“Go to work on an egg” was a popular and very successful advertising slogan for the UK’s Egg Marketing Board in the 1950s and ’60s.
Its simple message was that having an egg for breakfast would set you up for the working day ahead, providing the natural goodness you needed to ‘crack on’. But in the decades that followed, egg consumption dipped dramatically.
A much bigger range of exciting new breakfast cereals became available in the 1970s and ’80s, many of them aggressively marketed at children. Health scares over salmonella, high cholesterol levels and potential allergies also significantly damaged egg consumption, despite being later debunked as wildly exaggerated.
But now eggs are making a comeback, with UK consumption up by 2% last year alone to around 12.6 billion eggs eaten in the UK in 2016. That works out at 34.5 million per day, or about 193 eggs per person over the year. Of course that includes eggs used in cooking, with the resurgence in the popularity of home baking certainly having an impact.
But there is also growing evidence to support what the older generation, who were largely raised on natural produce, has known all along – that eggs are good for you!
Most recently, a six-month study in South America found that eating an egg a day had a marked difference on the growth and development of undernourished children. It didn’t matter how the eggs were prepared, they still gave infants a boost and in a cheap, natural, widely accessible and drug-free way.
The first two years of life are critical for establishing growth and development in later life, and ‘stunting’ due to poor nutrition in those critical first years is extremely difficult to reverse. According to the World Health Organisation, there are 155 million children under the age of five whose growth is stunted, mainly in poorer countries. But even in those places, eggs are cheap and accessible and could help prevent stunting if given to infants on a daily basis.
The study in Ecuador found that the children who were fed an egg a day for six months were 47% less likely to be stunted in growth compared to those children who only ate eggs occasionally. Lead researcher Lora Ianotti: “We were surprised by just how effective this intervention proved to be, and what’s great is that it’s very affordable and accessible for populations that are especially vulnerable to hidden hunger or nutritional deficiency.”
Here in the UK, the NHS also advises that eggs are good for you, subject to some provisos. The NHS Choices website says: “Eggs are a good choice as part of a healthy, balanced diet. As well as being a source of protein, they also contain vitamins and minerals. They can be part of a healthy meal that's quick and easy to make.”
But it also advises that there is a risk of food poisoning from eggs, so it’s important to buy them from a reputable supplier and then store, handle and cook them properly. There is no recommended limit on how many eggs people should eat and previous concerns linking eggs to high cholesterol have been dismissed. Limiting saturated fat in our diet is far more beneficial in reducing cholesterol levels.
Providing they are properly stored and cooked, eggs are a great source of protein, vitamins D, A, B2 and B12, and folate and iodine. For more NHS advice on healthy ways to incorporate eggs into your diet, click here.
According to the British Egg Industry Council, the number of Britons eating eggs for breakfast has risen by 18% over the past two years, as families ditch processed and sugar-laden cereals in favour of a more natural and healthier alternative. Scrambling and poaching are the preferred cooking methods and, crucially, it is young people who are leading the charge, driven by a desire to eat more healthily.
It seems a new generation is rediscovering the benefits of going to work on an egg!
• To watch the original 1960s ‘Go to work on an egg’ TV adverts starring comedian Tony Hancock, and for simple ways to cook eggs, click here.