Will the REAL Egg Please Stand Up?
by Paulette Millis
Do you like eggs? Do you avoid them? Do you believe they are high in cholesterol? Read on and learn about quality eggs.
Wild birds lay eggs to make more birds, not primarily for us to use in our diet. This egg must contain all of the nutritional factors necessary to create a fully formed, hatchable, living chick, and that is why the egg is a great source of nutrition for man.
In primitive times, eggs were a delicacy, as man had to find and then pilfer from hidden nests. These were a rare treat as birds laid only a few eggs each year.
Changes began to occur when man domesticated birds. They were fed grains and other household discards, and sheltered so their egg laying capacity increased. While consumption of eggs became more regular, winter was a time of rest for the chickens to strengthen themselves for the next season of breeding, laying, and hatching, so during cold weather there were few eggs.
As egg production became commercial, scientifically formulated chicken feeds replaced grains, insects, and plant materials that chickens previously consumed. The “battery” was developed, a cage where chickens spend their life indoors, eating and laying, until they die. Thus, antibiotics were then added to the feed to keep the chickens healthy. Several healthy nutrients in the feed would spoil when left on the shelf causing the manufacturers to remove these nutrients to allow for storage, transportation, and retail shelf life. Linoleic acid (LA) and linolenic acid (LNA), essential to humans and naturally present in grain, seeds, and greens, were removed and replaced with non-essential oleic acid (OA). Now the eggs are high in OA but low in LA and LNA, and these eggs have the same amount of cholesterol but do not have the required amount of fatty acids required to metabolize and transport it properly in the human body.
In addition, plant sterols, found naturally in vegetables and which reduce the cholesterol content of eggs by up to 35%, were removed from the chickens’ diet, hence commercial eggs contain more cholesterol than free range barnyard eggs. During the last 35 years this is the reason for the attack on eggs as a source of cholesterol for heart health.
The lighting schedule in the barns is set to keep the hens laying year round. This constant producing causes the calcium levels to become exhausted creating soft shelled eggs and a fragile skeletal structure for the hen. Battery cages are 64 square inches and have a sloping grid floor.
The chicken can only make good quality eggs when it has access to good quality food. When it picks its own food, it makes good tasting and nutritionally superior eggs.
A healthy egg comes from healthy chickens that have freedom, fresh air, daylight and darkness, and are fed only pure natural foods. They are fresh, indicated by the grade, e.g. grade A.
Dark yellow, almost orange, yolks are signs of a healthy egg but the deep colour is not achieved by putting dye in the chicken feed, but by serving chickens greens. Laboratory analysis shows chickens regularly fed greens yield eggs with a much higher content of vitamin A. The shell of a good egg is thick and strong; the white will be thick, not runny; and the yolk will set up in a high mound, not flatten out.
Brown eggs are not a sign of better quality, as is often thought, but simply come from a certain breed of chicken. For example, Leghorn and Shaver chickens lay white eggs, and Isa Brown, Red Rock, and Red Sussex chickens lay brown eggs.
Good eggs are fertile, and fertile eggs contain growth and reproductive hormones and steroids beneficial to nerves and glands, according to Fred Rohe, while none of which are found in sterile eggs. Ask the farmer if there are roosters in the flock to ensure fertile eggs. They may be called natural but cannot be labeled organic unless everything they were fed was organically grown.
Consider yourself fortunate to find good quality eggs. They will cost more money but are worth every penny. The difference in the taste is truly amazing.
NUTRITIONAL AND MEDICINAL INFORMATION
Eggs are an excellent protein source and contain all eight essential amino acids. Each egg contains approximately six grams of high quality protein. The amino acid profile of eggs is so well proportioned that eggs are used as a reference point for judging the quality of protein in other foods. They are also rich in sulfur and glutathione.
Eggs are high in methionine—an amino acid low in grains, and a good source of vitamin A, D, B, and minerals that are highly assimilated. The strong presence of inositol, choline, and lecithin are all involved in balanced cholesterol metabolism.
Egg yolks contain lecithin, an unusual fat-like compound which has the special property of being able to dissolve cholesterol and other fats.
Whole eggs contain about 11% fat: the yolk is about 30% by weight and the white is fat free. An egg contains about 250 mg cholesterol, and one-third of the fat in NATURAL free range eggs is Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). Remember, if the hen forages for her own food the yolk contains LA and LNA, but if she is fed commercial feed only the yolk does NOT contain EFAs.
