I love living in an agricultural community. Grading an assignment for a nutrition class I teach to nursing students, I got this answer to instructions for students to take their body measurements and assess their health risks:
“I found each of my measurements, which took some time and dedication as I could not find a single tape measure or measuring tape in my house, so after some digging in the barn, I had to settle for a horse measuring tape. I now know how many hands tall I am (horses are measured in “hands” which is just four inches).”
We sometimes find answers that may surprise us. And that may be the case with eggs.
For the first time in decades, the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans no longer recommend that we limit our intake of cholesterol to 300 milligrams a day. (One egg yolk contains about 180 milligrams of cholesterol.)
Instead, these experts tell us to limit saturated fat (eggs are low in this type of fat) and “eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while consuming a healthy eating pattern.”
In other words, our heart health appears to depend less on whether we eat eggs or not and more on the company they keep. There’s a big difference, for example, between a breakfast of eggs, whole grain toast, low fat yogurt and fruit and one that features eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy.
Eggs have long scored the highest of all protein foods in quality and digestibility. Each egg contains all the essential amino acids to build every type of protein our bodies need. One amino acid is leucine — a powerful stimulant for building muscle tissue. And eggs are cheap compared to most other sources of protein.
Besides protein, eggs are packed with 13 essential nutrients (meaning they are absolutely needed for our bodies to function). According to the Egg Nutrition Center www.eggnutritioncenter.org, eggs are one of very few foods that contain vitamin D naturally. And these compact nutrition powerhouses also provide choline, a nutrient involved with brain development during pregnancy plus memory and mood functions as we get older.
And here’s a surprise: Don’t toss the yolks. That’s where most of the nutrients in eggs reside, including vitamin D, choline and antioxidant substances. Also more than 40 percent of the protein in eggs is found in the yolk.
By the way, the color of the egg does not change the nutrition of this food. Different hens lay different colored eggs. The color of the yolk, however, depends on the amount of orange and yellow plant pigments in the hen’s diet.
Lastly, I like that eggs are symbolic of Easter — a time that we celebrate new life and rebirth. I think of that when my grandchildren come over to color the eggs from our neighbor’s chickens. Hope you had a happy Easter.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to firstname.lastname@example.org.