Scrambled? Over-easy? Or, sunny-side up? How do you like your eggs?
For the past 20 years we’ve been warned against the dangers of the “high-cholesterol” egg. But lately, because of ongoing research, opinions have changed. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Society stated this year that there was no link between moderate egg consumption and heart disease. Surprisingly, a recent National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey found that people who ate four eggs a week had a significantly lower cholesterol level than those who ate one.
Actually, eggs are very nutritious, low in calories while high in nutrients. With only 70 calories, a large egg contains plenty of goodness: Six grams of the highest quality protein and 14 essential nutrients, including carotenoids, choline, omega-3 fatty acids (especially omega-3 enriched eggs), niacin, riboflavin, potassium, and magnesium and vitamins A and E.
Eggs are one of the few foods considered to be a complete protein as they have all nine essential amino acids. So, they help your body build and repair body tissue and cells; grow strong hair and nails; build and maintain healthy muscles; fight infections; and keep your body fluids in balance.
Since protein controls how fast your body uses energy, it is the most filling nutrient. Eating one egg in the morning can help fight cravings all afternoon.
Eggs also have antioxidants. Although most people think of getting carotenoids (antioxidants) from vegetables, eggs are also a great source of lutein and zeaxanthin (yellow and orange carotenoids). Concentrations are found in your eye lens and retina, protecting them from ultraviolet light and reducing the risk (up to 20%) of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (up to 40%).
As well, eggs are an excellent dietary source of choline, keeping cell membranes functioning well (especially nerve and brain cells).
Now that you see the value of eggs, what kind should you get?
First, let’s look at omega-3 enriched eggs. Normal eggs and omega-3 enriched eggs have a similar make-up, including cholesterol levels. However, enriched eggs have a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids because the hens laying these eggs were fed a 10-20% flax seed feed. Flax seed is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids (also found in fish), which is thought to lower the risk of heart disease.
Which egg is better: white or brown? Even though shell colour can vary, colour doesn’t affect the flavour, quality, nutrients, or cooking characteristics of an egg. The colour just shows what breed of hen laid that egg. In Canada, white eggs generally come from Leghorn hens, brown from Rhode Island Reds. Since Rhode Island Reds are slightly larger, they eat more, making brown eggs more expensive than white ones.
Egg yolk colour can also vary between light yellow and dark yellow. Hen-feed actually determines the yolk colour. Wheat-based feeds make a paler yolk and corn-based feeds make a darker yolk. All eggs yolks have similar nutrient value and quality.
Now, some pointers about eggs:
* Use a substitute (such as ‘EggBeaters’), if your doctor recommends you eat fewer eggs. They work well in cooking and baking when taking the place of half of the eggs called for in the recipe.
* Open the egg carton before you buy it. If any eggshells are cracked, choose a different carton. Cracks allow bacteria to possibly contaminate the egg inside.
* Don’t eat raw eggs, or you may get food poisoning. Note these homemade foods, which often contain raw eggs: mayonnaise, milkshakes and smoothies, Caesar salad dressing, Hollandaise sauce, ice cream and eggnog.
* Keep eggs cool. Salmonella bacteria multiply quickly at room temperature. So, make sure the eggs you buy are well refrigerated at the store. As soon as you get home, stick them in your fridge, but not in the tray in your fridge door (the warmest part of the fridge). It’s better to keep them in their original carton in a colder fridge area (close to the bottom).
* Refrigerate hard boiled eggs. As soon as your hard boiled egg has cooled, put it in the fridge and use it within a week. Even hard boiled eggs shouldn’t be left out of the fridge for more than two hours or they’ll go bad. So, if you’re packing egg salad sandwiches, be sure you’ve got a cooler or fridge to take them in.
* Toss eggs out after you’ve had them three to five weeks (check the purchase-by date on the carton to be sure). In addition, use up left-over raw whites or yolks within four days.
* Try poaching your eggs instead of frying them. They’re healthier without the cooking oil and tastier than boiled. Sprinkle with pepper, basil, and/or oregano and enjoy. Or, put them on an English muffin for tasty sandwich.
So in moderation, eggs are an egg-cellent addition to your healthy diet.
– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.