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EGGScellent Easter

Steve March 31, 2013

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE EGGLY

Now is the time when our attention turns to the humble egg.  A simple dietary staple the rest of the year, this is the week when it gets all tarted up in pastel dyes and glitter and gets hidden throughout the house, hopefully to be found by children on Easter instead of in June, putrefying in that too-good-a-hiding-place.  Boiled, fried, scrambled, poached, or emulsified into decadent mayonnaises, hollandaises, and aiolis, the egg is every cook’s best friend.  But these little chicken ova are not without controversy.  For years, nutrition experts have been debating whether the egg is a great, affordable source of protein, or a cholesterol-raising killer.  Take a look at the pluses and minuses of adding eggs to your diet as well as some preparation tips.  Let’s get cracking!

THE GOOD

One of the best things about eggs is you don’t have to shell (ha- get it) out much money.  Eggs can cost as little as pennies on the dollar apiece—one of the least expensive sources of protein around.

A typical whole egg contains only 75 calories and 6 grams of protein, with only 5 grams of fat, 2 of which are saturated.  It is full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B6, B12, and E, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorous, pantothenic acid, and zinc. and the protein is considered to be the most complete and balanced for humans of any protein source other than mother’s milk.

It is one of the rare foods that contains vitamin D.  While the human body can produce vitamin D itself from exposure to sunlight, egg yolks are one of the few dietary sources for the vitamin.

Eggs are filling.   Studies have shown that people who eat high-protein breakfasts like eggs tend to be less hungry during the day than people who eat high-carb breakfasts like bagels.  Generally the egg eaters averaged 300 fewer total calories a day.

Don’t be yoked to the yolks.   If you’re worried about fat, calories, and dietary cholesterol levels, you can stick to egg whites.  One egg white has only 17 calories and it’s all protein—4 grams.  Unfortunately, you’ll lose most of the nutrients that the yolk provides, but it’s a great, easy way to add more protein to your diet.  Most supermarkets now sell egg whites already separated for added convenience.

THE BAD

As you probably noticed in the “Good” list, a common caveat with eggs is their high cholesterol levels.  One large egg contains over 200 milligrams of cholesterol—over 70 percent of the U.S. government’s recommended daily allowance.  But don’t throw the eggs away yet, there are some factors to consider.

Dietary cholesterol is not the same as blood, or serum, cholesterol.  The same way that fat in olive oil is not the same fat that ends up in your love handles, dietary cholesterol does not automatically raise your blood cholesterol level.  Cholesterol is necessary for cell membrane growth and normal cell function and in the production of bile which helps our body digest fats.  Too much blood cholesterol, though, can cause plaque buildup in our arteries, which could lead to a dangerous blockage and contribute to stroke or heart attack.

Eggs aren’t perfect, but saturated and trans fats are worse.  While too much dietary cholesterol can elevate blood cholesterol levels somewhat, it’s saturated fats and trans fats that are the real culprits.  If you’re skipping your morning eggs because you’re watching your cholesterol but having a bacon double cheeseburger for lunch, you may be getting less dietary cholesterol overall, but the saturated fats are going to be what really make your blood cholesterol scores soar more than if you just had the eggs.  If you want to lower your cholesterol levels, you’ll get the most bang for your buck by cutting out saturated and trans fats, which our livers turn into the worst kind of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in our bloodstream.

THE EGGLY

They’re cheap, delicious, high in protein and nutrients, and the news about cholesterol is getting better all the time.  The American Heart Association has even recently allowed that one egg per day is probably OK—just so long as you’re not getting a ton of dietary cholesterol from other sources.  So if you decide to add eggs into your diet, here are some facts to keep in mind.

Forget Rocky and his glass of raw eggs.  Aside from the salmonella concerns, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, protein from cooked eggs is believed to be almost twice as absorbable as raw.

Can’t remember which eggs are raw and which are boiled?  Try spinning the egg on its side.  Boiled eggs will spin for some time.  Raw eggs will quickly stop spinning and begin to wobble.

The perfect boiled egg.  Cover the egg(s) in water in a saucepan.  On medium heat, let the water come to a boil.  As soon as the water begins to boil, turn off the burner and cover the saucepan.  Let the eggs stand in the hot water for 10 minutes.  Then, rinse in cold water.  This should result in perfect boiled eggs with firm but creamy yolks.

 

 


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