Easter eggs, spring and fertility

Eggs, Easter and fertility

Long before chocolate eggs, Easter and fertility became part of the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it was a pagan Equinox ritual and ancient cultures, including the Ancient Egyptians, Persians and Romans celebrated using eggs, which were a primitive symbol of fertility. Many different gods and goddesses were worshipped, and feasts were held celebrating the arrival of Eostra the Goddess of Spring.  Goddess Eostra represented new beginnings and fertility, birth, new life and re-birth. She was symbolised in the form of a rabbit, and images and icons of rabbits were used at these feasts because of their ability to rapidly reproduce.

Don’t forget to celebrate with real eggs

With so many chocolate eggs on the supermarket shelves at the moment it’s important to remember to buy some of the non-chocolate variety. They’re packed full of so many vital nutrients for conception and are extremely versatile. They are an excellent source of choline (which studies have shown can have significant positive effects on foetal development that may have a long-lasting influence on adult life). Eggs are also a very good source of iodine, selenium, molybdenum, vitamin B12, vitamin B2 and biotin. They are a good source of protein, iron, phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin A and vitamin B5. So, it’s certainly a good idea to eat more of them this Easter – try to buy organic free range eggs wherever possible. A poached egg on wholemeal toast for breakfast will help to combat the rise and fall of your blood sugar levels throughout the day.

Eggs provide us with many health benefits including:

  • Eggs help to strengthen bones and teeth and contain good amounts of vitamin D and phosphorus.
  • They help to maintain healthy eyes – antioxidants such as zeaxanthin and lutein are contained within the egg yolks.
  • Egg consumption helps in the maintenance of healthy nerves and brain – choline helps to improve memory and the B vitamins support a healthy nervous system and brain.
  • They help to balance blood sugar levels – which is very important if you are trying to conceive, as excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates erratically throughout the day will cause blood sugar levels to rise and fall. This will cause insulin levels to peak and trough, which may eventually lead to insulin resistance. Excess insulin can affect ovulation.
  • Consuming eggs can help in the management of PCOS, as many women with this condition have low vitamin D levels and eggs help to boost this important nutrient.
  • Eggs might help increase sperm count and improve male fertility. They are rich in vitamin E, which is responsible for the maintenance of testicular tissue.
    Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant which counteracts the negative effects of free radicals on sperm and egg and is considered one of the most important nutrients for fertility.

Eggscellent did you knows?

  • Chicken eggs contain less cholesterol than all other types of eggs.
  • Duck eggs contain the most amount of folate, iron, choline and omega 3 fatty acids, but contain more cholesterol than chicken eggs.
  • Quail eggs are high in phosphorus and folate, they contain a high amount of vitamin B1 in comparison to chicken eggs.
  • Goose eggs contain an excellent amount of omega 3 fatty acids. They are also an excellent source of selenium and provide around 3.5 times the amount that can be found in a chicken egg.

Please note – if you have type 2 diabetes we suggest you consult with your  GP about how many eggs you can eat due to the effect on the transport of cholesterol through the bloodstream.

Further reading:

Xinyin Jiang et al.,(2012) Maternal choline intake alters the epigenetic state of fetal cortisol-regulating genes in humans

Chocolate eggs!

If, however, you also fancy enjoying some chocolate treats over Easter there’s no reason why you shouldn’t join in the fun! Try to make sure that you go for an organic chocolate which contains at least 85% cocoa. Dark chocolate is made from cacao or cocoa. All chocolate starts as harvested cacao beans from the plant’s seed pods. Once harvested, the cacao beans are typically fermented and dried before being sent off to factories for further production. Pure cacao and pure cocoa powder both have antioxidants and health benefits. It is rich in procyanidins, which help to relax blood vessels and aid circulation, heart health and play an important role in virility. It also contains polyphenols, which help to lower cholesterol; flavonoids, which help to reduce inflammation and theobromine which helps to lower blood pressure and combat fatigue. Dark chocolate is also thought to improve male fertility as it is a rich source of the amino acid L-arginine which studies show can increase the volume of ejaculate and improve sperm count and motility. This amino acid can also help female fertility as it increases the flow of blood to the ovaries and uterus. Always try to buy organic dark chocolate containing 85% cocoa.

In a study conducted by the Hershey Co. and published in Chemistry Central Journal, the total flavonol and polyphenol content, as well as antioxidant activity content of dark chocolate and cocoa powder were compared to super fruits like acai, cranberry, blueberry and pomegranate. The dark chocolates, cocoa powders and cocoa beverage in the study all contained natural or non-alkalized cocoa. This is important to note since the alkalization of cocoa has been shown to destroy healthy polyphenolic compounds. The researchers found that the flavanol content of cocoa powder (30.1 milligrammes per gramme) was significantly greater than that of all the other super fruit powders. It was also revealed that dark chocolate’s antioxidant capacity was higher than that of all the super fruit juices except pomegranate. The total polyphenol content per serving was also highest for dark chocolate (about 1,000 milligrammes per serving), which was significantly higher than that of all the fruit juices except pomegranate juice.

Further reading:

Crozier, S. J., Preston, A. G., Hurst, J. W., Payne, M. J., Mann, J., Hainly, L., & Miller, D. L. (2011). Cacao seeds are a “Super Fruit”: A comparative analysis of various fruit powders and products. Chemistry Central Journal, 5, 5. http://doi.org/10.1186/1752-153X-5-5

Chocolate Easter Cake

Ingredients

150g castor sugar (unrefined and organic if possible)
150g lightly salted organic butter
150g organic self-raising flour
2 medium organic eggs
½ tsp of bicarbonate of soda
40g cocoa powder (organic if possible)
130 ml of soured cream

For the ganache:

200g organic dark chocolate (definitely above 80% cocoa solids)
200ml double cream

Topping:

Decorate with Easter chicks (not real!), mini eggs or mini nests containing eggs

  • Turn the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4) and allow to heat. Grease and line two sandwich tins (approx 18-20 cm).
  • Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream together until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, sift the cocoa, flour, bicarbonate of soda and mix well. Add to the creamed butter and sugar.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the soured cream and syrup. Mix the dry ingredients and stir it all together until smooth. Divide the mixture equally between the tins.
  • Place in the oven for approx 25 mins. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
  • To make the ganache, place the chocolate and cream into a bowl over slightly simmering water. Heat gently until the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and stir briefly, until smooth.
  • Allow to cool until thick enough to spread. This can take up to an hour.
  • Divide the mixture approximately into half and use half for the middle of the cake and the other for on the top of the cake. Decorate with your choice of Easter decorations. Enjoy!