One large egg, with the yolk, delivers 72 calories, 5 g of fat (60 per cent of it unsaturated fat) and 6.3 g of protein. The high-quality protein in eggs delivers all of the essential amino acids needed to build and maintain muscle mass. The yolk, which might surprise you, contains 42 per cent of the protein in an egg.
And thanks to the yolk, eggs are an exceptional source of hard-to-find choline, a B vitamin-like compound that helps transmit nerve impulses and is important for brain function. Eggs also contain B vitamins, vitamin A, and lutein, an antioxidant that helps maintain healthy vision.
One whole egg also supplies 15 mcg of selenium (one-quarter of a day’s worth, most of it found in the yolk), a mineral that protects DNA in cells and is needed for thyroid function and immune health.
There are other benefits to eating a whole egg, too. The protein in eggs, along with its five grams of fat, promotes satiety, or a feeling of fullness.
Cholesterol in eggs
Since the 1960’s, eggs have been vilified for their fat- and cholesterol-containing yolks. Eating too much food cholesterol was thought to raise blood cholesterol and increase heart disease risk.
One large egg has 190 mg of cholesterol and, until recently, we were long advised to limit our daily cholesterol intake to 300 mg. That recommendation changed two years ago.
The fact that cholesterol in foods has little or no impact on most people’s blood LDL (bad) cholesterol prompted the U.S. government to drop its daily cholesterol limit from the 2015-2020 national dietary guidelines, stating cholesterol is no longer a “nutrient of concern”.
Some experts, though, question dropping the advice to limit cholesterol intake. They recommend that people at high risk for heart disease, which includes those with diabetes, limit cholesterol intake to 200 mg per day.
Most of the eggs we eat today are hen's eggs. They come with white or brown shells. Duck, goose or quail eggs may be available at some gourmet food shops or from local farmers.
The eggs you grew up eating, and likely still do, are produced by hens that live in cages without access to nests, perches or scratching areas. (Hens are naturally compelled to scratch at the ground with their toes in search of seeds, greens, or bugs to eat.)
In conventional “battery” cages – coined for the rows and columns of identical cages connected together – hens are raised in small social groups and have equal access to food and water. Living space is crowded, providing 67 square inches per bird, which doesn’t allow the hens to behave naturally.
The vast majority – 90 per cent – of eggs in Canada come from hens living in conventional cages. Over the next 20 years, however, conventional egg production will be phased out due to animal welfare considerations. By 2036, all eggs produced in Canada will come from hens living in free run, free range or enriched housing conditions.
Free run eggs
These hens are cage-free; they move freely in a wide open barn and have access to nests, perches and scratching areas but not the outdoors.
Free run hens have twice as much space (144 square inches per bird) than conventionally caged hens. National guidelines set out in the Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Poultry outline density regulations for egg-laying hens.
Free range eggs
Like free run hens, free range birds live cage-free in barns with nests, perches and scratching areas. The difference, though: they’re given access to the outdoors, weather permitting.
Enriched cage housing eggs
You’ll find eggs produced by hens living in this type of housing labelled “Nestlaid” (Burnbrae Farms) or “Comfort Coop Eggs” (Farmer’s Finest). These hens live in cages that provide three-quarters more space (116 square inches per bird) than conventional battery cages.
The cages are “enriched” with nests, perches and scratching areas. Enriched housing provides a more natural environment for hens which produce eggs with a lower price tag than free run or free range eggs.
Certified organic eggs are produced by free range hens (e.g. they have access to the outdoors) that live barns with nests, perches and scratching areas. The hens are fed organic feed, grains that have been pesticide-free for at least three years.
Organically-raised hens are not given antibiotics, nor do they receive growth-promoting hormones. (Conventionally-raised hens do not receive growth hormones; hormones have not been used in egg-laying hens for more than 50 years.)
Hens that lay omega-3 eggs are fed a diet rich in flax, a seed packed with an anti-inflammatory omega-3 fat called alpha linolenic acid (ALA). An omega-3 egg contains about 300 mg of ALA, a reasonable amount considering women need 1100 mg of ALA per day and men require 1600 mg. (One tablespoon of chia seeds or ground flax delivers 1200 to 1600 mg of ALA.)
Omega-3 eggs also contain a little docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the omega-3 fat in oily fish that’s linked to heart and brain health. Flax-fed hens provide about 75 g DHA per egg; those that have their feed enriched with fish oil have more. (But I don’t suggest you trade in your salmon for omega-3 eggs. Omega-3 eggs have at most 125 mg of DHA, considerably less than the 1800 mg found in a small three-ounce portion of salmon.)
All of the eggs you will find in the super market are Grade A (see below). Eggs are also sorted by weight and are packed as Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large or Jumbo, accordingly. Most recipes call for large eggs.
Check eggs carefully before buying. Open the carton and look for cracks, breaks or dirt. Make sure none of the eggs have cracked on the bottom - they will be stuck to the carton. Check the Best Before or Expiry date to make sure they are fresh. Take eggs home immediately and refrigerate.
When buying eggs from a local farmer be sure you know what you are getting. Don't buy them if the shells are dirty. Take eggs home immediately and refrigerate.
Grade A Eggs: Sold at retail markets for consumer use.
- Firm white
- Round, well centred yolk
- Small air cell (less than 5 mm deep)
- Clean, uncracked shell with normal shape
Eggs must always be refrigerated - in the store and at home. Eggs should be stored in their cartons in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Taking them out and putting them in the egg container in the refrigerator door exposes them to odors and damage. The carton also protects eggs from aromas of strong-flavored foods such as onions. Eggs can absorb odors right through their porous shells.
Hard-boiled eggs can be refrigerated up to one week. Store them in a carton or covered container, as cooking washes the protective coating from the shells. If you are using them within a day or so, shell hard-cooked eggs and place them in a bowl with cold water to cover them.
Eggs can be frozen but not in the shell. Beat whites and yolks together just until blended. Then place in small containers and seal tightly.
To freeze whites alone, separate them, then place in containers and seal. Yolks alone will need to be combined with salt, sugar or corn syrup in order to be usable when thawed. For every four yolks, beat in 1/8 teaspoon of salt or 1-1/2 teaspoons of sugar or corn syrup. Seal in containers and make sure you've labeled them. Thaw frozen eggs overnight in the refrigerator. Cook them thoroughly or use them in recipes as soon as they are thawed.
Everyone has a favorite way to cook eggs. The information listed below outlines basic techniques. They are meant to be general guidelines only.
It is easier to separate eggs when they are cold. For beginner's, it can be easier to use an egg separator, a small tool available at cookware stores. For experienced cooks, rap the egg sharply downwards on the edge of a bowl at the egg's mid- or beltline. As the two pieces of shell are gently pulled apart and then held upright, the yolk will be left in one of the halves. Then you can either tip the yolk from one shell half into the other to remove the excess white. Or carefully place the yolk in your flattened palm and let the excess white drain out between your slightly opened fingers.
Beat egg whites just before you need them, not in advance. Use a large, deep bowl that is very clean and free of grease. Begin beating with a whisk, an eggbeater, or an electric mixer at slow speed. Once the eggs are foamy, gradually increase the speed and beat until the whites are firm but not dry. For soft peaks, the tips of the peaks should curl over as you lift the beater from the bowl. For dry peaks, the tips of the peaks should neither fold over nor break as you lift the beater.
When a recipe calls for sugar to be added to the egg whites, add it very gradually, or it may decrease the volume of the beaten egg whites. To help stabilize beaten egg whites, acidic ingredients such as lemon juice or cream of tartar, may be added. Add these once the egg whites have been beaten to the foamy stage, not before.
Use the steam-baste method for frying eggs with minimal added fat. Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray (or brush lightly with oil or butter), heat over medium-high heat and then crack egg into pan. Reduce heat to low and cook for about one minute. Add 1 teaspoon of water, cover tightly and cook for at least six minutes longer.
The easiest way to poach eggs is to use metal egg poaching cups. Crack one egg into each cup and place in a shallow skillet or saucepan filled with 1 to 2 inches of boiling water. Eggs are done when the white is firm but not rubbery. Without the egg poaching cups, bring 1 to 2 inches of water to a simmer in a saucepan or small skillet. Break an egg into a cup or mug, then, holding it just above the surface of the water, gently slide the egg into the pan. Cook until the white and yolk are firm - at least five minutes. Lift the egg out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Egg poachers are also available in the small appliance section of hardware, cookware and department stores.
Scrambling can be done with whole eggs, whites only or with one whole egg plus one or two whites. Break the eggs into a bowl and whisk them with a fork until blended. You can add a few spoonfuls of milk or other seasoning if desired. Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray or brush it with a little oil or butter. Heat over medium heat. Pour in the eggs. As they begin to set, gently stir or draw a spatula across the pan to break the eggs into little chunks. Cook until there is no liquid egg visible.
Soft and hard cooking
Place eggs in a saucepan and add just enough cold water to cover them. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat and let the eggs stand in the water for at least 7 minutes for soft cooked and 17 minutes for hard cooked.
There are egg dishes for every taste, meal, occasion and level of cooking expertise. Classic egg dishes include: Shirred eggs, fried eggs, sunny-side-up eggs, egg custard, egg cream, Eggs Benedict, egg nog, cheese omelet, Spanish omelet (onion, red pepper, garlic, tomato), Quiche Lorraine, Scotch eggs, créme caramel, Caesar salad dressing, egg drop soup, egg foo yung, Huevos Rancheros (fried eggs with beans and salsa), Crépes Suzette, pickled eggs, pastry cream...
Healthy Ways to Eat Eggs:
- Scrambled eggs in the microwave served with whole-wheat toast and fruit juice is a quick and easy start to the morning.
- Use up leftovers like vegetables, chicken, ham, cheese in omelets, quiche and frittatas.
- Lazy Sunday mornings are perfect for soft-boiled eggs with whole-wheat toast for dipping into the yolks.
- Make-ahead breakfast casseroles or stratas, made with eggs are great for brunches, holidays and special occasions.
- Whip up a batch of French toast for a weekend treat.
- Devilled eggs are a classic for luncheons and summer parties. Update them by adding chunk crabmeat.
- Fill whole-wheat pitas with egg salad, lettuce and sliced tomatoes.
- Crack an egg into rapidly boiling chicken or other brothy soups.
- Fill a soft tortilla with scrambled eggs made with your favorite vegetables.
- Have a hard-boiled egg ready for a mid-afternoon snack at your desk.
- Make yourself a Croque-Monsieur for a warm, hearty lunch. (Layer ham and Swiss cheese on French bread. Dip the sandwich in beaten egg. Cook in a nonstick skillet until the egg is cooked and the sandwich is warm and golden.)
- Serve a spinach or mushroom soufflé for elegant entertaining.
- Individual ramekins of créme caramel or créme brûlée make a smooth and luscious dessert.
- Dress up quiche with shrimp, crabmeat, asparagus and a little bit of asiago cheese
- Angel food cake, made with beaten egg whites, is a low-fat dessert choice. Top with fresh fruit and some plain yogurt.
- Chocolate meringue cookies help quell the chocolate craving without a any fat.
- Keep hard-boiled eggs on hand for quick peel-and-eat snacks.
Did you know?
- An egg loses a tiny fraction of its weight every day by evaporation of water through the porous shell.
- You can substitute two egg whites for one whole egg for up to half the eggs in scrambled eggs and omelets.
- If you drop an egg on the floor, sprinkle it heavily with salt for easier clean-up.
- Brown eggs are just the same as white eggs. The color of the shell, or the yolk, has no bearing on the egg's nutritional value.