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Food for Thought
The inside of our hen house is painted in "Morning Light," a soft, cheery shade of yellow. The building is insulated, equipped with a red heat lamp for cold nights and a timer that floods the hens' boudoir with light at four o'clock in the morning, light that mimics the UV rays of the sun. No Muzak yet, but I am seriously considering it.
"The Girls" reciprocate by blessing us with an abundance of eggs, even in the winter.
Since it takes approximately four pounds of chicken feed to produce a dozen eggs, I try not to waste any eggs. Of course we share them with friends and family, but primarily I use them with abandon: in hearty breakfasts, compulsive baking, and as a "topper" on the dogs' kibble. For the record, both dogs can separate scrambled eggs and kibble with a deft flick of the tongue.
In the last decade, eggs have gone from being a public enemy (cholesterol-packed little ovoids of danger) to being touted as "the perfect food," and everything in between. I was hoping to be able to do a little quick research and announce where the truth lies, but it's not that easy.
Sorting out the available information on eggs is tricky. Even after eliminating data from the American Egg Board (pro bias) and the conservative view of the American Heart Association, the remaining articles and studies are puzzling. Many of them state that dietary cholesterol probably doesn't raise our bad cholesterol level much, and that eggs have a lot less cholesterol than previously believed, but then conclude by cautiously stating that consuming more than one egg a day is not advised.
The American Heart Association no longer gives a recommended limit for eggs, but suggests that dietary cholesterol be kept below 300 milligrams (mg.) (except for diabetics or people with a high risk for heart disease, who should keep their dietary cholesterol much lower and may have to limit eggs). Each egg contains approximately 212 mg. of cholesterol.
Personally, with eight dozen eggs sitting in my refrigerator right now, I'll admit to going just a wee bit over "moderate" usage . . . possibly crossing over into the "grossly indulgent" zone. According to the Egg Nutrition Center, "Eggs contain the highest quality protein you can buy. Egg protein has just the right mix of essential amino acids needed by humans to build tissues. It is second only to mother's milk for human nutrition. In addition, eggs have thirteen essential vitamins and minerals."
At about 80 calories each, a hard-cooked egg or two is my idea of a perfect snack. Eggs are a good, inexpensive, convenient source of protein . . . and I happen to love them. They make my waffles fluffy, my crepes tender, my cakes rise, my meatloaf hold together, and my bagels shiny. Deviled eggs, puddings, custards, omelettes, potato salad, meringues, popovers, Caesar dressing . . . there are so many wonderful ways to use eggs!
If I've made your stomach growl, here's where the plot thickens. Just when I was feeling pretty good about eating eggs every day, I found that the real culprits contributing to a high cholesterol count are probably saturated fats and refined sugars and flours . . . not eggs, which makes that chocolate cake a very guilty pleasure! According to Robert Davis in his book Coffee is Good for You: "Most of our cholesterol is made by the liver, which ramps up production when we eat saturated and trans fats. But cholesterol from food appears to have little impact on most people's cholesterol levels." I've included a few links below if you are interested in learning more, and to be fair I will include the more cautious Mayo Clinic advice, too.
The type of eggs you use can make a real difference. According to a study made by Mother Earth News, pastured chickens lay eggs that are lower in cholesterol and fat, with higher nutritional values. Don't be misled by claims on egg cartons, though. The USDA considers chickens "free-range" if they have access to outside spaces. This can mean a tiny door in a big crowded building, and many of the chickens may never venture outside . . . a far cry from pastured chickens, which are allowed to forage for seeds, bugs, and greens. If possible, find a source for farm fresh eggs. For more information, see the article Meet Real Free-Range Eggs.
Making an informed decision about how many eggs to include in my diet is difficult when the recommendations vary so wildly. I can easily find a study to back up any results I desire, and perhaps I have, because here is where I stand: I believe my chickens lay superior eggs. Common sense tells me to trust Mother Earth News when they say pastured eggs are healthier, rather than claims from the American Egg Board, which states there is little difference between free-range eggs and factory-produced eggs. Remember, their job is to promote egg consumption for the big producers. I choose to believe the studies that praise free-range eggs and will continue to use those humble eggs liberally.
I think the final word should go to Julia Child, who said: "Everything in moderation . . . including moderation."
More about eggs
University of Surrey study; showing two eggs a day can be good for weight loss.
University of Illinois; an article that puts cholesterol in perspective.
Medical News Today; an article with general information, including the effect of saturated fats on cholesterol levels.
Kansas State University study; a lecithin found in eggs reduces absorption of cholesterol.
Mayo Clinic's much stricter opinion.
Coming next month: Easter eggs!
Contact Lorinda at email@example.com
Lorinda resides in Eastern Washington, where she joyously combines her love of cooking and gardening. Baking is her passion, and licking the batter off the spoon after making a cake is her reward. When she's not in the kitchen, she's out in the garden pulling weeds and snacking on young peas. Enjoy Lorinda's blog, The Rowdy Baker.
Food for Thought copyright 2013.