Spotlight Time for the Egg

The humble egg truly deserves its turn in the spotlight.  I was recently reminded of this while talking with a friend, who told me that typically makes eggs for dinner for herself and her family one night a week.  Sunday nights are busy evenings for them during the winter when they spend the weekends skiing, and she is a vegetarian, which makes them an excellent protein source for her.  Bonus: her young children typically eat eggs without complaint (although we all know that can change—and change back—in an instant).  Her simple statement about making eggs for dinner regularly gave me pause…and caused me to cook my daughter an egg for lunch the other day…which she ate.

Eggs are, quite possibly, a ‘perfect’ food.  Not only do they have an incredible nutrition profile, but they are also inexpensive and easy to cook.  No idea what to make for breakfast?  Make an egg.  Need a protein source for your salad at lunch?  Top it with an egg.   Running late after work and need dinner fast?  Scramble up some eggs.  Want to get fancy?  Add some veggies and cheese and call it an omelet.

One egg contains approximately 75 calories, 5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein.  They don’t contain any carbohydrates, which is why low- and no-carb diets are full of them.  Eggs are high on the satiety index, which means they help you feel fuller longer, but aren’t necessarily going to give you immediate energy.  Pair your eggs with some fruit or a piece of a toast and you’re set for your morning walk AND your morning meetings.

Eggs are an ideal source of protein for both vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.  They contain all the essential amino acids, which is what protein in our bodies is made from.  The ‘essential’ ones are the ones our bodies can’t make—we have to get them from food.  There are nine of them, and eggs have them all in the correct ratios.

Years ago, eggs were on the naughty list due to their high amount of cholesterol.  Dieters everywhere shunned egg yolks in favor of egg-white omelets.  Since then, we’re learned that dietary cholesterol, i.e. the cholesterol we eat, doesn’t have a significant impact on blood cholesterol.  So, while an egg does contain about 212mg of cholesterol (the recommended daily intake is 300mg), it’s not the reason you have high cholesterol.  Blame genetics and a lack of exercise before you blame eggs.  In fact, egg intake can actually raise your HDL cholesterol, which is the ‘good’ kind that can help lower your LDL (‘the bad’) cholesterol and triglycerides. 

In addition to being low in calories and high in protein and healthy fats (pastured eggs are higher in omega-3 fatty acids, so consider purchasing those when possible), eggs are high in choline.  Choline is important for brain function, cell formation and your nervous system.  In fact, choline is an important nutrient for both pregnant women and infants, as it impacts brain development both before an after birth.  Eggs are an excellent early food for babies.

Another little-known fact about eggs: they are good for your eyes.  Egg yolks contain a variety of antioxidants, two of which are lutein and zeaxanthin.  They are both found in the retina, and consuming enough of them can reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

Lastly, eggs are EASY.  There are more than a handful of ways to prepare them (scrambled, fried, over easy, hard boiled, sunnyside up, poached…the list goes on) and even more ways to eat them.  Top a salad, turn them INTO a salad, eat them in a sandwich, mix them with cheese, add veggies, serve on toast, serve next to toast…you get the picture.  If you think you don’t like eggs, perhaps you simply haven’t found the kind you like yet.  Get cracking!

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