Eggs Can Be Heart Healthy
Most of egg’s bad reputation is due to the cholesterol in the yolk. According to the American Heart Association, one large egg yolk has about 186 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol, and it’s recommended that the average person limit dietary cholesterol intake to 300 mg per day. The AHA recommends that people with normal cholesterol levels cap their egg consumption to four or fewer whole eggs per week, and suggests that people with heart disease eat two or fewer eggs per week or use cholesterol-free egg substitutes. Because egg whites contain no cholesterol, unlimited egg white consumption is perfectly heart-healthy.
The reputation of eggs has largely been restored because study after study has found that dietary cholesterol has a much smaller impact on cholesterol levels than was once believed. In fact, a 2001 study published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, found that lutein, a nutrient found in egg yolks, may even help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Eggs Are a Weight-Loss Superfood
Prized for their low-calorie protein punch, eggs are an excellent snack or meal for anyone who wants to lose or manage their weight. With 6 grams of protein and only 80 calories per large egg, one hard-boiled egg can be a satisfying snack. Add a handful of fresh spinach to an egg scramble, and you have a healthy breakfast that’s bursting with nutrients. Egg whites have only 15 calories per egg, no cholesterol, and no saturated fat, which makes them an extremely diet-friendly food.
Eggs Are Nutrient-Rich
In addition to helping with weight control, eggs supply many essential nutrients, including vitamin A, and the minerals iron, phosphorus, zinc, and DHA, which is a key to brain health. For vegetarians who still eat some animal products, eggs are an excellent nonmeat source of the vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that most humans get from meat, fish, and dairy.
How nutritious an egg is also largely depends on how it was produced. Some farmers now feed laying hens omega-3-rich diets that in turn produce eggs that are enriched withomega-3 fatty acids, which can boost heart health. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has approved the use of labels claiming that certain eggs are high in omega-3s, the agency says there’s not enough scientific evidence to determine whether the addition of heart-healthy omega-3s to eggs provides a significant benefit.
Egg Size and Color Comes to the Chicken
When you’re standing at the grocery store among all the types of eggs, the choice between brown and white or medium and large eggs can be confusing. Here’s what it means: The color and the size of the egg is related to the color and the size of the chicken that produced the egg — nothing more. Brown eggs come from brown chickens, and though they’re often more expensive, that certainly doesn’t mean they’re healthier. Instead, brown eggs usually cost more because brown chickens are typically larger and more expensive to feed.
Some specialty stores and farmers’ markets sell pullet eggs, which are significantly smaller than your standard store-bought egg. Again, this is because pullet eggs are produced by pullet chickens, which are chickens that are less than a year old and therefore smaller than a full-grown hen. Some egg-lovers swear that pullet eggs are richer and creamier than larger eggs, but it really all comes down to preference.
If you break open an egg only to find a yolk that’s yellower than normal, that has to do with the quality of the diet of the chicken, not the shell color. Typically, the more corn chickens eat, the yellower the yolks.
Dyed Easter Eggs: An Ancient Tradition
Although there’s not exactly a passage in the Bible about dying eggs for Easter, the tradition has been around for centuries. According to History.com, the dyed Easter eggs we’re familiar with today can be traced back to at least the 13th century, where they were part of pagan festivals to celebrate spring. According to Christians, eggs represent the Resurrection, and they were originally painted as a way to celebrate the end of the Lenten period.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, eggs dyed with over-the-counter home dying products are typically safe to eat if you follow a few guidelines. It’s important to cook the eggs thoroughly before dying them, and store them in the refrigerator. It is not recommend to eat eggs that have been stored at room temperature, whether they are raw or cooked, so if you want to leave your dyed eggs out for display or if you use paint or other potentially toxic dyes, it’s best not to eat them at all.
Eggs are also part of Passover, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the story of the Exodus every spring. During the Seder dinner on the first night of Passover, a roasted egg is placed on the Seder plate to signify sacrifice and mourning over the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Egg Substitutes Are Healthy, Too
Most egg substitutes, such as Egg Beaters, are pasteurized egg whites that are supplemented with beta-carotene for color and additional vitamins. There are also animal-free egg substitutes on the market that are made from potato starch or yeast flakes, which when mixed with water, can resemble the consistency of beaten eggs. If you prefer egg substitutes to whole eggs, says Nicolette Pace, a registered dietitian and New York-based obesity and lifestyle counselor, they are a healthful option.
“Egg substitutes can be useful for recipes that have classically used raw eggs, as the substitutes are pasteurized,” Pace says. “They are convenient and can be frozen to be on hand whenever you need them.”
Although many popular diets suggest using egg substitutes in place of whole eggs, Pace says it’s not necessary and that both types have health benefits.
Are Raw Eggs Safe to Eat?
Movies regularly depict athletes eating eggs Rocky-style, which means raw and straight from a glass like a shot. But if you have aspirations to eat eggs like your favorite movie boxer, it’s best to reconsider. All types of raw eggs — even organic or free-range eggs — carry a risk of food-borne illnesses from salmonella bacteria, Pace says. Plus, there’s no added nutritional benefit to eating eggs raw.
“Historically, raw food eaters feel that cooking eggs causes a loss in nutrients,” Pace says. But research has since found that this isn’t true.
If raw eggs appeal to you for the convenience factor, you can cook eggs quickly and healthfully by zapping them in your microwave in a glass or mug for one minute. If the eggs are still runny after the minute is up, microwave them a few seconds at a time until they’re firm.
The Healthiest Way to Eat Eggs
There’s not one single healthy way to eat eggs, Pace says, but boiling or poaching eggs with no oil or butter is the lowest-calorie way to cook them.
“If you like eggs over-easy-medium-hard, a simple spray of oil is all you need,” Pace says. “Eggs are great lunches and easy, light dinner meals. Mix them with veggies in frittatas or omelets, or pair them with a salad or soup, and you’re good to go.”
For the perfect hard-boiled egg, just cover eggs with water and set to boil in a saucepan. Once the water has reached a roiling boil, remove the pan from the heat, and let it sit covered for 15 minutes.