9 Reasons to Exonerate Eggs + How I Do Omelets
Eggs seem to fall in and out of disrepute as often as hemlines change, with the prevailing thought often trending toward fear rather than favor.
Research has consistently demonstrated that the nutrients found in eggs benefit your body head to toe – from brain, eyes, skin and hair, to heart, bones, veins and arteries. And even with recent nutrition recommendations from top researchers suggesting we embrace eggs as part of a healthy diet, there is still much trepidation. A sad truth for a dietitian whose household loves eggs.
Below I highlight several of their many benefits, as part of my National Nutrition Month® tips series. For your patience with this wordier than usual post, a recipe for my unconventional take on the omelet awaits you at the finish line.
9 Reasons to Exonerate Eggs:
1. One whole egg contains more than 6 grams (g) of protein, roughly 13% of the recommended daily value. Interestingly, the white of an egg is approximately 90% water, and the rest is protein – but there’s also protein in the yolk. In fact, it’s spread fairly evenly between the white and the yolk (3.6 g and 2.7 g, respectively), and the yolk actually helps the body digest the white’s portion of protein.
Because of the body’s ability to utilize the protein in eggs so readily and quickly, they are considered the highest quality of protein in comparison to any other food. So much so that eggs are the gold standard for determining quality of all other protein sources.
2. With all nine of the essential amino acids required by our bodies, eggs are a complete protein. It helps build muscles, and provides steady and sustained energy.
Eating a breakfast high in protein, such as eggs, aids in control and stabilization of glucose and insulin levels throughout the day, and thereby may reduce overall risk of diabetes in the future. Consumption of high-protein foods is of particular importance for older adults to help stave off muscle loss and reduce the rate of protein breakdown.
3. A source of both poly-unsaturated omega-3 and mono-unsaturated fats (found in the yolk), eggs can offer protective benefits to the brain and heart, help increase focus and concentration, can lift your mood, and fight inflammation throughout the body.
The Harvard Egg Study conducted in 1999 and published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (involving nearly 118,000 men and women), as well as a newer study appearing in the British Medical Journal in 2003 (115,000 men and women), reported that eating one egg per day was not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke in normal, healthy adults. Further, several other studies have demonstrated that eggs may help lower blood pressure.
4. These omega-3s, in conjunction with the protein, contribute to long-lasting satisfaction after eating a meal including eggs – great for anyone trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight… not to mention that one large egg is only about 78 calories.
Eating higher amounts of protein in the morning, particularly eggs, promotes increased satiety and has been shown in several studies to reduce likelihood of snacking later in the day, and even up to 24 hours after, in comparison to carbohydrate-focused breakfasts.
5. Egg yolks are also an excellent source of choline, an essential nutrient that aids in brain function, promotes heart health, and may decrease both blood pressure and risk of breast cancer. Choline is also important to help prevent problems of the spine and brain as a baby develops in the womb. And because a woman’s store of choline is often depleted naturally during pregnancy, a healthy source like eggs is a smart choice for women who planning for or are currently pregnant.
Adequate intake of choline in pregnancy has been positively associated with improved fetal brain development, particularly in the regions of the brain responsible for memory, and is protective against neural tube defects.
6. Adequate folate is also known for decreasing risk of serious birth defects like spina bifida, adding to the yolk’s benefits for pregnancy and preconception. Furthermore, folate may prevent or slow the decline of brain function, hearing, vision, memory and bone mass that often occur with age.
In conjunction with B vitamins, folate has been shown to regulate levels of homocysteine in the body, which ultimately may reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Yet more nutrients delivered by the yolk: vitamin B12 and B2 (riboflavin), fat-soluble vitamins A, D and K, as well as antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin that reduce risk of cataracts and macular degeneration (the leading cause of blindness). Eggs are also very good sources of minerals phosphorous, iron, zinc, calcium, sulfur and iodine – 90% or more of which are found in the egg’s yolk.
A 2011 study published in the scientific journal Food Chemistry found that regular consumption of eggs may be associated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, given the high concentration of free radical- and inflammation-fighting nutrients and antioxidants.
