Veggie diets get to work on an egg (or two)

New studies reveal health and nutrition benefits from adding two daily eggs to plant-based diets

Plant-based diets work better for health and are more nutritious when supplemented with two daily eggs. That’s according to scientists from the University of Connecticut and Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center who conducted two separate studies on the topic.

Plant-based diets are increasingly popular in the UK, with a YouGov survey  showing that almost 1/3 of Brits, particularly women, younger people and urban dwellers, are shunning meat and adopting flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan diets. 

However, nutritionists agree that extra effort has to be made when cutting meat, fish or dairy products out of the diet to make sure we’re getting all the nutrients we need. Key dietary gaps include vitamin B12, iodine, selenium, zinc and vitamin D – all found in eggs.

The new randomised controlled trials compared fully plant-based diets with the same diets plus two daily eggs. In the first study, published in the Journal of the American Nutrition Association , 35 adults followed the different diets for 6 weeks each. In the middle, they went back to their usual diets for a 4-week washout period. 

The results found that overall nutrition quality declined when people switched from their usual diets to a plant-based diet. However, nutrition quality was restored when two eggs were added into the plant-based diet each day, particularly for protein quality and healthy fats.

The second study, published in the journal, Nutrients , got 24 adults with metabolic syndrome (raised cholesterol and blood pressure) to follow a plant-based diet plus egg substitute for 4 weeks before swapping over to the same diet plus two eggs a day. Again, there was a washout of 3 weeks between the different diets to keep their effects separate. The scientists found that the egg-containing diet significantly lowered body weight and boosted so-called ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.

Commenting on the study, dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton said: “As more people switch to plant-based diets, it’s vital to remain alert to the nutrients missed by taking meat out of the diet.

“Eggs have one of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions of all animal foods – even lower than rice or soya milk  – and are a simple way to add those nutrients back while still enjoying a meat-free diet. Eggs are rich in high quality proteins, B vitamins for energy, and selenium and vitamin D for immune function, making them a powerhouse of health-giving nutrients”.