This article first appeared at dphhs.mt.gov

Cracking Open Some Myths About Eggs

Ah April! For many of us, the month brings memories of dyeing eggs and Easter egg hunts. This year, many of the eggs being dyed across the Treasure State come from the most productive chickens in the country. According to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2009 data, Montana led the nation in average number of eggs produced per layer at 305, 14 percent above the national average of 268 eggs per layer.

"With all the interest in local foods, it's good to know that our chickens are so productive," says Lynn Paul, PhD, RD (registered dietitian), Food and Nutrition Specialist with MSU Extension in Bozeman. "Enjoying a few more eggs from a local producer may be a good thing for the health of Montana families. Sadly, a few long-held nutrition myths have kept many folks from enjoying the benefits of versatile, nutrient-rich eggs."

For forty years, eggs have been burdened with a bad reputation based on cholesterol. While one yolk does contain 210 milligrams of dietary cholesterol, eggs do not raise the blood cholesterol levels of most people. Large studies from several countries have found no link between egg consumption and heart disease or stroke. Some egg nutrients, like B-vitamins, may even promote heart health. Current guidelines suggest that healthy people can eat one to two eggs daily, if they keep their fat and saturated fat intake at moderate levels. If cholesterol must be limited, two egg whites can be substituted for one whole egg in most recipes.

According to Dr. Paul, eggs provide nutrition that is important for good health at all ages, from pregnancy through old age. "Eggs are an excellent source of choline, which is critical for fetal brain development and helps prevent birth defects. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that help reduce the risk of both cataracts and age-related macular degeneration." Additionally, eggs are an inexpensive source of high quality protein, which helps promote healthy weights and strong muscles for everybody.

Here are a few egg-related facts that are important whether you get your eggs from the backyard, grocery store, or local farmers' market:

  • Brown eggs are not more nutritious than white eggs. Different breeds of chickens lay different colored eggs; some are even blue and green. The yellow color of egg yolks varies with what chickens eat.
  • Organic eggs do not have more nutrients than conventionally produced eggs. However, some people prefer to support organic and free-range production techniques on large farms and in small backyards.
  • "Designer" eggs rarely provide enough extra nutrients to be worth their extra cost. Eggs that claim to be rich in omega-3s, for example, contain only a small amount compared to fatty fish, such as salmon.

"Eggs are one of the quickest and least expensive protein foods to prepare at home," notes Paul. "They can be fried, scrambled, boiled, poached, and baked. Simple omelets and open-faced frittatas are also deliciously easy ways to combine Montana-made low-fat cheeses, herbs, vegetables, and lean proteins with eggs."

5 Smart Reasons to Enjoy Eggs Morning, Noon, or Night

For the past 40 years, many Americans have avoided eggs due to worries about their cholesterol content. It's time to revisit the benefits of eggs and crack a few myths about eggs and cholesterol. As recent research has shown, there is a very sunny side to eggs - an inexpensive, nutrient-rich way to start or finish your day!

Healthy hearts

Many large studies from around the world have confirmed that eating eggs does not raise the risk of heart disease in most people. Some of the nutrients in eggs, such as B-vitamins, are actually beneficial for heart health. The bigger concern is all the foods that typically surround eggs, like large portions of bacon, sausage, biscuits, and gravy.

Healthy weights

An egg contains only 70 calories and has 6 grams of high quality protein that can help you feel fuller and satisfied longer. People who eat eggs in the morning tend to feel fuller and to eat less at lunch those who breakfast on muffins or bagels. Hard-boiled eggs make a satisfying and nutritious snack - mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

Healthy muscles

Egg protein can also help active adults build muscle strength and prevent muscle loss in older adults. There's no need for those expensive protein powders or drinks. Simple scrambled or poached eggs make a quick, easy, and very tasty meal for older folks or busy families. Low in cost and easy to chew, eggs are popular with people of all ages.

Healthy eyes

Here's another reason to think eggs as we age. Egg yolks are a source of lutein and zeaxanthin, nutrients that help keep eyes healthy and vision sharp. Both nutrients have been linked to a lower risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin seem to be more easily absorbed from eggs than other foods or pills.

Healthy pregnancies

Egg nutrients may also be helpful very early in life. Egg yolks are also an excellent source of choline, an essential nutrient that contributes to fetal brain development and helps prevent birth defects. Two eggs provide about 250 milligrams of choline, or about half of the recommended daily choline intake for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

5 Successful Ways to Make Eggs Easily and Quickly

Eggs are perishable and careful handling is critical. At the store, open carton to check that eggs are clean and free of cracks. Refrigerate eggs in original carton on a cold, inside shelf. Shelled eggs are good for 3-4 weeks after purchase. When cooking, wash all surfaces, utensils, and skin with warm, soapy water before and after touching eggs.

Make hard-cooked eggs.

Place eggs in a pan large enough to hold in a single layer. Add cold water to cover eggs by 1 inch. Heat on high just to boiling. Remove from stove; cover. Let eggs stand in hot water about 12 minutes for medium, 15 minutes for large, and 18 minutes for extra large eggs. Drain immediately and serve warm. Or cool completely under cold water and refrigerate.

Make scrambled eggs.

Beat 2 whole eggs with ½ cup milk, plus salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 tsp. butter or oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until hot; pour in egg mixture. As eggs begin to set, gently pull across pan with spatula, forming soft curds. Continue pulling, lifting and folding eggs until thickened with no visible liquid egg. Remove from heat; serve hot.

Make fried eggs.

For over-easy or over-hard eggs: Heat 2 tsp. butter in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Break eggs and slip into pan, 1 at a time. Immediately reduce heat to low. Cook slowly until whites are set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard. Carefully flip with spatula. Cook second side to desired doneness. Salt and pepper to taste; serve.

Make poached eggs.

Boil 2-3 inches water in a large pan or deep skillet. Adjust heat to maintain water at a gentle simmer. Break eggs, 1 at a time, into a small dish or cup. Holding dish close to surface, slip eggs into water. Cook until whites are set and yolks begin to thicken but are not hard, 3-5 minutes. Do not stir. Lift eggs from water with a slotted spoon. Drain gently and serve hot.

Make French toast.

Beat 4 eggs, 3 Tbsp. milk, and a dash of nutmeg in a shallow dish until blended. Soak 4 slices bread (1 at a time) in egg mixture, turning once, letting stand about 1 minute per side. Heat lightly greased nonstick skillet on high until hot. Add bread; reduce heat to medium. Cook until golden brown with no visible liquid, 2-3 minutes per side. Serve.

Accessed: June 18, 2011 at http://www.dphhs.mt.gov/newsevents/newsreleases2010/april/eggs.shtml

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