The humble egg is the most complete form of protein there is, so complete that a ‘protein sources’ protein quality was compared to that of the egg. The egg contains every essential amino acid, this makes it a ‘complete protein source’ that delivers every building block needed for muscle growth and replenishment. A protein source that provides every essential amino acid is important because unlike non- essential amino acids, essential amino acids cannot be made in the body from other amino acids. Consequently, if we fail to get essential amino acids in via the diet, we will eventually run out and become seriously malnourished.
The egg has become the benchmark, and despite dairy derived whey protein being the bodies preferred protein source, the egg is still where it’s at when it comes to protein completeness.
Taking something great, and making it better
There is a saying… ‘don’t lose the good in the seeking of perfection’, and although this holds true in various walks of life, when it comes to the egg, researchers believe that they may well have managed it. New research from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) have found that co- consuming cooked whole eggs with vegetables significantly increases carotenoid absorption. So with vegetables being a grossly under- consumed food in the UK, this finding could go some way to maximising the value we extract from the small amount of veg we eat as a nation. If we can encourage the nation to consume a combination of egg and even just a small increase in veg, then we are on to something that could significantly improve the nutritional adequacy of our diets.
Why is this important?
Malnutrition is a major problem in the world, it is no secret how devastatingly bad malnutrition is in third world countries such as Africa. Malnutrition in the developed world is drastically overlooked however, meaning any method of improving the nutritional adequacy of our diets is crucial. Campaigns such as 5- a- day (and more recently 7- a- day) have successfully raised awareness of the importance of fruit and veg, but has done comparatively little to increase the total amount of fruit and veg we consume as a nation. Therefore any dietary intervention that increases the amount of nutrition we absorb, without necessarily having to drastically increase the amount of the stuff we consume… is great!
Increasing the levels of carotenoids we get through our diet is important considering they offer a plethora of health benefits including antioxidant properties, improving our immune response, cancer fighting properties and eye health. Beta- carotene is one of the main carotenoids (there are dozens including but not limited to alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin), and people with high plasma levels of this carotenoid came with a lower risk of certain cancers, including lung cancer.
What the study found
There were 3 groups of people in this study, one group who consumed no egg with a veg salad, one who consumed 1.5 whole scrambled eggs with the salad, and another group who consumed 3 whole scrambled eggs with their salad. Researchers report a 7-9 fold improvement in carotenoid absorption in the group consuming 3 eggs…this is a highly significant improvement! It should be noted that lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in egg yolk, but somehow the addition of egg improves the overall availability and absorption of the carotenoids in the veg.
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). "Consuming eggs with raw vegetables increases nutritive value." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 March 2015. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150329141005.htm
Science Daily, (2015). Consuming eggs with raw vegetables increases nutritive value. Retrieved 30th March, 2015, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150329141005.htm