There’s something magical about eggs. They symbolize life and the life cycle, fertility and birth, the universe and its Gods. Eggs are a part of almost every culture and tradition. In many Native American creation stories, eggs are a prominent element. A Chinese folktale explains the universe beginning with … the egg. The painting of eggs is a tradition that dates back thousands of years. In Persia, eggs are painted to celebrate No Ruz – the Zoroastrian New Year.
Many of us have just spent the better part of the past week eating boiled eggs in every manner possible. Besides the myth and lore of eggs, are they really good for us? It’s hard to tell whether we spend more time thinking about eggs or the controversies surrounding them. (Cholesterol, Fat, Triglycerides, oh my!)
Eggs have been consumed as food since, quite literally, the beginning of human time. The earliest records of using eggs in baking go back to 6000 BC in China. So, like I said, since the beginning of human time.
Most people from the Americas and Europe eat chicken eggs – the most common. (Though don’t rule out duck, goose, quail or even ostrich).
So, what’s the big deal about such a fragile little package?
- Protein:Eggs are a prime, inexpensive source of protein. One large egg contains 6.3 grams of protein. Proteins are the building blocks for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood, enzymes, hormones and vitamins. That’s a lot to swallow. And something our bodies need. In fact, the origin of the word comes from protos – Greek “first.” Adults need .8 grams of protein per kilogram per day. A more accurate method, which I use with my clients, is to calculate protein needs based on body weight while using a range of protein from .8 to 2.0 grams per kilogram. Many different situations, like age, activity level, disease states and injury, can require higher levels of protein for optimal health. If you’re not sure how much you need, try this protein/nutrient calculator from the USDA.
- Choline: This essential nutrient helps keep our brains, livers, and nervous systems functioning as well as helps muscle movement, keeping energy levels up and boosting our metabolisms. Just one egg yolk contains 115 mg of choline. The national institutes of health recommend 425 mg of choline/day for women and 550 mg for men.
- B2 (riboflavin), B6, B12: The beautiful Bs. Though they share the same letter, they function differently in the body. Riboflavin keeps skin, eyes, and the nervous system healthy. B6 lets the body store energy from proteins and carbohydrates (like solar panels within to give us the energy we need throughout the day) and is essential in forming hemoglobin (that cool thing that carries oxygen around the body). And B12 makes red blood cells, keeps the nervous system healthy, releases energy from food and uses folic acid. That’s a powerful punch!
- Bring out the minerals Egg whites are a great source of selenium, zinc, iron and copper. These trace elements are known as micronutrients. Selenium is a key part of the body’s enzyme system. Copper is an antioxidant and plays a role in red blood cell formation. Iron helps red blood cells carry oxygen all over the body and zinc is critical for immunity and healing.
Not to mention egg yolks are a healthy source of cholesterol, lecithin and vitamins A, D, E and K. All of this in one tiny, perfect little package. Nutrition Action has a great article about choosing the best eggs (humane egg breeding). With all of the wonder of eggs, I guess the only thing to ask is, “What’s for breakfast?”