Eating eggs this way has extra nutritious benefits. (Photo: Getty Images)
While the egg yolk debate (to eat or not to eat) may continue among doctors, nutritionists and others in the health industry, researchers from Purdue University are giving the whole egg the thumbs up.
In fact, they’ve discovered that eggs consumed with raw vegetables can actually increase the nutritional value of the veggies.
This study, which was presented earlier this month at the American Society for Nutrition’s Annual Meeting, consisted of 16 healthy young men who were instructed to eat three different salads — one with no egg, one with one-and-a-half scrambled whole eggs and another with three scrambled whole eggs. “And what we observed was that there was a progressive increase in the absorption of the carotenoids from the vegetables as you had more eggs, which we attribute to the fat component of the yolk,” lead study author Wayne Campbell, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition science at Purdue University, tells Yahoo Health.
The carotenoids — which are naturally-occurring pigments in plants that the body converts into antioxidants — found in the salad used in this study included beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. The latter two nutrients are found in egg yolk, as well. The salad was made with tomatoes, shredded carrots, baby spinach, romaine lettuce and Chinese wolfberry.
“The key to our salad was that it had a variety of colorful vegetables, and the colorful part is what distinguishes the different types of carotenoids that you get from different foods,” explain Campbell. “There’s no indication from our work that it matters what vegetables you eat, but carotenoid-rich vegetables tend to be those that are more colorful.”
As for serving sizes, he says they used about half- to three-quarters of a pound of mixed veggies. “It was a large salad, but one that you could easily do when at a salad bar,” he says. “From a practical, counseling standpoint, it certainly fits in with the dietary guidelines of making sure you get multiple servings of vegetables each day.”
Also, if you feel a three-egg serving is too big, Campbell says two “should be absolutely fine.” And eggs any way would work — scrambled, hard-boiled, etc. but try not to split up the serving into smaller portions throughout the day (like eating one egg and a small salad for lunch, then the other egg and a small salad for a snack or dinner). “While you can get benefits both ways, what we found is that consuming the salad in one sitting can enhance the nutritional uptake of the nutrients in the salad.”
And must the veggies be raw? “I don’t have science to back up what I presume, but I certainly would not use ‘well, they only have cooked vegetables available’ as an excuse to not consume them,” says Campbell. “I would expect that the comparable benefits could be obtained with cooked or steamed vegetables.”
Another interesting fact — Campbell adds that the egg and veggie combo is not the only way to receive these nutritional benefits. “We’ve also done comparable work which shows that oil-rich salad dressing can do the same thing,” he states. “We think it’s the oils that you’re co-consuming with the salad, and that the carotenoids are absorbed the same way that lipids are in the digestive system.”