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Getting the most out of our vegetables

Covers of magazines are always promising to make healthy living easier, promising you can “Lose 5 pounds with this one easy trick!” Most of these promises are simply far-fetched.

However, it turns out some healthier eating tricks can actually be that easy: researchers at Purdue University have discovered that simply adding eggs to colourful salads increases the amount of nutrients your body absorbs.

Vegetables are filled with nutrients like carotenoids (which includes lutein and beta-carotene) and Vitamin E. Nutrients like these have significant health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. So it’s important to make sure we get enough of them.

So how can we get the most out of the vegetables we eat? Previous studies have shown that these nutrients are better absorbed when eaten with dietary fats.1 And eggs, which naturally contain fats, could thus play an important role in increasing nutrient absorption. To explore this idea, the researchers at Purdue undertook several studies.

In the first study, they looked at the role eggs can play in helping the body absorb carotenoids.2 Over several weeks, 16 young men participated in a randomized trial in which they were given one of three raw vegetable salads to eat: one with just vegetables, one with 1.5 whole scrambled eggs, or one with three whole scrambled eggs. The researchers then collected blood samples to monitor carotenoid absorption following each of the meals.

After analysing the results, the researchers found that the young men who ate the raw vegetable salad with three whole eggs had increased carotenoid absorption by 3- to 9-fold, compared to the salad consumed without any eggs.

In the second study, the researchers looked at Vitamin E absorption. Following a similar study model, they found the same results: eating eggs with raw vegetables increased Vitamin E absorption by 4- to 7-fold.3

As Wayne Campbell, a lead researcher on the projects, pointed out getting enough of these nutrients is important—and eggs are here to help. “Vitamin E is the second-most under-consumed nutrient in the average American diet, which is problematic because this fat-soluble nutrient has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Now consumers can easily improve their diets by adding eggs to a salad that boasts a variety of colorful vegetables.”4

In this case, science shows that we can, in fact, get more out of our vegetables with this one easy trick. Adding eggs to a colourful salad not only increases carotenoid absorption, meaning we get more of the important nutrients like lutein and beta-carotene, it also increases the amount of Vitamin E our bodies absorb. And that’s healthy living at its best.

Read more about the carotenoid study in our research summary, and discover more about the science behind the egg.

1 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
2 Egg Farmers of Canada
3 Journal of Nutrition
4 Purdue University