If you’ve ever been lucky enough to have a traditional meal at a Parsi home, you might have been surprised by the omnipresence of eggs in their food. It’s well known that Parsi cuisine relies heavily on eggs, whether they’re the base ingredient of the dish or an afterthought. Either way, there’s no question of a meal without this shelled food. Eggs, of course, have their own health benefits and drawbacks. One of the biggest issues with them is cholesterol, though many recent studies have concluded that much of the saturated fat and cholesterol in egg yolks can be good for you – certainly better than the same substances consumed as fried foods or mass-produced snacks.
Egg whites and yolks alike are rich sources of several crucial nutrients: animal protein, vitamins and minerals, essential fatty acids and soluble fats. Eggs play a major role in several world cuisines because they’re versatile, easy to prepare, easy to procure, simple to flavour and packed with nutrition. They’re also vital in baking, where their role is primarily that of a binding agent due to their unique chemical composition.
People who are in need of a high-quality but inexpensive source of animal protein, such as the poor and the sick, can do a lot worse than eggs. More than half of the protein in a whole egg can be traced to the white, along with vitamin B2 as well as small quantities of cholesterol and fat. The white is also rich in selenium, vitamin D, vitamins B6 and B12, iron, zinc and copper. The yolk is packed with calories and fat, albeit far less of either than grilled chicken or other lean sources of protein. Dietary cholesterol, potassium and vitamins A, D and E are also abundant, as is the compound that makes eggs perfect for the emulsification of mayonnaise – lecithin.
Certain types of eggs are available in supermarkets these days that contain omega-3 fatty acids, though this depends on what the chickens have been fed. Be sure to read the label to rule out any chemical- or hormone-laden feeds. But the reason eggs are thought to be high-quality sources of complete protein is because they have good quantities of all eight essential amino acids. These are the ones the human body cannot synthesis, which we must obtain through diet or other external sources.
But eggs have suffered from a poor reputation as a greater health risk than a potentially beneficial and integral part of a balanced diet. Because of their high cholesterol content, it was once recommended that anyone with related medical issues avoid them altogether. It just so happens that chickens have changed with time, and eggs today have much less cholesterol than they did about 15 or 20 years ago when the yolk scare began. A medium egg contains about 100 mg of cholesterol in the yolk, meaning you can have three whole eggs and still come under the recommended daily allowance.
Eggs are also packed with less common nutrients that are actually hugely beneficial in promoting heart health and blood circulation. Betaine and choline are vital, with the latter playing a particularly significant role during the pregnancy and breastfeeding phases of motherhood. Expectant and nursing mothers should consume (well-cooked) eggs to help the foetus’ brain development and the infant’s motor skills.
When buying eggs, be sure to inspect them before parting with your money. Cracked eggs can ooze white and yolk, causing loss of product as well as providing a breeding ground for bacteria and other dangerous microorganisms. Store them in the refrigerator unless you plan on consuming them within a few days, though any eggs with high omega-3 fatty acid content should be eaten quickly before the oils go rancid. The biggest safety risk with eggs is salmonella poisoning, but cooking them well (scrambled or hard-boiled) is always better than not (sunny side-up, soft-boiled).
See your primary care physician if you have a history of allergy to eggs or egg products, or if you have any other concerns about your health and eggs. ..... Ashwin