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Eggs Really ARE Incredible!

Egg Nutrition and Cooking

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Updated March 24, 2014

eggs
Photo © Kostas Konstantopoulos
Consider the egg. Its purpose is to bring new life into the world and to nourish that life until it reaches the point where it can survive on its own. No wonder eggs are one of the most nutrient-rich foods available to us. The egg is a symbol of spring and new life partly because of the nourishment it provides. But it is also because during the winter, chickens do not naturally lay many eggs. The return of the light brings the return of eggs.

Eggs Are Loaded with Nutrients

Eggs have lots of vitamins. They are rich in the B vitamin family, and also contribute vitamins A and D. In particular, egg yolks are one of the greatest sources of riboflavin, B12, and choline, which may well not only help developing brains in utero, but protect us from age-related memory loss. In the mineral department, eggs are especially rich in selenium. Eggs are also abundant in lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids which protect our eyes from macular degeneration, among other benefits. And the lutein in eggs seems to be better absorbed than when it comes from vegetable sources. Almost all these nutrients are in the yolk of the egg.

Some eggs even have significant amounts of omega-3 fats. So-called "Omega-3 eggs" have usually been been fed flax seeds to raise the level of omega-3 fat in the eggs. Also, hens that have been allowed to feed on a variety of natural food for them (greens, grubs, etc) produce eggs with more omega-3 fat. "Pastured eggs" are one name for these hens, though note that "free range" hens usually don't share this diet. (More on different egg designations.) One egg provides 6 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat (1.5 saturated and 2 monounsaturated), and about half a gram of carbohydrate.

But Isn’t it Bad to Eat Too Many Eggs?

Eggs have a lot of cholesterol, so for a long time it was considered unhealthy to eat too many. However, advice is changing on this as more research comes out. To my knowledge, no evidence shows that eggs are in any way harmful to our health. In fact, some studies show an improvement in blood lipids from eating eggs. It seems that this high-cholesterol food raises our "good" cholesterol rather than the "bad."

Eggs in a Low-Carb Diet

Not only are eggs a low-cost and low-carb source of protein and other nutrients, but they have uses specific to low-carb diets. Egg whites can provide structure to baked goods made with nontraditional ingredients such as nut flours and flax seed meal, as in this flax meal focaccia bread, and can provide the basis for desserts such as snow pudding or sugar-free macaroons.

Egg Selection

Eggs have a shelf life of about 60 days when refrigerated. In the United States, the “sell by” date is no more than 30 days after the day the eggs were packed. They should be used within 3 to 5 weeks after that date, according to the USDA. Some hens are fed feed with flax seed meal to increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in the yolk. However, it would be a lot less expensive simply to eat the flax yourself. Other designations on eggs include organic and free-range -– this page has some definitions.

Storage and Handling of Eggs

Eggs are best stored in the carton they came in (check for cracks before you buy) in the coldest part of the refrigerator. To insure protection against disease such as salmonella (rare), thoroughly cook eggs. Egg whites can be frozen for up to a year. Egg yolks don’t freeze as successfully, but mixing ½ tsp salt in with each yolk will work. Hard-cooked eggs will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator; they do not freeze well.

Cooking and Serving Suggestions for Eggs

Eggs are versatile and can be served for any meal. In addition, they cook quickly, so are perfect as the basis for fast and easy meals. Here are some suggestions:

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