Eggs – A Lot of Nutrition in a Small Package
Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD
Eggs are one of the most nutritious and versatile foods around. Not only do they offer up a lot of nutrition in a small package, but their delicious, mild flavor makes eggs adaptable to all sorts of dishes that can be eaten at any time of the day. Eggs are also a bit less perishable than other proteins like meat, fish or poultry, and can stay fresh in the refrigerator for several weeks after the date stamped on the carton. Hard cooked eggs stay fresh in the refrigerator for at least a week.
A whole egg has about 80 calories, about 5 grams of fat, most of which is the healthy monounsaturated type, and less than 200 mg of cholesterol. A single egg packs about 6 grams of protein, with a bit more found in the white than the yolk. If you opt for eating just egg whites and have, for example, four egg whites in an omelet, you’ll be taking in about 14 grams of protein, no fat and no cholesterol, all for around 70 calories.
Eggs are considered to be one of the highest quality proteins around. Eggs contain all the essential amino acids, the building blocks your body uses to construct vital proteins like hormones, enzymes and muscle tissue. Egg yolks contain lutein and zeaxanthin - two naturally-occurring pigments that help protect the eyes from ultraviolet radiation - and choline, a nutrient that supports the health of cell membranes. Egg yolks are also one of the few natural sources of vitamin D. A whole egg contains about 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin D, a nutrient that helps the body to absorb calcium.
Some people prefer to eat only the egg whites to steer clear of fat and cholesterol, but others find that they only get that ‘eggy’ taste when they include the yolks. So, a lot of folks settle somewhere in the middle; making an egg salad sandwich with one hard cooked egg and a few extra whites, or scrambling up a few egg whites with one whole egg. Since some nutrients are only found in the yolk, this makes for a sensible compromise.
If you think eggs solely as breakfast food, think again. Veggie omelets can make a light but satisfying dinner, scrambled eggs are great in a wrap for lunch, and a sliced hardboiled egg on a whole grain cracker makes a terrific snack.
With all they’ve got going for them, here’s something else to consider about eggs, you don’t even need a skillet to cook them. Next time you’re in a hurry in the morning, try this. Spray a coffee mug with pan spray, and then crack in your eggs or egg whites. Beat quickly with a fork, then microwave on high for about a minute and a half, stirring once halfway through the cooking process. The eggs cook up light and fluffy, and while they’re delicious as is, you can also top them with a little low fat cheese or salsa for a quick meal or snack.