It is an understatement of somewhat heroic proportions to say that the Covid pandemic has dramatically altered our lifestyles. Alcohol consumption is a good example, with recent evidence showing that almost eight and a half people in the UK were drinking high-risk amounts of booze in June compared to 4.8 million four months earlier. Some studies also suggest that almost half of us put on weight during lockdown.
But the pandemic has also thrown up some unexpected findings, with one of the most interesting being that the sale of eggs has surged – up almost 30 per cent in April and continuing to remain strong last month.
On top of this, analysis by the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) which provides evidence to the Government on UK diet and nutrition patterns found that women who consumed eggs regularly tended to be slimmer than women who did not, having both a lower body mass index and waist-to height ratio. The same research did not show this in men, and there were no significant differences in blood cholesterol for either sex.
It is not possible to say why our egg consumption should have increased so dramatically in recent months but cooking meals at home from scratch, doing more home baking and trying to follow a healthier lifestyle all play a part here. The public perception of eggs as now being part of a healthy diet has altered dramatically since Edwina Currie was forced to resign in 1988 after she had issued a warning about most British eggs being infected with salmonella.
Ten years later the British Lion scheme was introduced that effectively eradicated this and now over 90 per cent of UK eggs are produced within this scheme. (Eggs with the Lion Quality trademark stamp are marked with a code which shows how the hen that laid it was farmed.) In 2017, the Food Standards Agency announced that such eggs could safely be eaten raw or runny by babies, elderly people and pregnant women, and we now know that the view held by some people that eating eggs increases blood cholesterol levels is untrue. Contrary to many of carb-heavy snacks that would fill our days in the office, eggs are a homespun, high protein way of filling yourself up. The removal of previous ‘safe’ limits of egg consumption have also helped in this regard, and eggs can now be eaten safely as part of a heart-healthy diet.
These findings – just published in the Journal of the National Nutrition Foundation – throw new light on the changing place of eggs in our diet. It shows female egg consumers were not only more likely to have a lower body mass than non-consumers but also tended to eat more fruit, fish and vegetables with a higher level of healthy micro-nutrient intake as well as being less likely to be anaemic.
Health-conscious younger people also appear to be eating more eggs than previously, with changing dietary patterns impacting on their eating preferences. Reducing or avoiding meat consumption is now a consideration for many people and eggs provide high quality protein and many key of the key micronutrients that can be in short supply with some dietary or lifestyle preferences.
As people reduce their red meat intake, egg consumption also offers a substantially lower carbon footprint to other animal proteins with the paper suggesting that simply replacing meat with eggs just once a week is a ‘win-win diet’ with its associated health and environmental benefits. Food for thought indeed.