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The Wonderful Incredible Egg PDF Print E-mail

by Chris Ellis, Staff Nutritionist
March, 2015

There is an incredible array of foods that have eggs as the base: savory omelets, frittatas and quiches, yummy deviled eggs, and scrumptious custards, pies, and puddings. These are all made with the incredible egg!! With its small size, hard shell, and unique shape, who would think that an egg has the capability to be such an essential ingredient in so many delicious dishes as well as provide such a nutritional punch! It also is available for a very low cost compared to many other sources of animal protein. Fortunately we have access to a variety of eggs from relatively small scale farms around this area, as opposed to the humongous egg factory farms located around the country where chickens are raised in such inhumane conditions.

Eggs have a lot of nutrients to brag about since not only do they contain one of the most concentrated sources of high biological value protein but they are good sources of vitamins A, E, D, K, B-12, and choline as well as the minerals iodine, biotin, and selenium. Choline is grouped with other B vitamins and is a crucial nutrient needed for brain development; eggs contain significant amounts of it. Most of the nutrients are found in the egg yolk. The egg white contains more protein, some of the B vitamins, and selenium. Egg yolks are an excellent source of two powerful antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are essential in maintaining excellent eye health. Lutein and zeaxanthin, both carotenoids, are responsible for the rich yellow color found in the yolk. The stigma of high cholesterol still remains with the egg (one contains about 200 mgs of cholesterol). Recent studies have shown that moderate consumption—about 1-6 eggs a week—did not increase heart attack or stroke risk, and the good cholesterol (HDL) numbers actually increased. It is more often the other types of saturated and trans fats or the bacon and sausage that you have with your eggs that are detrimental to your heart. It is still prudent if you have diabetes (which increases your risk for heart disease), a high LDL level (the bad part of the cholesterol), or heart disease to be cautious with your egg intake but it is not necessary to eliminate them all together.
Eggs come from many different birds but the ones most commonly available are from chickens. Some of the smallest eggs found are from the quail and the largest are from the ostrich. In the United States we raise more chicken eggs than any other kind of eggs, surpassing all other countries around the world in chicken egg production.
The labels on eggs are often misleading and can be confusing to the consumer. The terms cage free, free range, pasture raised, organic, and omega-3 enriched are freely used but there are often no set standards associated with these phrases. For example cage free can mean the chickens are not in cages but no specifics are given as to how long they are outside and the type of food they receive. Pasture-raised chicken generally means that chickens are put out to pasture at least some of the year when possible and eat whatever may be outside but it is not clear what foods are given when they are not out to pasture. Pasture-raised chickens generally produce eggs that contain more vitamin E and omega-3 fats since the chickens are fed clover and alfalfa, which are natural sources of such fats, whereas omega-3 enriched eggs are chickens whose diets are supplemented with processed fish oils, algae, or flax oil. Organic eggs label requirements state that chickens must be fed organic food not necessarily pasture food, and outdoor roaming time is part of the organic requirements, but the time is not well defined. Many questions may arise after reading egg labels. More specifics about the eggs from chicken farms can be obtained by contacting the farm themselves or asking the dairy department for more details on the farms and their egg production.