Hooray, eggs are back in vogue! Have you noticed the appearance of poached eggs, deviled eggs, and hard-cooked eggs on restaurant menus? I’m not talking about diners—I mean our trendy, celeb-chef digs. I couldn’t be happier for the return of this little nutrition-packed ovoid.
Where, oh where, has the little jewel been. Back in the 60s, some laboratory made a connection between the cholesterol in eggs and heart disease, and the little innocents were banned from any health-conscious eater’s daily regime. Banned to the occasional special brunch of eggs benedict smothered in rich hollandaise. Banned to the hidden ingredient list in cake batter. At long last, our friend has made a return to the limelight, and it’s about time.
We seem to be embracing a very old-fashioned idea called moderation. We are tearing the scarlet letter off many foods that for decades we only ate in private late-night fridge raids. Now, we seem to know that there is a goldilocks way of eating that falls midway between deprivation and gluttony. Eggs are one of the many beneficiaries of this new-found wisdom.
Happy hens, happy eggs
Let’s debunk the myths about eggs and celebrate the gift that all those happy hens give us. First, are hens happy?
Well, not so much these days, depending on where they live. This is a plug for buying your eggs from a reputable farmer’s market or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). We’ve all heard the horror stories about chicken farms that raise hens so heavy they can’t walk, just so we can have extra plump breasts in our supermarket. They are overcrowded, have a high mortality rate, and are fed chemical-laden diets, which we in turn ingest. Their pale yellow yolks are no where near as tasty as the almost orange yolked eggs happy hens lay. Please buy your eggs from someone who loves their girls.
Are eggs safe?
We have also heard about the salmonella that lurks in those pristine white shells. If you buy from a good farm that raises hens humanely and organically, you’re likely safe. However, here are a few precautions to take to make sure.
- Wash your hands and any surface that touches raw eggs
- Keep eggs separate from other foods in your refrigerator and grocery cart
- Crack each egg separately, so that you can discard any with suspicious coloring or odor
- Buy organic eggs from a reputable source (Did I say that already? Well, it’s important.)
But wait, you say, aren’t eggs full of fat and cholesterol? Yes and no. Eggs do have fat and cholesterol, but don’t run from eggs just yet. The fat in the yolk provides our bodies with energy and helps us to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fats provide insulation for body temperature regulation and play a role in brain development, blood clotting, and reducing inflammation. Fat has 9 calories of energy in every gram, which is more than twice as much as proteins or carbohydrates. When exercising, carbohydrates are typically burned up within the first 20 minutes of activity, then our bodies rely on stored fat to keep us going. The good news is, fat is back!
What’s more, the fat in eggs is mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat, which aren’t shown to have to same negative influence on cholesterol in the blood as unhealthy saturated and trans fats do. And research is increasingly showing that our intake of dietary cholesterol is only weakly related to our blood cholesterol levels. Hence the return of eggs to our good graces!
Here is some data to back up my plea to keep happy hens employed:
A whole egg has a mere 71 calories.
One egg has about 5 grams of fat, 211 grams of cholesterol, and 6 grams of protein. That is a nice nutritional balance. Sure, you don’t want to eat 5 or 6 eggs per day, but neither should we deprive ourselves of the amazing array of nutrients this little gem carries.
Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein. Many of us, particularly women, get too little protein. Try a hard-boiled egg sprinkled with Truffle Salt for a real protein-packed treat each day.
Doesn’t that little egg seem harmless now? Not the villain of heart health that we were taught for so long. In fact, the egg is a superhero in the story of healthy living. The other superhero is the small farmer raising smiling hens and feeding them organically; the only way to get a truly health-packed delicious egg. (I’m pretty serious about this—can you tell?)
Egg-ceptional egg uses
In my view, eggs are really something to cluck about for a diet abundant with flavorful goodness. They are incredibly versatile. You can do almost anything to an egg and it will be delicious—bake it, fry it, poach it, scramble it, bake with it, whisk it into salad dressings, cover it with hollandaise.
If you aren’t convinced yet to pick up a pack of fresh, organic eggs on your next trip to the farmer’s market, but you’re still reading, then try this, and I know you’ll be hooked:
Make a salad of fresh greens (arugula and mache are my favorites). Add crisp lardons or bacon (portobello mushrooms make a good substitute for meat-free eaters), halved grape tomatoes, and shaved fennel. Place a poached egg on top, drizzle with a little thick, sweet, aged balsamic, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Excuse me a minute, my mouth is watering!
I had a meal at the Light Horse Restaurant in Alexandria, VA recently that was a testament to the power of an egg. The plate was filled with a mound of creamy white beans with crunchy sauteed shiitake mushrooms and an elegant bunch of pea tendrils on top. Gently placed just next to the pea tendrils was a perfectly round, softly poached egg. When the yolk was pierced it made a lovely rich sauce for this hearty cool-weather dish.
God bless those happy hens!
Deviled eggs are a classic picnic food and easy cocktail party pick-up. This recipe is a cook’s blank palette, you can add any number of ingredients to the mashed yolk.
Now, let’s pump it up a notch! Here are our favorite variations: