Here’s looking at you, incredibly edible egg
he backyard or “urban” chicken phenomenon has taken the nation by storm in the last few years and summer is prime laying season. Not only do the plentiful eggs make for a satisfying breakfast dish or snack, they’re also a simple way to lend a sunny-side up-scale twist to seemingly mundane dishes like pizza, salad, soup or burgers.
That said, it isn’t necessary to have live-in livestock to enjoy the benefits of these cheap and versatile protein powerhouses.
According to Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of “The Flexitarian Diet” (McGraw Hill, 2009), the most important thing to know about eggs is that they are an excellent source of nutrition – one large egg has only 72 calories and offers six-plus grams of protein. The white portion (or albumen) contains over half the total protein, niacin, riboflavin, magnesium and potassium. But it’s the smaller yolk that really provides the majority of an egg’s vitamins and minerals, including high levels of vitamin D and phosphorous which are important for bone health, lutein, which is great for eye health, and choline, which promotes brain health and helps, reduce inflammation.
Those little balls of sunshine also contain 185 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol, which means you should probably control your intake if you currently have heart disease – the recommended daily cholesterol limit for healthy adults is 300 mg, whereas people with heart disease should limit themselves to 200 mg. However, numerous studies over the past few decades have found that it’s saturated fat rather than cholesterol that increases the risk of heart disease, and eggs are relatively low in saturated fat – only 1.5 grams in one large egg. A healthy adult can eat one or two eggs a day without any threat to their heart, says Blatner. “And the yolks are especially healthy so no more egg-white-only omelets please!”
Think you’re better off buying the brown version? Wrong, says Blatner. Brown eggs simply come from brown-feathered hens while white eggs come from white-feathered hens. As for eggs that are enhanced with Omega-3s, they come from hens that dine on a feed high in flax, marine algae or fish oil. But one egg only has the omega-3 equivalent of about one tablespoon of salmon, says Blatner, so fish itself remains a better source.
If you’re looking for some more creative but healthy ways to include eggs in your diet, it’s as easy as perfecting your hard boil. Start by following these instructions from Blatner, an instructor at Chicago’s Chopping Block Cooking School:
Place your eggs in a pot and cover with one inch of water. Over medium heat bring them to a boil, turn off the heat, cover and let them sit for 15-17 minutes. Place the eggs in ice water for a few minutes before you refrigerate them – you can store them for up to seven days.
Blatner suggests using the final product in a spinach salad (toss baby spinach and sliced mushrooms, red onion and hard-boiled eggs in light French dressing) or Niçoise salad (toss chopped romaine lettuce and tomatoes, steamed green beans, canned/drained tuna, and sliced olives and hard-boiled eggs in vinaigrette), or on a pizza – top a 100-percent whole grain thin pizza crust with pre-made pesto, spinach, sliced hard-boiled eggs and part-skim mozzarella, and then bake according to crust directions.
Terry Golson, author of “The Farmstead Egg Cookbook” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006) and founder of HenCam.com, also has these six tasty ideas for getting egg on your face:
1) Whisk egg with goat cheese, salt and pepper and first toss with very hot pasta, and then chopped tomatoes.
2) Add flavor and moistness to a burger by topping it with a buttery fried egg.
3) Make an exceptionally simple egg drop soup by heating your favorite broth and stirring in a whisked egg. It’s even better if the broth has tiny pasta simmered in it, Golson says.
4) Add body and interest to a summer vegetable soup by poaching an egg directly in the soup until the white is set but the yolk remains runny.
5) Top steamed and chilled vegetables with homemade croutons tossed with minced hard-cooked eggs and fresh herbs.
6) Try Golson’s own go-to recipe for a fast dinner. “Scramble your eggs in good butter and toss in some fresh herbs and smoked salmon. Serve with toast. Done.”