Go to work on an egg used to be the famous advice — but a handful of nuts in the morning instead could reduce the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Replacing a daily egg with 25 to 28 grams of nuts can lower the risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease by 17 per cent, researchers have concluded.
Some experts believe the cholesterol in eggs is bad for the heart, although others say more evidence is needed to be sure of this.
But, regardless, nuts are known to lower cholesterol, making them a good alternative.
The finding comes from a large scientific review of the evidence on how fashionable ‘plant-based’ foods, when eaten instead of animal-based foods, may affect the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and early death.
Replacing a daily egg with 25 to 28 grams of nuts can lower the risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease by 17 per cent, researchers have concluded. Some experts believe the cholesterol in eggs is bad for the heart, although others say more evidence is needed to be sure of this. But, regardless, nuts are known to lower cholesterol, making them a good alternative
The results show no benefit of swapping fish and seafood for plant-based options, and no evidence that replacing dairy can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, although swapping it for nuts is linked to a very small reduction in the risk of an early death.
However the scientific review highlights the well known benefits of switching processed meat for healthier options.
People who replaced 50 grams of processed meat – the equivalent of a sausage or almost two rashers of bacon — with the same amount of legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas and beans, had a 23 per cent lower risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease.
What are the risks of eating too much red meat?
Red meat – such as beef, lamb and pork – and processed meat – like bacon, sausages and charcuterie – have been linked to health complications.
Health officials therefore recommend adults reduce their intake to 70g a day and do not exceed 90g.
Processed meat often contains nitrogen-based preservatives that stop it from going off while being transported or stored.
These preservatives have been linked to both bowel and stomach cancer.
When red meat is digested, the pigment haem gets broken down in our gut to form chemicals called N-nitroso compounds.
These compounds have been found to damage the DNA of cells that line our digestive tract.
Our body may also react to this damage by making cells divide more rapidly to replace those that are lost.
This ‘extra’ cell division may increase the risk of cancer.
Red and processed meat has also been linked to type 2 diabetes.
This may be due to the preservatives used or the meats’ higher levels of saturated fat than chicken and fish.
Their risk was 27 per cent lower if they ate 28 to 50 grams of nuts instead of the processed meat.
Replacing an egg a day with 10 grams of nuts, or a 30-gram serving of whole grains like those found in healthy breakfast cereals and whole-grain bread, was linked to around a fifth lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes or dying from it.
The review even suggests trendy millennials may be right to enjoy avocado on toast.
Replacing processed meat, eggs, cheese, butter or yoghurt with avocado was linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
But the authors caution that this is only based on results from a single study.
The review defined cardiovascular disease as having a heart attack, stroke or coronary heart disease, or dying of any of these.
Dr Sabrina Schlesinger, a co-author of the review from the German Centre for Diabetes Research, said: ‘Many people start the day with an egg or fry-up for breakfast, but the results of this analysis suggests it might be better to replace these foods with plant-based foods.
‘There is also evidence that people could benefit from replacing poultry with plant-based foods, although there was little evidence for replacing dairy.’
The review, published in the journal BMC Medicine, does not conclude that people should stop eating eggs altogether.
It only suggests that one less egg a day, replaced by nuts, could lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by 17 per cent, type 2 diabetes by 18 per cent, and an early death by 15 per cent, if replaced with 25 to 28 grams of nuts.
The results also suggest every five-gram teaspoonful of butter someone eats a day, if replaced with the same amount of olive oil, could lower their risk of cardiovascular disease by four per cent.
The largest reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease — of 36 per cent — would be seen in people replacing 50 grams of processed meat a day with 30 grams of whole grains, the analysis suggests.
Replacing red or processed meat with nuts, whole grains or cereals reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Switching 50 grams of poultry, which is about a third of a chicken breast, for 30 grams of whole grains a day instead, was linked to a 13 per cent lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
The largest reduction in the odds of an early death, of 21 per cent, was seen when processed meat was replaced by nuts.
WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?
Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS
• Eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count
• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain
• 30 grams of fibre a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: Five portions of fruit and vegetables, two whole-wheat cereal biscuits, two thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on
• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks), choosing lower fat and lower sugar options
• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including two portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)
• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts
• Drink six to eight cups/glasses of water a day
• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day
Source: NHS Eatwell Guide