Egg-ceedingly Good News about Eggs!
Since the domestication of the chicken more than 4,000 years ago, people in almost every culture have been enjoying and nourishing themselves with the egg. Easter occurs in Springtime, a period of new life and renewed growth thus it is not surprising that the egg - from which life begins - is somewhat of a celebrity in both religious and culinary history. Hens begin laying more eggs during the brighter, warmer days of Spring validating the great symbolism of the egg in so many traditions. From ancient pagan history to modern day Christianity and in every known culture - the egg represents fertility, birth and new life. Not surprisingly, the egg has the nutritional profile to support its lofty status. Eggs are an egg-cellent source of vitamin K and B vitamins including thiamin (B1), folate, choline, biotin and B12. Rich also in selenium, vitamin D and protein.
Eggs get the Not Guilty verdict!
Not so long ago eggs were struck off the menu by those concerned with rising cholesterol levels. At the time of their ousting, public health experts and the medical profession believed that dietary cholesterol was an important contributory factor in the rising incidences of cardiovascular disease. However, as more research unfolds, instead of contributing to heart disease, the total nutritional content of whole eggs actually lower the risk. The most up-to-date research not only reverses the cholesterol myth but also highlights that saturated animal fat (low in eggs) in the diet, and not dietary cholesterol, has a much greater impact on blood cholesterol levels.
Eggs are GOOD for your heart and brain
Eggs contain many heart-friendly nutrients. Most notably betaine and choline. Betaine can reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid derived from animal protein. Homocysteine can damage the blood vessel walls and contribute to clot formation increasing the risk for heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer's disease. Homocysteine tends to be higher in people who eat a lot of animal protein and consume few leafy vegetables, beans or fruit - which provide folic acid and B vitamins that can help the body of rid itself of homocysteine. Choline a key nutrient for cell membranes, neurotransmitters and brain function. Eating eggs has been associated with reduced risk of cognitive decline in the elderly. Choline is also involved in the metabolism of homocysteine as are the B vitamins - making the egg a superfood for the both the heart and the brain. With all this said, it does not mean you can eat eggs until they come out your ears! While there is no official upper limit on egg consumption, the scientists at Harvard Medical School recommend no more that seven eggs a week for adults.
Happy Hens means Happy Eggs
It is important to choose eggs that are local, fresh and preferably organic or chemical-free. Commercially raised chicks are fed cheap, processed grains, GM maize or GM soy. It literally costs chickenfeed to feed a chicken for mass production their eggs. Pesticides and antibiotics are routinely given to these birds to deal with the risks of their unnatural environment. The chickens convert much of the starch from this chicken feed into saturated fat. The ingested pesticide and antibiotic residues are stored in that fat, much of which ends up in the yolk of the egg. In 2012 EU laws banned the use of traditional battery cages in commercial egg production, but even without the cages conditions remain dire when it comes to the diet, health and welfare of commercial chickens and hens.
Organic hens and those reared freely on the farm down the road, whose diet is a natural fare of untainted seeds and insects produce much healthier eggs. The nutrition of the egg is only as good as the hen’s diet and wellbeing. Since these birds are free from crowded conditions, antibiotic use is usually unnecessary and pesticides are rarely needed. When free to peck their own food, chickens and hens favour insects, grains and seeds from their native surroundings, which ultimately makes for a happier hen and a healthier egg! Perhaps this is the real reason chickens crossed the road in the first place!
How to Store your Eggs
The best method of storing eggs is point down and in the carton, which protects the porous shell from light and odours. They are best kept cool but not chilled. In warmer weather, eggs can be stored in the fridge. Before cooking, particularly when baking, take them out of the fridge for at least 30mins before use.
Poaching and boiling, either hard or soft, are the best ways to enjoy eggs because it heats the egg at lower temperatures. High temperatures reached during frying alter the heat-sensitive structures in the egg, making them less beneficial to our health. As does many of the oils in which they are fried.
Good quality eggs are economical, versatile and healthy. They are Nature's answer to fast food! A little thought into the source, storage and preparation of eggs will link up their health benefits with the symbolism of Mother Nature's great gift - and that is worth celebrating at Easter and indeed, the brighter months ahead!