Eggs contain lutein, a member of the carotenoid family, known for its eye-saving properties. It is more readily absorbed than lutein from other sources such as spinach. Researchers believe the lutein in eggs is absorbed immediately due to other components in the egg, such as lecithin.
Walter Last, in The Natural Way to Heal, states fresh raw eggs, free range and grass fed on greens and grains, have health-giving and healing properties, are health foods that improve vitality and immune function, are high in sulfur compounds that strengthen connective tissue and detoxify the liver. Raw egg yolk does not increase cholesterol but helps prevent the risk of heart disease. Raw egg yolk can be used in salad dressings. He suggests soft boiled or coddled (to cook in water just below the boiling point) eggs are next best. He says “While I do not recommend eating commercial eggs from hens in battery cages, even if well cooked (to kill salmonella, which is common in factory farming), eggs should only be ingested raw if they are free range or organic. Those with a weak digestive system may experience indigestion from a raw egg; it is much easier to digest if mixed with other food and drink.”
Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo, author of Eat Right for Your Type, states eggs are generally a poor source of protein for Type Os, and that African ancestry Type Os should completely eliminate eggs from their diet.
Dr. Gary Price Todd, in Nutrition, Health and Disease states “Each egg contains about 250 mg cholesterol, and helps your body by eliminating the need for you to synthesize that amount. You could eat as many as 6 eggs daily without affecting your blood cholesterol levels, if they were properly cooked.” Properly cooked, in his opinion, is boiled, poached, or fried (in butter) without breaking the yolk sac. Todd states 6 eggs a day will not raise your blood cholesterol; it has been proven in controlled scientific studies. He says “scrambled eggs and omelettes expose the cholesterol in the yolk to oxygen and heat, and also increase the oxidation and absorption of oil. Eggs cooked in this manner have more fat, contain toxic oxidized cholesterol, and should be kept to 2 a week.” Avoid powdered eggs, as drying the egg yolks oxidizes the cholesterol in them.
The membrane next to the shell of the egg contains a substance called avidin, an enzyme which interferes with biotin in the egg. As egg yolk is high in biotin, using whole eggs may not diminish your biotin intake. All of the usual methods of cooking neutralize the avidin, but the less the egg is cooked, the higher the nutrient content. Avidin can be neutralized by soaking the egg in hot water, 140–160ºF for 5 minutes, and then it may be eaten raw.
Whole eggs fed to babies before the age of 6 months may cause allergic reactions. When you begin your baby on eggs, soft boil or poach the egg, and spoon feed the yolk plain or stir into pureed foods. After the baby is chewing well, hard boiled egg may be crumbled into other foods.
Remember the egg has been an important part of human nutrition for centuries, and the bad press regarding eggs in this century surely must have some relationship to the drastic change in their quality.
BUYING, COOKING, AND STORING
The egg is very adaptable in cooking. It is great as the main dish, as a garnish, in salads, desserts, casseroles, and snacks.
Test an egg for freshness by holding it in front of a candle flame in a dark room. The air space at the top determines the quality of the egg. The smaller the air space, the better quality the egg. The old idea of a fresh egg sinking in cold water is not true. As well, a dull egg used to mean a fresh one, however, most eggs are put through a sandblast to make them all appear dull. When broken, the egg should have no odour, and the yolk should stand high and not flatten out. Do not use eggs with heavy blood spots, although small flecks are easily removed by touching them with a wet cloth or towel.
Freshness in eggs is important, as the eggshell is permeable—fluid can evaporate out and the air and bacteria responsible for rotting can get in. Refrigerating eggs helps maintain freshness.
Years ago the custom of pickling or jelling was used to store an abundance of eggs, as well as to make them last through winter while the chickens were not laying. My mother would mix water with cans of Water Glass, put the solution into a crock, and add the fresh eggs. The solution would turn into a heavy white gel and the eggs would keep about 6 months.
There are many egg “labels” out there, such as:
Omega 3 Eggs: come from hens fed a flaxseed-based diet with vitamin E added. They MAY have a higher nutritional value than “normal” eggs but they are not organic and the label does not indicate whether they are raised in battery cases or not, so most likely they have been denied free range and have been fed commercial feed with antibiotics as well.
