Since the 1970s, we’ve been told by scientists that eating eggs could increase our blood cholesterol, leading to clogged arteries. A lot of this was based on the fact that eggs contain cholesterol. Recently, though, researchers have changed their recommendations. For example, eggs also contain lecithin, which can help keep cholesterol in solution in the blood, helping to prevent it from being deposited in the blood vessels. When you eat a whole egg you get both cholesterol and lecithin, and they work together.
Harvard’s School of Public Health goes on to say this on their website: “While it’s true that egg yolks have a lot of cholesterol–and so may weakly affect blood cholesterol levels–eggs also contain nutrients that may help lower the risk for heart disease, including protein, vitamins B12 and D, riboflavin, and folate.” It now appears that, for the majority of people, the amount of cholesterol in our diet has little to do with our blood cholesterol levels. “[M]oderate egg consumption–up to one a day–does not increase heart disease risk in healthy individuals and can be part of a healthy diet.” The exceptions, they say, are people who already have heart disease or diabetes. For them, “it is best to limit egg consumption to no more than three yolks per week.”
That was happy news, since I’ve loved eggs all my life. My grandmother raised chickens, and I loved helping her when we visited the farm. Eggs are a wonderfully “nutrient dense” food, which means they pack a lot of protein and other essential nutrition into a relatively low number of calories. A large egg only contains about 70-75 calories.
Another reason some people quit eating eggs is the belief they are hazardous because of the potential for salmonella. A lot of this stems from an egg-based salmonella outbreak in September, 2010. In fact, eggs are very safe as long as they are stored and cooked properly. Eggs can keep for several weeks after purchase if they are kept refrigerated. Experts recommend that eggs be cooked until the whites and yolks are firm. Dishes containing eggs mixed with other ingredients should be heated until an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit is reached. Salmonella is destroyed by the heat of cooking. Finally, they suggest washing your hands, as well as the surfaces and utensils that come into contact with raw eggs, to avoid cross-contamination. Handle raw eggs as you would raw meat and you should be safe.
Just for fun, here’s a trick to try within a day or two of the Spring Equinox (in our time zone, that was March 19 at 10:14pm) when the sun’s path crosses the equator and hours of daylight and dark are equal. Supposedly an egg can be balanced on its end then, and again around the Fall Equinox. I haven’t tried this yet but will do so this year.
While we’re playing with eggs in their shells, if you ever get some hardboiled eggs mixed up with raw eggs, here’s an easy way to tell which is which. Lay the egg on its side and spin it like a top. While it’s spinning, stop it and then let go immediately. A raw egg will resume moving after you let go because the fluids inside will still be rotating. A cooked egg will stay stopped. I’ve tried this particular trick, and it works beautifully.
Also of possible interest, the color of an eggshell depends upon the breed of hen, and does not indicate nutritional differences. Hens with white ear lobes lay white eggs. Hens with red ear lobes lay brown eggs. (Is a hen’s ear lobe easy to find? I’ve never tried.) This factoid comes from the University of Illinois Extension Office. Some eggshells are green–are there hens with green earlobes? Inquiring minds want to know…
One important final note: The vast majority of eggs produced in this country (and the world) are factory farmed under conditions you wouldn’t wish on any living creature. By talking with and purchasing from local farmers (organic, if possible), you can ensure the hens laying your eggs are living happy, healthy lives with plenty of time outdoors. You’ll also get the freshest, most nutritious eggs possible.
Attention Kids! Check out the “Kids Eat Kale Contest” at www.whatcomfarmtoschool.org
Bellingham Farmers Market opens April 7! Sustainable Connections will also release the 2012 Whatcom Food and Farm Finder booklet that day!
Here are some locavore egg recipes to help you enjoy the healthy eggs produced in Whatcom County: