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Eggs: Villain or Hero?

Eggs are a common ingredient in a lot of recipes, and a common breakfast item. Eggs can be found in a variety of dishes, making them a great food item to keep stocked in your fridge. They are also an affordable source of protein and nutrients yet have been controversial when it comes to nutrition.

Dietary Cholesterol

Over the past years you have probably heard the topic of eggs going back and forth with regard to if they are healthy for you or not. Typically, when this conversation comes up, it is regarding the nutrient cholesterol. Current research on dietary cholesterol and eggs continues to grow and demonstrates that eggs can be a part of a healthy dietary pattern across the lifespan. The 2020 Dietary Guidelines advisory committee includes in their report that, “The way the eggs are prepared and ate may have more to do with heart disease than the cholesterol that is contained in them”. For example, if you fry your egg or eat your egg with sausage, white bread toasted with butter, and home fries covered in cheese, this may play more of a role in heart disease risk than the eggs themselves as these foods increase your saturated fat intake. A healthier option would be scrambled eggs, with salsa and 100% whole wheat toast or an English muffin. A solid body of research has also found that for most people, dietary cholesterol has a smaller effect on serum cholesterol levels than does the mix of fats you consume in your diet. For example, if you consume a higher ratio of solid fats compared to unsaturated fats, your serum cholesterol levels are impacted more. If you are having a difficult time controlling your total and LDL cholesterol, you can also try using only the egg whites to see if it makes a difference as the dietary cholesterol is found in the yolk.

Nutrient Rich

The new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines consider eggs to be nutrient-dense food. You can find 13 essential vitamins and minerals, 6 grams of protein and all 9 essential amino acids in one large egg! Eggs are high in choline, selenium, iodine, biotin, and vitamin B12. They also have other beneficial nutrients such as protein, vitamin D, vitamin A, healthy fats, niacin, lutein, zeaxanthin, and folate. Nutrients in eggs have been found to support health and promote brain development in early life.

Endless Options

The great thing about eggs is that they can be used so many ways!

  • In a Quiche
  • Scrambled
  • Boiled
  • Deviled
  • In an Omelet
  • Poached
  • In Baked Products
  • In a Frittata
  • On a Sandwich
  • In Foams
  • In a Burrito

Tips and Tricks

Some recipes call for room temperature eggs, this is because when making a batter with a high fat content cold eggs can re-harden the fat, which causes the batter to appear lumpy. When beating eggs to create a foam, they may also call for room temperature eggs, this is because they whip to a greater volume when warm. Pull your eggs out and place on them on the counter for approximately 30 minutes before you start or place in a bowl of warm water while assembling the other ingredients.

The green ring found around your hard-boiled/hard cooked eggs is the result of eggs that have been cooked for too long or at too high of a temperature. Try cooking in hot, not boiling water, and cool immediately to minimize this reaction.

Sell by Date

The date found on your egg carton reflects food quality rather than food safety. Eggs can be safely eaten 2-3 weeks beyond the expiration date or sell by date when properly stored. The date is there to ensure eggs are not kept on the grocery shelf past a certain date.

Have an abundance of eggs that you will not be able to get through? You can freeze eggs once the shells are removed! Depending on how you need the eggs after freezing determines how to freeze them. If you want just the whites, separate whites from yolks and freeze the whites in an airtight container. In order to freeze the egg yolks for future use, add 1/8 teaspoon of salt per 4 egg yolks. For whole eggs, whisk well, and pour into freezer containers. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), eggs can be frozen for up to 12 months. Eggs are best thawed in the refrigerator or under cold running water.

Storage

Store your eggs in the original carton as these cartons ensure proper air flow. Always store eggs pointy end down if you are harvesting your own as it helps keep the yolk centered to keep any bacteria as far away as possible from the yolk. Air and bacteria enter the egg through the blunt end into the air sac located there. If you store the egg blunt end down, the air pocket will rise, touch the yolk and risk contaminating it. By storing eggs blunt end up, the pocket of air stays away from the yolk, and the egg stays fresh longer. If you buy your eggs from a grocery store, you will also find that the eggs are placed pointy end down, blunt end up.

Verdict

When comparing eggs to other common breakfast options such as sweetened breakfast cereals, pancakes with syrup, muffins, or bagels; they are the preferred choice. However, compared to a bowl of steel-cut oats with nuts and berries, they fall short for heart health. The United State Department of Agriculture recommends individuals consume whole grains, fruit, and vegetables to help lower the risk of heart disease. So where does that leave us with eggs? While eggs may not be an everyday breakfast choice, they are certainly not the worst, falling somewhere in the middle on the spectrum of food choice and heart disease risk, so do not feel guilty while you are enjoying your next whole egg! For those looking to eat a healthy diet, keeping intake of eggs moderate to low will be best for most, emphasizing plant-based protein options when possible.

Written by University of Wyoming Extension Nutrition and Food Safety Educator Shelley Balls, MDA, RD, LD

Sources:

  • United States Department of Agriculture, USDA
  • Egg Nutrition Center, ENC
  • Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services,. 2020; Available from: https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2020-07/ScientificReport_of_the_2020DietaryGuidelinesAdvisoryCommittee_first-print.pdf  
  • Katz D, Gnanaraj J, Treu J, Ma Y, Kavak Y, Njike V. Effects of egg ingestion on endothelial function in adults with coronary artery disease: A randomized, controlled, crossover trial. Am Heart J. 2015;169(1):162-169. doi:10.1016/j.ahj.2014.10.001
  • Shin JY, Xun P, Nakamura Y, He K. Egg consumption in relation to risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;98:146-59.
  • Fernandez ML. Dietary cholesterol provided by eggs and plasma lipoproteins in healthy populations. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2006;9:8-12.
  • Djousse L, Gaziano JM. Egg consumption and risk of heart failure in the Physicians’ Health Study. Circulation. 2008;117:512-6.

Individual Frittatas

Course: Breakfast, Snack
Keyword: frittata
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vegetables (broccoli, green pepper, tomato, onion, mushrooms, etc.) chopped and cooked
  • 1 cup sliced meat (sausage, ham, bacon, etc.) cooked
  • 12 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup low-fat cheddar cheese shredded

Instructions

  • Beat eggs, milk and seasonings. Chop vegetables and meat finely.
  • Add vegetables, meat and cheese to eggs.
  • Coat muffin tins with non-stick spray.
  • Pour egg mixture in each tin about 2/3 full.
  • Bake at 350°F about 15 minutes.
  • Freeze extra if needed.
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Raw eggs in shell in straw

Contact Our Experts

Email: nfs@uwyo.edu

Extension Educators:
Shelley Balls – (307) 885-3132
Denise Smith – (307) 334-3534
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

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Contact Our Experts

Email: nfs@uwyo.edu

Extension Educators:
Shelley Balls – (307) 885-3132
Denise Smith – (307) 334-3534
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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