DM

New Orleans

Adding an egg to your salad can significantly boost the goodness absorbed from the vegetables, according to a study. Researchers said that the amount of carotenoids derived from items such as tomatoes, lettuce and carrot increased by up to nine-fold in those who ate the egg compared to those who didn’t.

Carotenoids are the sources of the red, orange and yellow colours of many fruits and vegetables. They act as powerful antioxidants, which can help protect against cancer and heart disease. For the study, which was carried out by Purdue University, near Indianapolis, 16 healthy young men ate three versions of a raw mixed-vegetable salad.

One came with no egg, one with one and a half whole scrambled eggs and another with three whole scrambled eggs. The salad consisted of tomatoes, shredded carrots, baby spinach, romaine lettuce, and Chinese wolfberry - also known as Goji berry. The researchers said there was a three-fold to nine-fold increase in carotenoid absorption from the salad containing the most eggs, which they described as a ‘very significant’ effect. The carotenoids found in these salad items include beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

The latter two are found in egg yolk as well: three whole eggs contributed 10 per cent of the total lutein consumed and 14 per cent of the total zeaxanthin consumed. But the other three types of carotenoids were derived solely from the salad, the researchers said. Beta-carotene gives carrots their colour and can be quickly converted into vitamin A in the body, which helps maintain good vision and a strong immune system. Studies have shown that lycopene, the red pigment found in tomatoes, may help reduce the risk of cancers such as lung, prostate and stomach. Lutein and zeaxanthin are important for eye health.

Lead researcher Professor Wayne Campbell concluded: ‘Here we have a way to increase the nutritive value of veggies while also receiving the nutritional benefits of egg yolks.’