8. As scientists continue to explore the effects of cholesterol in the human body, they’re finding that a person’s cholesterol levels are predominantly determined by individual genetic differences, exercise routine and overall diet. This growing body of research shows only a weak relationship between blood cholesterol levels and cholesterol consumed through food, from an egg for example. (Saturated and trans fats are the bigger culprits here, and we should all continue to limit these in our diets.)
Humans naturally manufacture cholesterol and when we take in too much, our bodies know to manufacture less. The body can also excrete excess cholesterol, granted there is enough fiber present to bind with and take what’s not needed out.
9. Sold in nearly every establishment that carries food items and costing less than 15 cents apiece, eggs are an easy, affordable and delicious option for breakfast, lunch, supper, or snacks.
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The egg is called “incredible” for a reason, and should be considered part of a healthy, nutrient-rich eating plan (unless you’re allergic or follow a vegan diet). Like all foods, however, balance and moderation are important. My recommendation is for most adults to enjoy up to one whole egg per day (i.e., seven whole eggs per week), adding additional whites as desired. The caveat is for those with diagnosed heart disease, type 2 diabetes or high LDL levels – it’s best these individuals limit intake to three whole eggs per week.
Eggs have suffered an undeservedly bad reputation far too long. Welcome them back into your diet. They’re good for you.
As I mentioned, we love eggs. Really love eggs, and equally at all times of the day.
We’ve dabbled in virtually every form of egg cookery – from creamy scrambles, frambles and oozy poached eggs, to the magic of souffles and airy-crisp meringues, to custards and brûlées, fluffy challah loaves and the over-the-top French toast it makes, to carbonara and eggy-in-a-basket, hard-, soft- and everywhere-in-between-boiled eggs, and always, always sunny-sides-up on anything. But in the end, this rolled omelet is what lands on plates several times per week.
Tender and creamy in the middle, with lacy edges and an almost crepe-like exterior, this is the new omelet norm. It’s dead simple. No fuss or flourish. Because it’s quite delicate, a scattering of herbs and spices or a bit of grated cheese, maybe the thinnest layer of wilted greens, is about all it can handle for fillings. Anything beyond does well cooked up on its own, sidled up to your omelet roll.
My current obsessions fluctuate between lemon zest + crushed red pepper flakes + whatever fresh green herbs are on hand, or cinnamon + lemon zest (trust me). A dab of miso and chopped chives whisked into the eggs is awesome, too.
Now, let’s eat!
Tell me… What are your thoughts on eggs, and your favorite ways to enjoy them?
- 1 whole egg + 2 egg whites
- 1 Tbsp cool water
- pinch of salt + freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp olive oil
- optional filling ideas: 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs, 1/4 to 1/2 tsp fresh lemon zest, crushed red pepper flakes (as many as you can handle!), sprinkle of cinnamon, 1/4 cup very wilted greens, 2 Tbsp grated cheese, 1/2 tsp miso paste
- Set a large skillet over medium-high to preheat.
- In a small bowl add the egg + whites, water, a pinch of salt and as much freshly cracked black pepper as you like. Using a fork or small whisk, gently puncture the yolk first, then briskly mix everything together until frothy.
- When skillet is hot, add the oil and use a silicon brush to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. (Alternatively, swirl the pan around or use a rubber scraper to push the oil into all the edges.) Pour in the egg mixture, and quickly shake the pan vigorously (front to back) over the burner. Do this for just a few seconds, then tilt the pan letting the mixture fill in the gaps around the edges.
- Now step away and let the eggs cook, gently, until the bottom is set but there is still a bit of looseness and liquid on the top, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes -- add 1/2 to 1 minute if you'd like it more firm.
- After the omelet is set to the consistency you prefer, immediately remove from the heat. Position the handle facing toward yourself, add a thin layer of any desired filling ingredients down the center (in line with the handle). Using a rubber scraper to coax the right edge into a roll toward the left. Continue gently rolling until you hit the left edge, and then roll onto your waiting plate. Garnish with additional herbs, spices, hot sauce, etc., and serve as is or with loads of veg and fruit on the side!
A Heather Goesch Nutrition original recipe.
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