Free Run Eggs: means they have been raised in an open barn but likely have not been allowed full natural hen behaviour, nor are they organic.
Free Range Eggs: similar to free run, but with access to outside conditions which motivate hens to peck, scratch, and dust, with fresh air, sunshine, and earth available.
Certified Organic Eggs: certain regulations and restrictions must be followed and the farms are inspected regularly. Hens must be housed as “free range” hens and have access to nest-boxes, and other hen behaviours e.g. foraging, etc.
If you are allergic to eggs you may substitute 1 tbsp flaxseed soaked in water for 1 egg in baking.
In summary, look for the best eggs you can find. Check the local Farmers’ Markets, the classifieds, and local health food stores. Always ask the farmer about his farm practices. Ideally, cook your eggs with the yolk intact, and enjoy them.
Baked Eggs in Potatoes
4 large potatoes, scrubbed
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
Steam the potatoes unpeeled until tender on piercing. Set aside. Place in oiled pan in 350°F oven to heat through. Take them out of the oven and make a cut across the centre of each, enlarge into a hollow, and break one egg into each potato. Sprinkle with salt and a dab of butter or coconut oil and return to the oven until egg whites have set firm. (Good Food, Gluten Free, Hilda Cherry Hills)
Good Morning Egg Salad
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
4 hard cooked eggs
2 green onions including tops
2 tomatoes or red peppers
celtic sea salt and cayenne pepper to taste
2 whole wheat pita bread rounds
Stir yogurt and cumin together. Chop eggs, slice onions, and add to the yogurt. Squeeze seeds and juice out of the tomatoes and chop the remaining pulp finely and add this to the yogurt mix. Mix the yogurt gently and salt and pepper to taste. Use in buttered pita halves for breakfast or as a snack. (Nutrition, Cooking and Healing, Paulette Millis, RNCP)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup warmed honey
3 tbsp grated organic lemon peel
1/2 cup lemon juice
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1/8 tsp celtic sea salt
In the top of a double boiler, combine the listed ingredients and mix well. Set over boiling water and cook stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 15–20 minutes or until thick and smooth. Store in a jar in the fridge. Makes 2-1/2 cups. Great for a toast spread, filling for cakes or jelly rolls, or as a pudding. (Nutrition, Cooking and Healing, Paulette Millis, RNCP)
Easy and Yummy
Saute 1/2 cup chopped onion and 2 cups finely chopped veggies of choice e.g. zucchini, broccoli, red and green peppers, in an oven-proof skillet in 2 tbsp olive oil.
Mix in a bowl:
1–3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary (optional)
1 tsp tamari soy sauce or Braggs vegetable seasoning
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (use Rice Parmesan for dairy free)
Pour over sizzling veggies and cook until almost set, shaking pan occasionally. Sprinkle crumbled goat feta over all, or use Vegan cheese for dairy free, and a little more parmesan if desired. Broil briefly until lightly browned. Cut in wedges to serve. (Eat Away Illness, Paulette Millis, RNCP)
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup oat flakes or oatmeal
1/4 cup milk of choice
1 tbsp coconut oil
Saute onion over low heat in water until transparent and water is evaporated. Add coconut oil. Lightly beat eggs in a bowl. Add oat flakes and milk to eggs and combine. Pour over onions, combine, and stir frequently until eggs are set. Serve. (Thank you to Robert Bond for this idea; I have changed it slightly.)
References: Diet and Nutrition, Dr. R. Ballentine; The Coconut Diet, Cherie Colbom; The Natural Way to Heal, Walter Last; The Complete Book of Natural Foods, Fred Rohe; Fats and Oils, Udo Erasmus; Nutrition, Health and Disease, Dr. Gary Price Todd; Cook Right For Your Type, Dr. Peter D’Adamo; Animals Voice: 2001, Ontario Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; USDA Human Nutrition Research Centre on Aging.
The above information regarding nutritious food is not intended to replace any instruction from medical or health professionals.
Paulette Millis is a speaker, author, and nutritional consultant. To contract her for speaking engagements call (306) 244-8890 in Saskatoon, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Her books, Eat Away Illness and Nutrition, Cooking and Healing, are available at health food stores and at McNally Robinson Booksellers. Also visit www.healingwithnutrition.ca.