Eggs have been a staple in the human diet for a very long time, perhaps beginning in India as early as 3200 B.C. Chinese and Egyptian records show egg production in 1400 B.C. There is evidence of domesticated fowl in the Americas prior to the arrival of the Europeans, but some historians believe that Columbus brought the first chickens related to our current egg-producers to the new world on his second trip in 1493. During the 1800s and 1900s nearly every rural U.S. household had a flock of chickens in the yard. Besides being valued for the nutrient content of eggs, selling eggs was a good way to supplement the family income, providing “pin money” for purchasing a few extras that otherwise weren’t possible on meager incomes.
The advent of commercial egg production during the 1940s improved the health and lifespan of chickens and increased egg production. Today, a single chicken can lay 250-300 eggs per year and commercial flocks can number more than a million chickens. The U.S. produces about 75 billion eggs a year – roughly 10% of the world egg supply.
So, why are eggs so popular? Long-touted as nature’s “most perfect food”, eggs are inexpensive, easily digestible, packed with nutrition, easy to carry, can be cooked quickly and are extremely versatile. They also can boost weight loss and muscle retention while dieting, ill and during aging.
Here are some interesting egg facts Fit After Fifty came up with:
- Eggs are nutritionally dense, offering high-quality protein and numerous important nutrients with relatively few calories – just 70 calories per large egg.
- The egg’s protein is the highest quality of any food source, and easily digested and absorbed by the body.
- One large egg supplies a good portion of your daily protein needs, with a little over half of that protein in the egg white and the rest in the yolk.
- One egg contains as much protein an ounce of lean meat or seafood.
- A large egg contains 6 g of protein, 5 g of fat, 1.6 g of saturated fat and 0 g of carbohayrdrate.
- Those who eat eggs for breakfast instead of bagels or other carbohydrate-rich foods, feel full longer and eat fewer calories throughout the day.
- Eggs eaten during pregnancy appear to be a key factor in the development of the infant’s memory functions. Choline plays an important role in brain development and function.
- The yellow yolk has been shown to reduce the risks of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in those 65 and older.
- Eggs are one of the few foods that naturally contain Vitamin D.
- Eggs are rich in B vitamins (including B12), antioxidants and trace minerals.
- The choline in eggs may improve memory function.
- The yolk contains a higher percentage of vitamins than the white, and all of the vitamin A, D and E that occur naturally in eggs.
- Brown eggs and white eggs are almost identical in nutritional content – they are equally nutrient rich.
- Fresh uncooked eggs in their shells can be stored for up to 3 weeks in a refrigerator without significant nutritional loss. An unrefrigerated egg ages more in a day than it does in a week in the fridge.
- The chef’s hat, or toque, is said to have a pleat for each of the many ways you can cook eggs.
Today, many towns and cities are revising their zoning laws to allow for backyard chicken coops. Chickens grown in natural outdoor conditions where they can roam and peck through healthy soil and vegetation produce the highest quality and most flavorful eggs. Eggs from free-ranging chickens have 7 times the beta carotene as factory-farm eggs, as well as more vitamins A, E and Omega-3s. They also tend to have 1/3 less cholesterol and 1/4 less saturated fat.
A large egg contains 186 milligrams of cholesterol on average (found in the yolk – egg whites do not contain cholesterol). Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 300 milligrams of dietary cholesterol per day for those who are healthy, and 200 mg a day for those with cardiovascular disease, diabetes or a high low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) blood cholesterol levels. Four eggs per week have not been shown to increase risk of heart disease. However, if you eat an egg on a given day, it may be important to limit other sources of dietary cholesterol for the rest of that day. Consider substituting servings of vegetables for servings of meat, or avoid high-fat dairy products for that day.
There’s still some debate among doctors over whether eating high-cholesterol foods increases the risk for heart disease, with many believing it depends on the individual. Genetics, quantity and type of fat consumed and other factors all play a part in determining how many eggs an individual can safely eat during a week.
Regardless of the cholesterol issue, eggs can be an extremely nutritious food for nearly everyone. You doctor can help you determine how best to take advantage of the nutrient content of eggs, by determining how many you can safely consume in a week.