May is a month to celebrate the arrival of spring, mothers, graduations, the men and women who have died in military service, and the incredible EGG!
May is National Egg Month and an opportunity to not only recognize the qualities and versatility of the egg, but also to acknowledge our egg farmers! Did you know Iowa ranks No. 1 in the nation for egg production? Each year, Iowa egg farms produce more than 17.1 BILLION eggs and is home to more than 58 million laying hens. Together with Ohio and Indiana (2nd and 3rd producers), the three states produce a third of the total US eggs.
Here is a reminder of ALL of the egg-cellent reasons to celebrate eggs.
Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. They are loaded with nutrients, some of which are rare in the modern diet. One large egg has varying amounts of 13 essential vitamins and minerals and 6 grams of high-quality protein containing all the essential amino acids that humans need. For as many nutrients as they have, eggs are a relatively low-calorie food with just 70+ calories in a large egg. There are no carbohydrates or sugars, and only 5 grams of healthy fat (7 percent of your daily recommended intake). Eggs are a source of choline, a nutrient that most people don’t even know exists, yet it is an incredibly important substance used to build cell membranes and produce signaling molecules in the brain along with various other functions. A single egg contains more than 100 mg of choline. Eggs are also an important source of the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin which are very important for eye health and can help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts in older adults.
It is true that eggs are high in cholesterol. In fact, a single egg contains 212 mg which is over half of the recommended daily intake of 300 mg. However, it’s important to know that numerous recent studies show that cholesterol in the diet doesn’t necessarily raise cholesterol in the blood for the majority of people. In fact, egg consumption consistently leads to elevated levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and appears to change LDL (bad) particles from small dense harmful particles to large particles. Elevated HDL lowers our risk to many diseases and large particle LDL reduce risk of heart disease.
Not all eggs are created equal. Egg nutrient composition varies depending on how the hens are fed and raised and is usually reflected in the color of the yolk. Eggs from hens raised on grass and sunshine and/or fed omega-3 enriched feeds tend to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that consuming omega-3 enriched eggs is an effective way to lower blood triglycerides.
The color of an egg’s shell has nothing to do with the nutrition; all eggs, no matter the color, are packed with the same protein and nutrients on the inside. The different colors, or the presence of spots or speckling, come from the genetics or breed of the hen. All eggs start out as white. Eggs that are not white have pigments deposited on them as the egg travels through the hen’s oviduct. Brown eggs tend to be more expensive which leads people to falsely believe that they are more nutritious or better in some way. Actually the high cost is due to the maintenance of the hens. Brown chickens are usually larger than the white breeds and require more food to make an egg justifying an increase in cost over white eggs.
Inexpensive and Easy to Prepare
Eggs are pretty much nature’s perfect food. Beyond the nutritional benefits, they are also cheap, easy to prepare, go with almost any food, and taste awesome. Eggs have gained the reputation of a go-to breakfast food but can be enjoyed in so many different ways throughout the day as a protein source in other meals or as a snack; they make an excellent breakfast or anytime food as they not only provide nutrition but also increase satiety thereby reducing the hunger craving.
Eggs can be prepared in many ways – fried, scrambled, soft boiled, hard boiled, poached, baked, or microwaved. Cooking eggs makes the protein in them more digestible. It also helps make the vitamin biotin more available for your body to use. (Raw eggs should be avoided unless they are pasteurized according to the USDA; raw eggs may contain Salmonella, a pathogenic bacteria, which can cause food poisoning.) When cooking eggs, avoid high heat and over-cooking to prevent denaturing of the protein and retain as many nutrients as possible.
Eggs are an essential ingredient in baking and cooking, too, as they serve many functions in recipes. While there are alternatives to eggs for baking and cooking, the unique structures of the yolks and whites make eggs the perfect ingredient for baking and cooking functions. Depending upon how they are used in a recipe, eggs can provide structure, leavening, tenderizing, moisture, flavor, color, nutrition, or thickening properties to baked and cooked foods. They also act as an emulsifier bridging waters and fats.
One doesn’t have to look too far to find alternative uses for eggs or eggshells. They are used in the cosmetic industry and at home as a hair conditioner and face mask. They also make a great DIY glue, fertilizer, seed cup, cleaning agent, pest repellant, and more.
Use May’s 31 days to celebrate the easily served treat that contributes to muscle strength, brain function, eye health, and weight management. Whether hard-boiled, poached, scrambled, or over-easy, a healthy egg dish will always leave you feeling “sunny side up.”