Eggs: Rectified!

What a legendary weekend.  While battling through a substantial amount of head congestion I chose to address all 80+ of my graduation announcements.  There is nothing quite like formally addressing piles of crisp ivory envelopes to really make a twenty something single girl pathetically assess where she is in her life.  I was discussing my ‘woman on the verge’ moment with an older female adult, explaining I need a textbook for the next chapter of my life.  She looked me dead in the eye and replied, “Kimberly, there is one.” Thinking she is about reference a Chicken Noodle Soup book, I smiled politely and replied “Oh?” “Well, the Twilight books of course!” was her disturbing response. Really? That’s my life’s textbook.  An angst ridden teen romance novel revolving around a human, a vampire, and a werewolf? Is the Wizard of Oz my retirement plan? If so, those Munchkins need to have one hell of a 401K, because I am not picking up a second job after 65.

In an effort to distract myself from this obnoxiously classic distress, I had breakfast with an old friend from high school.  As we sat in our laminated booth, I skimmed the menu in hopes of finding some killer oatmeal. While I glanced over the egg dishes, I noticed there was not one but three egg white breakfast entrees.  She asked me what I planned to order and upon informing her, she responded, “Oh, you mean you’re not getting the egg white omelet?” Some days I really curse my major.  When people assume you’re the food police, they also expect you to abide by the law. When did egg whites become the gold standard of breakfast eating?

In a (nut) shell eggs are high quality protein with a minimal price tag.  As a student of nutrition, it’s discouraging to see such a wonderful food wrongfully framed as “unhealthy”. I don’t like putting foods into the dreaded off-limits category.  I tend to believe it sets one up for failure. A day is going to come when I want that deep-fried Oreo at the State Fair and God as my witness, I will not be denied.

Years ago, numerous health experts preached that eggs should be avoided. Now, many seem stuck on the notion that eggs are bad for us. They’re even being used as a weapon on that boy with the hair. All he’s trying to do is put on a good show, cut the prepubescent kid some slack. But I digress. For those of you who believe eggs are “unhealthy”, I’m here to tell you that label is a misnomer. Eggs are an excellent source of vitamin A, riboflavin and iron.  They are also a complete protein (contain all 9 essential amino acids).  One egg or two egg whites are equal to one ounce of protein.

What I believe is responsible for eggs’ bad image, is the cholesterol containing yolk.  Ahhh she said the word cholesterol! Honey, get me my box of Cheerios, ASAP! Cholesterol is not a dietary essential.  We do not need to eat it because our bodies are perfectly capable of making their own cholesterol. It’s recommended that in order to decrease the risk of heart disease, we need to limit our daily cholesterol consumption to 300mg. One egg contains 213mg.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that after one egg, you’re almost to your limit of cholesterol for the day.

If I eat an egg yolk in the morning (or at lunch or dinner, I am a college student after all), you better believe I’m not going to track and compute my cholesterol consumption for the rest of the day.  I have way better things to do with my time and brainpower. However, I am also aware of the other cholesterol containing foods I shovel into my mouth.  Only animal products contain cholesterol (milk, cheese, fish, butter, beef, lamb, etc.).  This is the reason I laugh when I see a jar of peanut butter labeled cholesterol free.  Like the manufacturers have performed this big feat in removing cholesterol from their plant-based product.

The National Cancer Institute has a list of the top food sources of cholesterol the US population consumes (2005-2006). I was first going to put this in as a table, but it was way too imposing.  The top 5 are as follows:

  1. Eggs and egg mixed dishes
  2. Chicken and chicken mixed dishes
  3. Beef and beef mixed dishes
  4. Burgers
  5. Regular cheese
Oof. Specific. Honestly, the entire list was rather vague, but I think you get the idea of where your dietary cholesterol is coming from. At the end of the day, should you consume whole eggs on a daily basis? Probably not.  But eating one whole egg once or twice a week is perfectly fine! I tend to saddle up to the Mediterraneans way of thinking when it comes to eggs. In my personal opinion, they have the best food guide pyramid out there. Hands down.  I’m sure this will be revisited later, but I could not help but mention it in this post.
The Mediterranean pyramid divides up food groups among daily, weekly, monthly consumption categories. Whole eggs fall into the weekly category.  Notice, I did not say egg whites.  I love egg whites just as much as the next health conscious freak, but I’ll tell you a secret; I rarely eat egg whites plain.  Quite frankly, they’re boring and tasteless.  Instead, I often scramble three egg whites and one whole egg together. I usually eat this once or twice a week.  I recommend adding garlic, onion, dry mustard, spinach or feta cheese.
Egg Buying Basics for the Average Consumer:
  • The diet of the chickens can be altered to manipulate the components of the egg.  This is why you see omega-3 eggs (usually achieved by feeding the hens flax-seed).
  • Cage-free eggs are laid by hens raised on the floor of a building instead of in cages.
  • Free-range eggs are laid by hens that are raised outside during the day, but in a barn at night.
My Simple Tips on Eggs:  
1. Do not be fooled by the color of the egg
Grocers like to charge higher prices for the brown eggs. I’m here to tell you, white and brown eggs are EXACTLY the same except for the color of their shells. The color of the shell simply indicates the breed of the bird. Nothing more. Chickens with white ear lobes lay white eggs, while chickens with brown ear lobes lay brown eggs. So just buy the cheaper white eggs. There is no point in paying for an aesthetic you are just going to crack and throw away.
2. Keep the eggs in the carton 
That carton is specifically designed to prevent the eggs from absorbing orders or flavors from other foods found in your refrigerator.
3. Don’t wash your eggs
Eggs have a natural protective layer on the shell’s surface.  By washing them, you remove that barrier and make the egg more susceptible to flavors, odors, and bacteria.
3. Keep track of the age of your eggs
The USDA recommends using your eggs within 3-5 weeks of purchasing them. I try to use mine within one week of the sell by date. Interested in determining the age of your eggs? There is a three-digit code (001-365) on the side of every egg carton.  These three numbers indicate on which day of the year it was packed (Dec. 31 would be 365).  There is the old wives tale that if you put an egg in a glass of water and it floats it’s bad (which makes sense because the older an egg is, the more air it contains).  I tend to just trust the sell by date and my nose.
Image courtesy of Curb Stone Valley Farm
Was this boring?

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