After the avian flu outbreak among chickens in South Africa, citizens have been concerned about the safety of consuming eggs. However, Dr Abongile Balarane, CEO of the Egg Organisation at the South African Poultry Association, has assured the public that eggs are safe to eat.
In fact, research from around the world, including India, Ecuador, and Ethiopia, highlights that eggs are an essential and affordable source of nutrition that supports children’s health and growth. With nearly 150 million children worldwide experiencing stunted growth, including 27% of South African children, the need for accessible and nutritious food options is essential.
Stunting, caused by factors such as poor breast-feeding practices and nutrient-deficient solid foods, has long-lasting consequences. These include cognitive and educational impairments, reduced productivity, decreased job potential, and an increased risk of chronic diseases.
Therefore, it’s crucial to prioritise reducing stunting through targeted efforts that facilitate access to nutritious and affordable foods, such as eggs.
Eggs can play a helpful role in reducing the risk of stunting, research shows. According to research studies published in the scientific journal “Pediatrics in Ecuador”, babies between 6 and 9 months who ate one egg a day had a 47% lower risk of stunting and a 74% lower risk of being underweight.
In Ethiopia, in families who were given two egg-laying hens, over the six-month study period, the egg-eating children of these families were 42% less likely to be stunted and 54% less likely to be underweight. And in India, low consumption of eggs is linked to double the increase in the risk of stunting.
The South African study looked at the potential of the egg as a complementary food in improving nutrient intake and diversifying diet, especially in low- and middle-income countries, and found resoundingly in its favour.
The power of the egg lies in the high-quality protein it contains. Protein provides the building blocks for muscle, growth, and a healthy immune system for growing (and busy) little bodies. Eggs also provide essential fatty acids and the vitamins and minerals (like choline), needed for early growth and development.
So much so that it is recommended that young children eat an egg a day, especially in countries where poverty is a big reason for malnutrition (and the consequent stunting). Eggs are not just helpful for growth but are cost-effective too. This is important in lower-income countries where food (relative to a family’s income) is costly, and cold storage facilities like fridges are a luxury.
Rich in vitamins and minerals: Eggs are a great source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B12, iron, and zinc. These nutrients are essential for maintaining good health and preventing chronic diseases.
Boost brain health: Eggs are rich in choline, a nutrient that is important for brain health and development. Choline is essential for the production of neurotransmitters that are responsible for regulating mood, memory, and other brain functions.
Promote weight loss: Eggs are a low-calorie food that is high in protein and healthy fats. Eating eggs for breakfast can help you feel full for longer, reducing your overall calorie intake and promoting weight loss.
Improve eye health: Eggs are a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants that are essential for maintaining good eye health. These nutrients can help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
It is concerning that egg intake in African children is less than half that of other regions and less than three times that of Latin America.
So, whether you like your eggs scrambled, boiled, or fried, there are endless ways to enjoy this nutritious food and reap its many benefits. This is the perfect excuse to make some eggs for the kids to eat before going on the school run.