Eggs Are Egg-cellent!
By Melissa Conroy
Got heart disease? High cholesterol? Blood pressure issues? If so, breakfast for you may mean pouring some Egg Beaters (a blend of egg whites, xanthan gum and other additives) into a skillet or foregoing eggs all together. Eggs have long gotten a bad rap, and many people limit their intake in order to watch their triglyceride levels and prevent heart problems.
However, eggs don’t deserve their status as a breakfast villain. Far from being unhealthy or dangerous, eggs are packed full of nutrition and can be a great addition to your daily diet.
Eggs are loaded with many important nutrients. One large egg has 6 grams of protein as well as iron, zinc, B vitamins (including folate and riboflavin), and vitamin A. They contain lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that can protect your eye health and reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration. Choline is also another nutrient in eggs, and it helps promote brain function and cardiovascular health. However, don’t skip the yolks! Most of the nutrients in eggs are found in the yolk. The whites are mostly protein and water.
Granted, eggs do have cholesterol. A large egg has about 185 milligrams of the stuff, and the American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of 300 milligrams a day. Therefore, a three-egg omelet will give you a big dose of cholesterol.
But let’s put this in perspective. Your body actually makes cholesterol, at a rate of 1-2 grams a day. Oddly enough, when you increase the rate of cholesterol you eat, your body responds by making less of it. Also, chowing down on saturated fat and trans fats will negatively affect your health far more than consuming high-cholesterol food: the bacon and sausage on your breakfast plate represents much more of a health risk than the sunny side up egg.
The Mayo Clinic says that most healthy people can eat up to seven eggs a week without increasing their risk of heart disease. While Rocky slurped down several raw eggs as part of his daily training routine, the rest of us should do just fine with a daily one, cooked as you like it.
Eggs are readily available at grocery stores, thanks to a complex egg industry the hens of which produce approximately 78 billion eggs annually. When buying eggs, you have the choice between free-range, cage-free, organic, farm-raised and other selections, as well as local farmers and farm co-ops offering farm-fresh eggs for sale.
It’s worth noting that factory hens (which produce most of the eggs Americans eat) have a miserable existence stuffed inside tiny cages with no access to the outside. Some people prefer free-range or cage-free because the hens are raised in more humane conditions. Other people choose organic, brown, or farm–raised eggs, believing that they are more nutritious.
The truth? There is little evidence that how the hen was raised and fed affects the nutrition of her eggs. In fact, egg nutrition is gauged using the Haugh unit, a highly specialized egg-quality test developed in 1937. In this test, an egg is cracked in a cold pan and its white is studied. The white is made of thin albumen (which runs farthest from the yolk) and thick albumen (which stays near the yolk). The more thick albumen an egg has, the more nutritious it is, according to this measure.
One important factor in taste (and quality) is the age of the egg. Every carton sold in a U.S. store must have a stamped number between 000-365: this number is the Julian date indicating the day of the year the eggs were washed and packaged. A number of 213 means they were packed on Aug. 2. When you pick up a carton of eggs, look for the Julian date to see how long the eggs have been packaged for sale. This may mean “farm-fresh” are weeks old.
You can also test an egg’s freshness by putting it in a cup of water. Fresh eggs sink and lie lengthwise on the bottom of the cup. Older eggs will stand up in the water or float due to a fat pocket that enlarges the older the egg becomes.
For the best and freshest, you are better off buying them from a local farmer. An egg that was pulled from under a chicken that morning will be fresher and probably taste better than the one that has been sitting in your grocery store for a month. However, if you don’t happen to live near a farm or have access to a farm co-op, there are plenty of choices at your local grocery store and health store. Vegetarian-fed, cage-free, brown — the choice is yours, so try some different varieties to see what suits both your budget and your taste buds.
A picnic is not complete without deviled eggs; a breakfast table is wanting without scrambled eggs. These lovely, nutritious chicken offerings are delicious and good for you, so scramble some up today.