Are Eggs Healthy For You?
You may not know all these fun facts about eggs. Eggs are a near perfect food with a balance of protein and nutrients. Whip whites to add air to dishes, use the yellow to add a creamy richness, or mix them together to hold things together. Yolk color is determined by what the bird eats. Deep yellow to orange egg yolks are richer in carotenoids. Yolks contain about ½ the egg’s protein and all of the fat as well as most of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The whites contain protein and no fat.
Contrary to what you may have heard, eggs do not increase bad cholesterol, nor do they increase the risk of heart disease or stroke for the average person who is not at high risk. Bad cholesterol, LDL, is based upon what you eat (or don’t eat). (Hu, F.B., M.J. Stampfer, et al. 1999) (JAMA 281 (15):1387-94.) The breed of the hen determines shell color. Egg color is simply an aesthetic preference.
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Fresh eggs are best. Proper handling and temperature will help eggs stay fresh. Inappropriate temperature and humidity will age an egg. (A week-old egg can actually be fresher than a day-old egg.) You will notice the yellows stand up and are perky when you crack them with fresh eggs. In the shell, the older the egg, the more it will float in water. Fresh eggs sink. But older eggs aren’t all bad. Older egg whites are more watery and broken down so they will whip up more easily.
Fresh eggs will have a more noticeable chalaza (the egg white strand that anchors the yolk in place). It is supposed to be there and does not need to be removed. If your egg white is a bit cloudy, you can be assured of a very fresh egg. And, believe it or not, a bright red blood spot would also indicate a fresh egg. The spot can be removed for aesthetics; but it does not make the egg inedible.
Free Range Eggs
Not all eggs are create equal. Free range hens are free to roam about in pastures instead of being locked in small crowded cages. If allowed to truly roam free in pastures, chickens will eat seeds and pick up additional nutritional value. Eggs from chickens on pasture are higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E and Vitamin A. The yolks are deeper in color when chickens get good food and sunshine and therefore contain valuable antioxidants. “Cage-free” does not guarantee access to the outdoors. There are no inspections to verify the claim cage-free. And, “free-range” doesn’t necessarily guarantee pasture. It could be dirt or concrete and still be free roaming.
You don’t need a nonstick pan to make perfect breakfast eggs, just make sure the pan is warm enough, but not so hot that it smokes or that the butter, once you put it in, burns. Get the pan nice and warm before adding your butter (you don’t need much); once that’s swirled around and melted you’ll see it bubble a little. Then crack your eggs on a flat surface, not the edge of the bowl, and add your eggs to the warm pan with the melted butter (or olive oil, if you prefer, but butter tastes so good with eggs!). The trick is the temperature of the pan, the butter added after it gets warm, and the eggs added after the butter is foamed to prevent eggs from sticking. Timing is everything.
Salt is very important to eggs, but add it after the eggs start cooking. Freshly ground pepper is a good addition to eggs too. Avocado, tomatoes and fresh herbs like parsley, dill and cilantro go particularly well with eggs.
The best way to make boiled eggs is not to boil them at all but rather bring the water up to a boil with the eggs in there, then turn it off and cover it for 15 minutes. After that drain and rinse with cold water, don’t be afraid to crack the eggs when you drain as that will help the peeling process. You can tell an egg is boiled because when you spin it and then stop it, it stops. A non-cooked egg will continue to spin after you stop it.
Store eggs in the carton they come in (not in plastic egg holders that come with the refrigerator). Store them inside the refrigerator, not on the door. You want to keep eggs cool at a constant temperature. You can freeze egg whites for later use.
Fun Facts About Eggs
A hen needs about a day to a day and a half to make each egg.
Egg size is actually determined by the age of a hen. The older the hen, the larger the egg.
Fresh eggs keep in the fridge for about a month. Hard boiled eggs keep for a week.
(Some blog images from Flickr.com)