The strangest thing happens this time of year. Bags of little chocolate eggs suddenly appear in my grocery basket. And by the time I get home, at least one of the bags is mysteriously opened...with a few eggs missing. It's a mystery I don't understand.
Eggs - real eggs - are part of this season. They remind us of new life...the story of Easter. But are eggs good for us?
One egg yolk contains about 215 milligrams of cholesterol compared to our recommended daily limit of 200 to 300 milligrams (the lower limit for those at risk for heart disease). But like Easter, let us consider the rest of the story...
- Eggs contain no trans fats and very little saturated fat - culprits in our food that increase our risk for heart disease more than cholesterol. In fact, a tablespoon of olive oil has more saturated fat than a whole egg.
- Egg yolks get their yellow-orange color from lutein - a natural pigment that can help guard the eyes from developing cataracts.
- Eggs contain natural vitamin D - a nutrient with probable health benefits far beyond its ability to help the body absorb calcium.
- Egg protein is the highest quality protein on the planet. It contains all the essential amino acids needed by the human body to build valuable proteins. Protein is found in the yolk as well as the white of the egg.
- Brown eggs are no more or less nutritious than white eggs. They just come from hens of a different feather (color). Brown eggs can be more expensive, however, because they typically come from larger hens.
- Eggs are an excellent source of choline - a compound the body uses for nerve and brain development. For this reason, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need increased intakes of choline.
- Prospective studies - comparing what people eat to their health issues over several years - on men and women found no significant effect of eating 1 or 2 eggs a day in healthy people who generally eat a low-fat diet.
- People with diabetes or high blood cholesterol levels are generally sensitive to the effects of cholesterol in food. These folks would be wise to limit egg intake to 1 or 2 a week
- Hard-cooked Easter eggs are safe to eat up to a week after the big hunt. Just remember to hop them into the refrigerator before and after the Easter bunny hides them.
How do all the makings for a perfect little chick end up in a hard shell, perfectly produced every 24 hours by a hen that doesn't even have to think about it? It's part of the miracle of Easter.
(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Send mail to BQuinn, 2 Upper Ragsdale Drive, Monterey, CA or email her at bquinn(at)chomp.org.)