If you’re among the approximately 25 percent of Americans who avoid eating eggs at all costs because you think they’re an unhealthy, cholesterol-spiking ‘eggstravagance,’ it’s time to get ‘re-eggducated.’
But in all seriousness, eggs don’t get the credit they deserve. Not only are they easy to cook, nutritious and delicious, but eggs are also a low-cost source of high-quality protein. Incredible and edible, each little guy packs 6.3 grams of protein (13 percent of the daily value) for a mere 68 calories.
And despite lingering artery-clogging cautions from 20 years ago, you can easily eat an egg a day without any negative impact on cholesterol and blood fat levels. This ‘eggcellent’ source of complete nutrition has been proven as essential for weight management, healthy brain and eye function, plus optimal health during pregnancy.
Eggs are the total package when it comes to eating well: rich in choline, which is critical to brain function and memory, and full of lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that help prevent macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness. And if that’s not enough, eggs also contain vitamins, iron, folate (helps prevent birth defects) and Riboflavin (converts foods into energy), plus heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
According to the Egg Nutrition Center, there’s no difference in flavor or nutritional value between brown and white eggs; shell color simply reflects the breed of hen. Nutritional quality, however, can vary greatly based on the chicken’s diet. So hens fed a diet high in polyunsaturated fats – kelp meal, for example – lay eggs that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Similarly, free-range chicken eggs tend to contain higher amounts of vitamins and lower amounts of cholesterol than eggs from standard, factory-fed chickens.
Eggs in the U.S. are classified according to the USDA grading system, which includes labels of AA, A or B. This grading indicates quality based on several factors, including freshness, with AA representing the highest quality. Eggs are also labeled according to their size – jumbo, extra-large, large, medium and small and peewee – which is classified according to minimum net weight expressed in ounces per dozen.
When shopping for eggs, look for shells that are clean and whole; never use an egg if it is cracked and leaking. Refrigerate immediately after buying; eggs will keep well for several weeks at temperatures of 35-45 degrees Fahrenheit. To test for freshness, place raw eggs in a deep bowl of water and discard any that float to the surface (as eggs age, more air is present in the shell).
Fry ‘em, scramble ‘em, boil ‘em or bake ‘em; whatever you do, don’t be a chicken about making nutrient-dense eggs a staple in your healthy eating regimen. For nutritional facts, a range of recipes and other information, visit the American Egg Board website here.
What’s your favorite way to incorporate eggs as part of a healthy diet?