They’re cheap. They’re convenient. And they’re packed with nutrients.
Eggs might just be the perfect food. For just 70 to 80 calories, one egg provides a portion of many of the vitamins and minerals our bodies need, such as riboflavin, vitamin B-12, phosphorus, selenium, iron and even a bit of vitamin D.
In addition, each large egg provides 6 grams of high-quality protein — nearly 13 percent of the daily requirement for a person on a 2,000 calorie diet. High-quality protein is found in animal products and has complete amino acids, which our bodies need.
“Ninety-seven percent of the protein [in eggs] is readily absorbed,” said Karla Case, registered dietician and Cent$ible Nutrition Program Coordinator at the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service.
The iron in eggs is also the readily absorbed type, Case said. With 0.9 milligrams of iron, eating one large egg fulfills 5 percent of one’s daily iron requirement.
Eggs and choline
Eggs have an abundant amount of choline, a nutrient which may play an important roll in fetal development.
“When you consume enough choline as a pregnant mom or as a nursing mom, you’re really getting in on the ground floor for your baby’s brain development,” said Elizabeth Ward, registered dietician and author of “Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During and After Pregnancy.”
Recent studies show that choline aids in the development of the hippocampus (the part of the brain that stores memories), helps with spinal cord development and may prevent birth defects.
An essential nutrient, choline also contributes to memory function throughout life, and its effect on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is currently being studied.
One large egg has 125 milligrams of choline. Beef liver and chicken liver are also great sources of choline. Beef, soybeans, cauliflower, milk and peanuts have choline, too.
The Institute of Medicine recommends pregnant women get 450 milligrams of choline each day and breastfeeding women get 550 milligrams. For other women, 425 milligrams of choline per day is adequate. Men need 550 milligrams of choline a day, the institute says.
The government has yet to set more specific guidelines, as more research needs to be done.
Eggs and cholesterol
Despite the fact that they are nutrient dense, eating a plateful of eggs is not recommended.
“Eggs provide good nutrition, a good source of protein, yet at the same time we do have to be careful because they have saturated fat and cholesterol,” said George Ovecka, registered dietician at Wyoming Medical Center.
The American Heart Association recommends people with high LDL blood cholesterol levels or those taking cholesterol-lowering medication eat less than 200 milligrams of cholesterol per day, and one large egg has 212 milligrams of cholesterol.
Others are allotted 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day by the American Heart Association.
“If you don’t have health problems, having three to five eggs a week is not a health concern,” Case said.
If one keeps in mind that cholesterol is in also in meat, poultry, dairy products and baked goods (which contain eggs), eggs can be included in a healthy diet.
The key, Ovecka said, is to make eggs part of a well-balanced diet.
“Look at other food groups,” he said. “If you have an egg, have options.”
For example, instead of having hashed browns and sausage links with your egg, have it with toast and a bowl of fruit. Consider adding a variety of vegetables to your egg, and don’t be afraid to be creative.
So, how do you make an omelette using just one egg? Ovecka recommends bulking up one whole egg with additional egg whites or cholesterol-free egg substitute.
“If you remove the yolk, you’re going to remove some of the nutrition,” Ovecka said, but you’re also removing the heart hazards. “The egg white has virtually no fat and virtually no cholesterol.”
Egg whites are still a great source of protein, though, because more than half of the protein in eggs is in the egg whites.
One rarely has to worry about using up eggs before they go bad. Unlike other sources of protein, raw eggs stay fresh for weeks when refrigerated.
“You can keep eggs up to three weeks after the expiration date on the carton if you keep them refrigerated,” Case said.
Eggs can be kept even longer — up to one year — when frozen out of the shell. Here’s how:
Beat the eggs and pour them into a container.
Case suggests using ice cube trays so the eggs can be used as-needed. Label the container with the date and number of eggs. Thaw the eggs in the refrigerator or under cold, running water. One whole egg equals about three tablespoons of thawed, frozen, egg, according to the American Egg Board.
One in 20,000 eggs contain salmonella bacteria, according to the Egg Nutrition Center. People infected with the bacteria usually experience fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. While most people recover in four to seven days without treatment, the elderly, infants and those with impaired immune systems may have more severe reactions.
To kill the bacteria, cook eggs thoroughly — including the yolk. Runny yolks impose
a greater risk for salmonella than hard yolks, according to the USDA.
Here are some more tips for avoiding salmonella from the USDA:
- Keep eggs refrigerated.
- Trash cracked or dirty eggs.
- Wash your hands and cooking utensils with soap and water after touching raw eggs.
- Eat eggs immediately after cooking. Don’t let them sit out for more than two hours.
- Refrigerate leftovers containing eggs.
- Avoid eating raw eggs. Consider using pasteurized eggs in recipes calling for raw eggs, such as homemade ice cream or eggnog.
- Avoid restaurant dishes made with raw, undercooked, unpasteurized eggs such as Hollandaise sauce or Caesar salad dressing.