Researchers at Purdue University published a study indicating that carotenoid absorption from a salad was improved by the presence of whole cooked eggs. This made sense in light of the fact that carotenoids are fat-soluble nutrients, so the fat in the eggs increased nutrient absorption. Recently, the Purdue team followed up their carotenoid study by publishing new data indicating a similar effect of eggs on vitamin E absorption. This should not be a surprise because vitamin E is also a fat-soluble vitamin.
The real story here are the practical implications of these findings. Individuals are always told to consume more fruits and vegetables, and to keep fat intake to a minimum. And although this “fear-of-fat” mantra has subsided somewhat, weight conscious folks in particular still tend to gobble salads with an expectation that they’ll be deriving all the vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients that exist in the fruits and vegetables they’re consuming. Studies like these from Purdue are a good reminder that a mixed meal or diet- -one that contains a variety of micro- and macronutrient components that work synergistically in the body, is ultimately the way that we’re supposed to eat. Focusing on one or two diet components, healthy as they may be, is not often the way to optimize our diet.
One may think that adding a little dressing to your salad should provide a sufficient amount of fat to accomplish what the eggs accomplished in this study; however, interestingly the control group in the study added 3 gms of canola oil to their salad (but no eggs) and they saw no appreciable rise in vitamin E absorption. This may have been due to the nutrient package of eggs, and nutrients they contribute, but suggests that more than a couple of grams of fat from a salad dressing are required to promote the absorption of the fat soluble nutrients in the salad. So, next time you “dress up” your salad, make sure you’re including an egg!
Reference: Kim JE, Ferruzzi MG, Campbell WW. Egg Consumption Increases Vitamin E Absorption from Co-Consumed Raw Mixed Vegetables in Healthy Young Men. J Nutr. 2016. [epub ahead of print]