28 Mar New York City Dietitian Discusses Whether an Egg is all It’s Cracked Up to Be
Yes. I’m sure you groaned. As this topic lends itself to an eggstraordinary amount of cliché! That said, all yolking aside … okay. I’m done. For real. The nutritional wallop we get in a small egg is nothing to cluck at.
I can’t stop myself!
This week, millions of people celebrate Seder, with traditional meals that include beitzah (a roasted egg symbolizing the temple sacrifice and continuing cycle of life). Millions more will celebrate Easter with eggs. Hard-boiled eggs are colored and hidden for children to find then get prizes.
The humble egg plays a prominent part of these two spring traditions. Perhaps the prize is the egg itself. A medium-sized chicken egg has approximately 75 calories, 5.1 grams of fat, and 7.5 grams of protein. In that fragile shell is a pretty powerful nutritional package.
Let’s take a look.
Protein: Eggs are considered a complete source of protein. Protein is made from chains of amino acids. Amino acids are necessary for almost all biological processes. They are used to build neuro transmitters (the basis of all learning). Eggs contain all nine essential amino acids.
Choline: Choline is an essential nutrient. When we read “essential” this means that our bodies do not produce the nutrient enough, so they require us to get the nutrient from another source – usually food. (Vitamin D from the sun is one exception). But why is choline a big deal? We don’t see it on nutrition labels. We don’t see non-stop ads for Choline tablets. A Seattle Times article explains that Choline is related to the Vitamin B family. More importantly, “choline is vital for brain development before birth and during infancy.” It’s as important as folic acid for fetal brain development. So where do eggs come in? Choline is naturally found in egg yolks, salmon, meat, poultry, dairy foods, and soybeans. Eggs are the best source of choline. One medium-sized egg provides a pregnant woman with 25% of recommended choline needs and 50% of recommended choline needs for a child 4 – 8 years old. Preventing birth defects through mindful eating is possible. And by maintaining a healthy post-partum diet while breastfeeding, you can give your child a jumpstart on healthy brain development.
Vitamin D: Sunshine on a plate! Eggs are a good source of vitamin D, which helps protect bones and can help prevent osteoporosis.
Reducing the risk of heart disease? We were bombarded by years of cholesterol scares, after which the sugar industry sweetened the pockets of many to falsely claim cholesterol and fats were the primary cause of heart disease. It’s hard to break out of that “cholesterol is bad” conditioning. Just one egg yolk has 200 mg of cholesterol. Most people can eat up to 7 eggs/week. If, however, you have problems with diabetes or other health problems, you’ll want to check with your physician before making any radical diet changes.
All eggs are not the same: The egg industry continues to be under fire because of the inhumane conditions in which the hens are treated. Dairy Queen and McDonald’s have joined a list of companies that are committing to use cage-free eggs. (Dairy Queen by 2025). This Nutrition Action article explains what the labels mean on the eggs and how we can become more conscientious buyers, supporting humane practices. Moreover, the nutrients in eggs depend on the conditions of the hen, who laid the egg.
Eggs, across cultures and over thousands of years of history, have symbolized fertility and birth, life and the lifecycle, the universe and its Gods. Coloring eggs, too, is rooted in traditions around the world – from Persia to the United States.
This year, no matter what you celebrate, what faith you choose, I wish you health, life, and sunshine. And, perhaps, you can find all of that in an egg.