Good Eggs: For Nutrition, They're Hard to Beat
The egg is no longer a nutritional no-no
What would we do without the egg? It's a dietary mainstay, not only for
breakfast but to feed finicky kids, stand in for a quick lunch or supper, blend
raw into holiday nogs, and as an ingredient in all kinds of sweet and savory
But for a few decades there, eggs had a rather unwholesome reputation.
Thanks to its high cholesterol content, the egg was deemed villainous. Years
went by while many of us shunned eggs, ate only the whites, or ventured into
the world of egg substitutes.
Then, in 2000, the American Heart Association (AHA) revised its dietary
guidelines and gave healthy adults the green light to enjoy eggs once again.
The AHA's guidelines now allow an egg a day for healthy adults while still
advising a total daily cholesterol limit of 300 mg.
The confusion over eggs stems from their cholesterol content. One large egg
contains 213 mg of cholesterol, accounting for two-thirds of the recommended
When scientists learned that high blood cholesterol was associated with
heart disease, foods high in cholesterol logically became suspect. But after 25
years of study, it has become evident that cholesterol in food is not the
culprit -- saturated fat has a much bigger effect on blood cholesterol.
Full-fat dairy products and fatty meats are examples of foods that are loaded
with saturated fat and which trigger the body to produce cholesterol.
Let Us Eat Eggs
With science on our side, we can once again enjoy the wonderfully nutritious
egg. Along with milk, eggs contain the highest biological value (or gold
standard) for protein. One egg has only 75 calories but 7 grams of high-quality
protein, 5 grams of fat, and 1.6 grams of saturated fat, along with iron,
vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids.
The egg is a powerhouse of disease-fighting nutrients like lutein and
zeaxanthin. These carotenoids may reduce the risk of age-related macular
degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older adults. And brain
development and memory may be enhanced by the choline content of eggs.
But the full health benefits of eggs can only be realized if you store them
properly -- in the refrigerator -- and cook them thoroughly to kill any
potential bacteria. As a child, I loved my father's eggnogs, made with fresh,
raw eggs blended with milk, vanilla and ice. These delicious treats are no
longer considered a good option -- unless pasteurized eggs are used in place of
the raw eggs.
Creating Designer Eggs
Not all eggs are created equally. Manufacturers and chicken farmers have
taken steps to enhance eggs' nutritional properties, spawning an entire
industry devoted to improving the dietary quality of the egg.
"Designer" eggs may come from chickens that are allowed to roam
freely (free range) or whose feed is supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids.
Hens given feed that is free of animal products produce vegetarian eggs, while
those given all-organic feed produce organic eggs.