Humans have been eating eggs for thousands of years. They’re widely thought of as a good thing, but there are some conflicting opinions out there; many people believe eggs to be cholesterol-packed, and therefore a food to be avoided.
One large egg contains 80-90 calories – something people tend to focus on a lot when it comes to their food – but the important thing to understand is what these calories are made up of.
Nutrients in eggs
First and foremost, eggs are a meatless source of complete proteins. Complete proteins contain essential amino acids that your body cannot produce itself, and which must come from the diet. This makes eggs a great food choice for vegetarians, who may otherwise struggle to get these essential amino acids with meat and fish cut from their diet.
Fat, both saturated and unsaturated, is another macronutrient found in eggs. Luckily, most of that fat is of the unsaturated, heart-healthy variety that your body needs for keeping cell membranes healthy, protecting internal organs, and helping with absorbing fat-soluble vitamins.
And all this is before we even touch upon the micronutrients… Eating just two large eggs will provide your daily reference intake of vitamin B12, which is essential for keeping your metabolic and nervous systems healthy, among other things. Eggs are a great source of vitamin D, too, which the body needs for absorbing calcium, and keeping bones healthy. They are also one of the few foods that contain iodine, a mineral that’s essential for keeping your thyroid glands, which produce the hormones that control your metabolism, functioning properly.
It is true that eggs contain small amounts of cholesterol. However, unless you have high cholesterol levels and have been advised by a doctor to cut down or cut out your intake, there’s no reason to avoid eggs, because all the good stuff makes up for that extra little bit of cholesterol.
How many eggs should I eat?
The number of eggs you can eat every day depends entirely on what else you’re eating. As long as your diet is varied, including eggs on a daily basis isn’t a problem, and is, in fact, a good way of keeping up protein intake without the saturated fat content that’s present in most meats. If eggs are replacing meat in main meals, a good rule to stick to is no more than two eggs a day.
Trading a steak for a couple of eggs provides benefits to your health, the welfare of animals, and the environment. Many of us consume more meat than is necessary or healthy, and incorporating at least one meat-free day into each week is something everybody should aim for.
One of the most important things to remember when buying eggs is to buy the best you can afford. The chickens laying the eggs will have lived happier lives with healthier diets, which will, in turn, make the eggs you eat more nutritious. Higher-welfare indoor-bred chickens, free-range, or organic are the ones to look out for.
How to eat eggs and be healthy
When it comes to the best ways to eat eggs, it’s generally accepted that poaching is good and frying is bad. However, both can have a place within a healthy diet.
Poaching – simply dropping food into boiling water to cook – is one of the most beautiful ways to prepare eggs, and when done correctly yields a perfect yolk and delicate but firm white. It can be slightly tricky to retain the perfect shape when poaching (tip: the freshness of the eggs is what makes the biggest difference here), but Jamie’s clever twist solves this problem: he uses clingfilm and a little olive oil to create individual egg-parcels, which are then dropped into the water to bob around while they cook. On top of this, Jamie’s method means you can play around with exciting additional flavours such as chilli, fresh herbs, or soy – simply scatter what you fancy into the clingfilm before parcelling them up for a delicious and unusual poached egg. See how to make your own Jamie-style poached egg pockets below.
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Frying, the much-loved method commonly used for the classic full English breakfast, is often frowned upon for its high levels of saturated fat. However, Jamie’s version is made healthier by simply using a lid on top of the frying pan, which then utilises steam as well as direct heat to cook the egg. This not only means that the egg cooks more quickly, but also that it doesn’t need nearly as much oil – win win!
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For more ideas on the best and healthiest ways to cook eggs, have a look through our collection of healthy egg recipes, or read our in-house expert has to say about eggs and animal welfare.