for the day to day working of the body. Eggs are an excellent source of protein. A standard portion of eggs (two eggs) provides nearly one third of the daily protein required by an average woman and almost one quarter of an average man's requirement.

Vitamins

Eggs contain substantial amounts of vitamins A, B, D and E.

Vitamin

Function

Vitamin A

Maintains healthy immune system, skin and eyes.

Vitamin B2

Involved in energy production.

Vitamin B 12

Involved in cell replication, and healthy blood and nerves.

Vitamin D

Important for the development and maintenance of healthy bones.

Vitamin E

Acts as a powerful antioxidant - keeps cell membranes healthy.

Minerals

Eggs are a good source of the following minerals:

Mineral

Function

Iron

Transport of oxygen around body. Also important for normal growth and development and good immune function.

Phosphorous

Important for energy metabolism and healthy bones.

Zinc

Involved in over 200 roles in the body including wound healing, healthy hair and skin.

Selenium

An important antioxidant.

References:

1. Howell et al 1997, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 65(6): 1747-64.

2. Guide to Daily Healthy Food Choices, The Health Promotion Unit, Department of Health and Children, 2001.

3. Graham et al 1992, Irish Heart Foundation Nutrition Policy. Irish Medical Journal vol 84 no 4.