Eggs have definitely been given a bad rap. When the war on cholesterol began a few decades ago, the breakfast staple became public enemy number one. It was thought that because egg yolks contained high amounts of dietary cholesterol, eating them could cause blood cholesterol levels to skyrocket. But as the research on cholesterol unfolded, it was clear that eggs were not the culprit they initially appeared to be. Recently, the U.S. Dietary Advisory Committee lifted its dietary cholesterol guidelines because research has shown that the amount of cholesterol you eat doesn’t translate to the amount of cholesterol in your blood. Health Canada and Dietitians of Canada have made similar recommendations.
But the damage to eggs’ reputation has been done. Many people dropped them from their home menus like a hot potato – forgetting that they are a quick, convenient food, chock full of valuable nutrients. Instead of eggs in the morning, many parents were persuaded that cold cereals and instant breakfast offerings were the nutritious food of choice for their youngsters.
It’s time to bring eggs back to the table. At only 70 calories per egg, they’re are a super source of protein, along with other key nutrients such as B vitamins like B12, riboflavin and niacin, along with vitamins A, D and E.
Eggs offer key advantages for weight management and appetite control.
When you consider the rising number of overweight and obese children, taming appetites is a much healthier (and peaceful) solution for weight control than restricting food. A number of studies have looked at the effect of consuming eggs at breakfast versus a higher carbohydrate meal and found that the impact of eggs in reducing total calories could be seen right through the day. Simply put, your kids will be less hungry and less likely to crave sugar-laden treats. Eggs also provide plenty of staying power through the morning, making it easier to learn.
Sure, only eating egg whites means fewer calories than eating whole eggs, but if you’re looking to reap maximum benefits for your family, go for the whole egg. If you skip the yolk you’ll be missing out on half the protein and most of the vitamins and minerals, not to mention the antioxidant lutein, the pigment that provides colour to the yolk and promotes healthy vision.
Eggs are also very friendly to food budgets, making them ideal for fast economical dinners as well. Frittatas and omelettes, filled with assorted vegetables, can be whipped up for the evening meal with planned extra servings left over for breakfast.
Life used to be simple. Small, medium, large, extra large, brown or white – those were the egg choices. But there’s now a whole range of egg products on the market, many with very different nutritional properties. There are two basic categories of choices: shell eggs and liquid egg products. Various feed and breeding conditions of the hens have resulted in an assortment of products including organic, free range, free-run and nest-laid eggs. There are also eggs with different nutritional profiles. For example, omega-3 eggs, produced when flax and vitamin E are added to the hen’s feed mix, provide higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. Deeper coloured yolks, due to different feeds, contain higher amounts of lutein.
Pourable egg whites are a hot seller these days and offer a few advantages. For one, they make easy work of whipping up recipes that call for an abundance of egg whites – no eggs to crack and no more leftover yolks. Another perk is that they’re pasteurized, decreasing the risk of foodborne illness and making them ideal to use in recipes where the egg whites may be partially cooked or consumed raw as in meringue toppings or whipped desserts.
Keep them safe
Here are some simple but wise practices to keep in mind for the safe handling of eggs:
- Only buy eggs that are stored under refrigeration.
- Keep eggs in their cartons in the interior of your fridge, not on the door.
- Discard any cracked eggs and check the “Best before date”. While you can still use them if they’re past that date, be sure to cook them thoroughly before doing so.
- Always wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling eggs in their shells as they can be a source of foodborne illness.
- If you’re taking some out of the fridge to warm up to room temperature, put them in a dish rather than on the counter to avoid cross contamination (as you would do with raw chicken).
- Avoid using raw eggs in dishes unless they have been pasteurized.
- For people with compromised immune systems, very young children, the elderly and pregnant women, it’s best to eat eggs thoroughly cooked.
Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian in private practice and author of The Enlightened Eater’s Whole Foods Guide (Viking Canada). Visit rosieschwartz.com for more.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, June 2015.