Good things come in small packages: for proof, just look at the egg. Inexpensive and loaded with nutrients the body needs for vision and brain development, eggs are this week’s Greatist superfood.
All They’re Cracked Up to Be — Why Eggs Are Egg-ceptional
Photo by Marissa Angell
A single large egg is just about 70 calories and is loaded with 6g of protein, making it a good protein alternative for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. Plus, they’re a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for normal body function and heart health and must be ingested through food (because the body can’t produce them on its own) Health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Ruxton, C. Nursing Standard. 2004 Aug 11-17;18(48):38-42. .
Eggs can also boost eye health. Thanks to lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants found in the yolks, eggs help to protect the eyes from damaging light and free radicals (like those found in cigarette smoke). Together, these two compounds might reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a disease that can lead to blindness A 12-wk egg intervention increases serum zeaxanthin and macular pigment optical density in women. Wenzel, AJ, Gerweck, C, Barbato, D, et al. Psychology Department, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire. The Journal of Nutrition. 2006 Oct;136(10):2568-73. . Egg yolks are also chock-full of choline, a B vitamin crucial in maintaining brain cell structure, sending messages from the brain to muscles, and maintaining metabolism and memory Modified egg as a nutritional supplement during peak brain development: a new target for fortification. Shapira, N. Nutrition and Health. 2009;20(2):107-18. Choline: critical role during fetal development and dietary requirements in adults. Zeisel, SH. Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health and School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. Choline: an essential nutrient for public health. Zeisel, SH, da Costa, KA. Department of Nutrition at the Nutrition Research Institute, School of Public Health and School of Medicine, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. Nutrition Foundation. 2009 Nov;67(11):615-23. Nutritional importance of choline for brain development. Zeisel, SH. Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. 2004 Dec;23(6 Suppl):621S-626S. .
And for a meal with staying power, crack open a few eggs. In one study, participants felt significantly more full for longer periods of time after eating an egg omelet than when they ate meals like a baked potato or chicken sandwich A 12-wk egg intervention increases serum zeaxanthin and macular pigment optical density in women. Wenzel, AJ, Gerweck, C, Barbato, D, et al. Psychology Department, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire. The Journal of Nutrition. 2006 Oct;136(10):2568-73. . Another study found that (when combined with a generally healthy lifestyle) a two-egg breakfast helped subjects get in better shape versus when they ate a bagel for breakfast The effects of consuming eggs for lunch on satiety and subsequent food intake. Pombo-Rodrigues, S, Calame, W, Re, R. Nutrition Research, Leatherhead Food Research, Leatherhead, Surrey, United Kingdom. International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition. 2011 Sep;62(6):593-9. Epub 2011 Apr 18. .
Sunny Side Up or Scrambled? — Your Action Plan
When buying a carton, though, there is one thing to keep in mind. Eggs have gained a bad rap because of the cholesterol content in the yolks— but don’t throw out those yellow centers just yet. Cholesterol, a fat produced by the liver, is essential for the body to produce vitamin D, build cell walls, and digest food. Too much cholesterol in the body, however, can lead to health issues like heart disease. So the key to eating the yolks? Moderation, grasshopper. To stay on the safe side, research suggests those with high cholesterol might want to limit their egg yolk intake Dietary cholesterol and egg yolks: not for patients at risk of vascular disease. Spence, JD, Jenkins, DJ, Davignon, J. Stroke Prevention & Atheroschlerosis Research Centre, Robarts Research Institute, London, Ontario. The Canadian Journal of Cardiology. 2010 Nov;26(9):336-9. . Still, one study suggests that limiting egg intake is far less effective than cutting out other cholesterol-raising behaviors like smoking A comparison of egg consumption with other modifiable coronary heart disease lifestyle risk factors: a relative risk apportionment study. Barraj, L, Tran, N, Mink, P. Risk Analysis. 2009 Mar;29(3):4091-15. Epub 2008 Nov 4. . For the most nutritional value, eating the whole egg is often the way to go.
Looking for yummy ways to incorporate more of this superfood into meals besides the standard eggs and toast? This versatile food is delicious in recipes of all kinds. Try a spinach pie for a healthy main course or a Spanish potato and onion tortilla to use eggs in a whole new way.
Superfood Recipe: Egg (White) Drop Soup
By Tulika Balagopal
What You'll Need:
6 cups water (or low sodium chicken or vegetable broth)
1/4 cup egg whites (about 2)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 inch ginger, grated (or finely chopped)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green chili, finely chopped
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped cilantro for garnish
What to Do:
- Bring the water (or broth) to a boil.
- Add the chopped ginger, garlic, green chili, and bell pepper.
- Turn the heat down to medium and add the soy sauce, salt, pepper, and rice vinegar.
- Slowly pour the egg whites in, stirring gently a few times.
- Turn the heat off and keep the pot on the stove. Allow the egg whites to cook in the hot broth.
- Serve into bowls and garnish with chopped cilantro