While many eaters are mindful to limit their overall egg consumption for fear of ramping up their cholesterol count, a new study has found that pairing salads with eggs can markedly improve the absorption of nutrients contained in raw vegetables.
Researchers at Purdue University in the US conducted a study that saw 16 participants consume the same mixed-vegetable salad in three different variations: with no eggs, with a 75-gram serving of eggs (1.5 eggs), or with 150 grams of eggs (three eggs).
Once the participants' blood was analysed after the meals, the results indicated that carotenoid absorption was significantly higher - by a factor of three to eight times - for the salad with three eggs than when compared to the egg-free serving.
Carotenoids are fat-soluble nutrients, contained in a variety of fruits and vegetables, and are believed to provide a range of health benefits including reducing inflammation, oxidative stress, and the risk of disease.
"Eating a salad with a variety of colourful vegetables provides several unique types of carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene," one of the team and professor of nutrition science, Wayne Campbell, said in a press release. "The lipid contained in whole eggs enhances the absorption of all these carotenoids."
And don't skimp on the egg yolk either, folks. The research, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, indicates that you won't get all the benefits of the carotenoid absorption if you limit yourself to just egg whites. (In testing, the researchers used scrambled eggs to ensure the participants consumed the whole egg.)
"While other egg forms were not tested, we believe the results would be comparable as long as the egg yolk is consumed," said Campbell.
In addition to eggs, other forms of lipids can also help with carotenoid uptake. One of the simplest ways to do this with a salad is to use a salad dressing that contains healthy fats, but the researchers warn not go overboard with energy-dense toppings.
"The lipids in salad dressings also increase the absorption of carotenoids but it is easy to overuse salad dressings and consume excess calories. Many salad dressings contain about 140-160 calories per serving, about two tablespoons," says Campbell. "One large whole egg is about 70 calories and provides 6 grams of protein. People are at a greater risk of putting too many calories on a salad because they don't always know proper portion sizes for salad dressings, but you do know the portion size of an egg."