Eggs have had a bad rap in the past, with their reputation of being a delicious, cholesterol-causing, ticking timebomb. But not anymore. The CSIRO's recent research on egg consumption points to eggs being safe to eat on a daily basis, contradicting past theories. And today, on World Egg Day, that's welcome news for those who like to tuck into their eggs for breakfast.
The CSIRO has conducted a range of research on egg consumption, both in clinical trials and in a survey of more than 84,000 Australians, and found that in fact the opposite is true: egg consumption is actually linked to a number of positive health outcomes.
Professor Manny Noakes from the CSIRO says while their diet survey found the Australian diet scored rather poorly on average, those of us who ate the most eggs tended to have the better diet quality overall.
"In other words, those that were eating eggs were having more vegetables and less discretionary or junk food, quite a surprising finding," she explains, suggesting this could in part be due to people generally consuming eggs early in the day.
"There's certainly other research that shows having a good high protein breakfast can help reduce your overall intake over the day and minimise snacking," she says.
Lucy Kippist, who started incorporating eggs into her diet daily about five years ago, has found this to be very much the case. Trying to fall pregnant with her first child, on the advice of a nutritionist she swapped her breakfast of porridge and muesli for two boiled eggs and a piece of toast with mushrooms, spinach or tomatoes and says the difference was immediately noticeable.
"I was amazed from about the first week how much better I felt. I was fuller and satisfied for longer and my energy levels and digestion were more even," says Lucy, now at the end of her second pregnancy and still consuming eggs daily. "Another amazing thing about eggs is I find starting my day like this leads to much better choices throughout the day. I generally crave less sugar – and that's something for a sweet tooth!"
It's unsurprising that regularly egg consumers – and Professor Noakes says we are on the rise - are quick to highlight their health and wellbeing benefits.
Not only are eggs a relatively low-kilojoule protein source, with two eggs equivalent to one serve of protein - eggs also provide eleven vitamins and minerals, plus other components essential for good health.
"The vitamins and minerals include iron and B12 but also nutrients like long chain omega 3s, exactly like you'd find in fish, and folic acid, the same vitamin you find in green leafy vegetables," says Professor Noakes, "while carotenoids, the pigments in eggs responsible for their yellow colour, are related to eye health."
Noakes says the yolks of eggs are especially nutrient dense, all the more reason the '90s trend of eating only egg whites needs to be banished for good.
"There are more healthy fats in the yolk, and that was the peak of the anti-fat hysteria but now we know low fat isn't everything," she says. "It's such a waste from a nutritional perspective to discard the yolk."
Evil egg yolks aren't the only negative myths eggs have had to fight against, but past assertions that eggs cause cholesterol or can be related to heart disease have now also been fully debunked.
"More modern and comprehensive studies show conclusively there's no relationship between egg consumption and cardiovascular mortality," says Noakes. Meanwhile, the more sophisticated ways we now measure plasma cholesterol have made the clear distinction between good and bad cholesterol. And what was found in a CSIRO clinical study - where people were fed two eggs daily – is that egg consumption actually increasing the amount of good cholesterol (HDL), without adversely affecting the bad cholesterol (LDL).
Such was the case for egg lover Sean Smith, who had a high reading of around seven for bad cholesterol a few years ago, but got it down to a level of two by changing his diet and increasing exercises, continuing to consume eggs daily throughout.
"It's an extremely good source of natural protein, which I needed for a busy gym regime," he says. "I always buy free range and usually organic."
Eggs are undeniably the perfect complement to an active lifestyle. Jo Lum, an athlete who runs daily, relies on fresh eggs from her parents' own chooks to fuel her intensive workouts.
"I can eat three eggs and then train hard. This morning, I ran 6km of high intensity intervals and still didn't need to eat until lunchtime, other than a post-run coffee and banana," she says. "It's about recovery too – eggs are a great protein for post-workout. I'm not into much supplement taking and like to eat real food."
Interestingly, the one demographic that is seeing less consumption of eggs is one that could most benefit – the elderly.
"Older people eat fewer eggs and there are lots of nutrients in eggs that the diets of older people might be lacking, so we would particularly like to encourage older people to eat more eggs," says Professor Noakes.