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Are Eggs Healthful?

March 23, 2018

I remember going to my daughter’s preschool for “green eggs and ham” day.

Yes, the food was dyed green in honor of the Dr. Seuss book that inspired the menu, and the kids were quite excited.

Unfortunately, I associate green ham with moldy ham, but I ate the emerald-colored ham and eggs, and forced a smile. Although my daughter was a fan of the book, I don’t remember her eating the green food very readily.

I have been a big fan of eggs ever since I was a preschooler, and that’s a long time ago.

At this time of the year, egg-coloring kits, plastic eggs and colorful foil-covered eggs greet us in many stores. The eggs are filled with chocolate, peanut butter, marshmallows or other decadent fillings.

Real eggs are filled with even better things. They are an excellent source of protein, with 6 grams of protein per 70-calorie egg. The high-quality protein in eggs is the gold standard for nutrition because it is digested easily. Eggs are a good food for preserving and maintaining muscle tissue throughout life.

When you enjoy an egg for breakfast, researchers have shown that you are less likely to become hungry quickly. A protein-rich start to your day can help with weight management because you might consume fewer calories for lunch.

In other words, you may not reach for those chocolate-filled eggs as a midmorning snack when you have a satisfying breakfast.

Don’t forget to include eggs in your diet for another reason. Eggs provide choline, a natural chemical that helps with brain, nerve and, potentially, memory health.

Let those colorful candy eggs inspire you, too. Eggs are an excellent source of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are part of the carotenoid family of pigments. Carotenoids provide the gold color in the yolk. These pigments feed our eyes with nutrition to help prevent age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, which can impair your eyesight.

You might remember the cautions about eating eggs from a few years ago. Eggs naturally contain cholesterol, but the cholesterol in eggs does not become cholesterol in your body. Eggs in moderation are considered fine.

Unless your health-care provider directs you differently, most people can have at least an egg a day without changing their blood cholesterol parameters. Trans fat and some types of saturated fat stimulate the liver to produce blood cholesterol, so read Nutrition Facts labels to learn more about the nutrition in the food you select.

Remember a few food safety tips as you enjoy eggs in a variety of ways. Eggs last at least three weeks beyond the “sell by” date when stored between 33 and 40 F in the main section of your refrigerator. The door of a refrigerator usually does not keep food as cold as the main section.

A fairly small percentage of eggs contains salmonella bacteria, but you can’t tell which ones do. Therefore, handle eggs safely and avoid cross-contamination by washing your hands and surfaces that come in contact with eggs. Food safety experts advise cooking eggs until the whites and yolks are firm.

Some restaurants will cook eggs to your liking, but they probably have a warning on their menu.

Hard-cooked eggs provide an on-the-go breakfast, an easy add-in to any lunch and a protein-packed snack. If you have leftover hard-cooked eggs, use them within a week of hard-cooking them. Try making egg salad or slice them on a salad. Make deviled eggs or potato salad with eggs. Slice onto a toasted English muffin, add some cheese and pop in the microwave for a short time to warm your sandwich.

Here’s a breakfast or brunch recipe featuring eggs, cheese and some nice green broccoli. The recipe is adapted from the Midwest Dairy Council. Serve with fresh fruit and milk for a satisfying breakfast.

Power-up Muffin Cups

Nonstick cooking spray

8 large eggs

1 3/4 c. plain Greek yogurt

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground

1 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1 1/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese

1 1/2 c. broccoli, chopped

1 1/2 c. whole-grain soft bread cubes

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Coat a standard 12-serving nonstick muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and yogurt until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir in 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese, all of the cheddar cheese, the broccoli and the bread; mix thoroughly. Let stand for 10 minutes. Stir thoroughly, then divide the mixture evenly among prepared muffin cups. (The cups will be about two-thirds full.) Top evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Let stand for five minutes before serving.

Makes six servings, two muffins each. Each serving has 340 calories, 20 grams (g) fat, 30 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber and 680 milligrams sodium.

Source: Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, North Dakota State University