Monday, 15 April 2013

Ignore the finger-waggers. You SHOULD go to work on an egg!


PUBLISHED: 23:43, 11 April 2013   UPDATED: 07:35, 12 April 2013

Another week, another humiliating blow for the healthy eating lobby. Yet again, their advice on nutrition, delivered in those familiar authoritative, disapproving tones, has proved to be completely misleading.

For years, these self-styled experts have warned us against eating too many eggs. Despite the fact our ancestors happily consumed this natural food for centuries, not so long ago the finger-wagging professionals suddenly decided that they were public enemy number one.

Eggs promoted heart attacks, clogged arteries, caused high blood pressure and weight gain, they declared, adding that we should eat a maximum of no more than two or three a week.

Now, though, it turns out that their advice is not only false, but even counter-productive. Just as these experts have been shown to be wrong about the dangers of red meat, cheese, milk and butter, so they have been hopelessly wrong about eggs.

Contrary to their grim admonitions, this week, scientists have declared that eggs are, in fact, a health food, packed with nutrients and proteins. The more eggs we eat, the healthier we should feel.

This new research has comprehensively demolished the claims that eggs are bad for the heart and the circulatory system. Just the opposite is true. Scientists at the Jilin University in China have found that one of the key components of egg whites can be just as powerful as specialised medication in reducing blood pressure.

This component is a peptide — one of the building blocks of protein — which appears to have the ability to inhibit the action of substances in the body that raise blood pressure.

‘Our research suggests that there may be another reason to call it the incredible, edible egg,’ said Dr Zhipeng Yu, the scientist in charge of this project.

His findings back up a recent study from the University of Alberta in Canada, which revealed that proteins in eggs can prevent the narrowing of blood vessels in the body, while researchers at the University of Missouri discovered that eggs are the best way to control appetite.

The health promotion lobby has long maintained that eggs are dangerous because they contain cholesterol, and high levels of cholesterol in the blood are supposed to be damaging to the heart.

But this argument now seems as dodgy as the rest of the theories they have inflicted on us.

For cholesterol, far from being a threatening substance, is an enriching natural product, vital for the healthy functioning of our bodies. Cholesterol is essential for making hormones, building cell membranes and digesting fats; that is why it is found in large amounts in mothers’ breast milk.

If cholesterol was really bad for us, then why would nature have made it an integral part of our biological composition in the first place?

This question goes to the heart of what is so wrong with the health promotion brigade. The frankly unscientific campaign against eggs reflects the wider propaganda effort that constantly pumps out misleading information about what we should eat.

So we have been led to believe that we should cut down on meat and dairy produce at the same time as increasing our intake of carbohydrates. On the NHS’s ‘Eatwell Plate’ — a plate which shows the proportions of food groups we should have and is a key tool of the food lobbyists’ campaigning — by far the largest portion is given over to ‘bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods’.

Meanwhile, the portion on the Eatwell Plate given to ‘meat, fish, eggs and beans’ is less than half this size. Just as disturbingly, the Eatwell campaign also urges us to buy low-fat products, like skimmed milk, rather than more natural, full-fat ones.

Such advice could hardly be more wrong-headed. It is no wonder we are facing an obesity epidemic in this country. In their demonisation of meat and dairy products, along with their enthusiasm for carbohydrates and so-called ‘low-fat’ items, health campaigners are actually encouraging us to consume far more processed, unhealthy, high-sugar foods, with the disastrous consequences visible all around us.

Healthy eating is not complicated. The basic message is that natural foods, including free-range eggs, full-fat milk and organic meat, are good for us.

In contrast, foods that have been through the industrialised, high-tech, factory-farmed process have had all the goodness taken out, with their nourishing ingredients replaced by chemicals.

But, of course, this message not does suit big producers and retailers, who make their money from processing. Driven by this vested financial interest, they pretend that natural foods are full of dangerous timebombs, like heart-threatening fats and cholesterol, which they will defuse for us. So we end up in the absurd position where we are encouraged to eat more refined bread, which has few real health benefits, and to ditch eggs, which are perhaps the most nutritious of all foods.

Even more than meat, eggs are packed with the amino acids, minerals and high-quality proteins that are essential to our bodies’ continual process of regeneration. It is no exaggeration to say that every egg is an Aladdin’s cave of nutrients.

Indeed, except for Vitamin C, they contain every single vitamin that we need. They are especially useful as a source of Vitamin D, of which British people are often deficient because of the lack of sunshine in our climate.

Vitamin D can be consumed through oily fish such as herrings and sardines, but many people are not keen on such pungent dishes, so eggs are an attractive alternative.

Moreover, eggs also contain several vital antioxidants, which are essential for the prevention of disease, as well as the important nutrient choline, which helps with the development of the brain.

One of the many fallacies of the health promotion lobby is that the yolk is particularly unhealthy, a dogma that gave rise to the fashion for eating only egg whites.

The egg-white omelette, for instance, became a faddish statement of healthy eating in Hollywood circles. But it is just more nonsense. The yolk is the best part of the egg, not only delicious but full of all the right, health-giving ingredients.

In truth, there is no food that can match the egg in its nourishment, value and variety of uses. It is tremendously cheap. A box of half-a-dozen free-range eggs usually costs less than £2, much less than a sugar-packed, microwavable ready meal.

The purveyors of junk fast foods like to proclaim that they are providing convenience in our busy lives, but there has never been a better instant meal than a couple of eggs.

Indeed, the variety of dishes with eggs at their centre is almost infinite, from the sophistication of Eggs Benedict to that great Caledonian favourite of my homeland, the Scotch egg, which is a far healthier snack than any bag of crisps.

The only thing you need to worry about when buying your eggs is that they are free-range. Just as meat from organic and grass-fed livestock is far better than the produce of factory-farmed animals, so eggs from caged battery hens are nothing like free-range eggs.

If only the health lobby was not so blinded by dogma and commercial influences, they would recognise that eggs could be a vital weapon in the fight against obesity.

As I know from my own experience, an egg at breakfast wards off hunger pains right through until lunchtime, something that is never achieved by a couple of slices of toast or a bowl of muesli.

Any food agency that really cared about the nation’s health would be embracing egg consumption rather than frowning upon it. For, as we all knew before the arrival of the lobbyists and their commercial allies, we should all be going to work on an egg.

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