Eggs are considered one of the most nutritious foods in the world and at the same time they are also feared for their high cholesterol content which makes them unsuitable for those suffering from hypercholesterolemia . Despite this, the universal importance of eggs in human nutrition cannot be denied .
In fact, chicken eggs , the most commonly consumed ones, are a valuable source of micronutrients and proteins of high biological value and consequently of all the essential amino acids that the body is unable to produce naturally. Furthermore, they contain vitamins, in particular A and D, folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12, choline and many mineral salts such as iron, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.
The eggs are moreover an inexpensive food and easy to cook, have fewer calories (about 75 for a large chicken egg) and are the basis of many recipes , good and quick to prepare. But how many can we eat? How should we behave considering the cholesterol they contain? How many and what benefits does an egg have?
The eggs: what they are
The egg is an organic body produced by the females of many animal species , called oviparous. The appellation of laying hen, therefore, belongs by right not only to hens but also to birds, reptiles and fish. It is a large cell and a wonderful gift from nature: a concentrate of nutrients necessary for the formation of an animal organism until it hatches.
Eggs in gastronomy
In gastronomy, the term egg , without specifications, indicates that of hen, also because the product of other birds, such as turkey, duck and pigeon, is very little used. The egg of other laying species is used in the same way as that of hens, bearing in mind that it is larger.
The only exceptions are the small quail eggs and the huge ostrich egg : this one weighs almost 2 kilos, can replace as many as 20 chicken eggs and is enough for 12 people.
History of eggs on the table
Symbol of good luck, this food has always been considered sacred in different civilizations. In Egypt it was a monopoly of pharaohs, priests and nobles and among the Romans it appeared only on the most high-ranking tables, reserved for distinguished guests. Moreover, its fame reached its peak in the Middle Ages, when the feudal lords of Charlemagne accepted eggs in payment of the rent of the lands. Present in the diet of a huge number of cultures, the egg has experienced alternating periods in the history of food.
It has been considered a wonderful and fundamental food, but also one of the main causes of cardiovascular diseases. How much truth is there in these very different statements ?
Nutritional values of the yolk
An average egg weighs about 60 grams. The yolk provides three quarters of its caloric content which is equal to 128 calories per 100 grams of product (about 75 kcal per egg).
All the fats present in the egg are concentrated in the yolk , 6 grams. Half of these fats is constituted by oleic acid , the same that we find in olive oil, from palmitic acid , stearic acid and, to a lesser extent, linoleic acid . Among the polyunsaturated fatty acids we find omega 6, while omega 3 are present in smaller quantities.
However, the yolk has a high cholesterol content : on average 200 mg per egg.
Furthermore, the protein content and the very high amount of leucine , an essential amino acid, are important . Also fundamental is the presence of choline (160 mg), an essential nutrient that helps keep cell membranes intact.
The yellow-orange color of the yolk is due to the presence of anti-oxidant compounds , mainly lutein and zeaxanthin , capable of significantly increasing the content of carotenoids in plasma and ocular tissues, with a possible protective effect. Finally, the content of Vitamin B1, Vitamin A, iron and phosphorus is very high .
325 calories per 100 g of yolk
- Water g: 53.5
- Protein g: 15.8
- Lipids g: 29.1
- Cholesterol mg: 1337.
Nutritional values of egg white
Egg white makes up two thirds of the egg’s weight, but about 90% of this is made up of water. 10% is instead made up of proteins, minerals, vitamin B2 and glucose . Among the proteins present there are some with anti-nutrient properties (only if the egg white is consumed raw): among these the most important is certainly avidin , which reduces the absorption of vitamin B 12. Cooking or pasteurization by denaturing the egg proteins, it eliminates any risk of malabsorption linked to the consumption of raw egg white.
43 calories per 100 grams of egg white
- Water g: 87.7
- Protein g: 10.7.
Properties and benefits of eggs
Let’s see, one by one, what are the properties of this food.
- Great for muscles and body functions: it is invigorating and energetic . Food can be an excellent supplement, especially for athletes.
- Very high biological value : on a scale from 1 to 100 of the biological value of food, the egg reaches 93 while the meat stops at 69. The egg provides the best quality proteins , complete with all essential amino acids (not produced by organism), in the right dose and with the highest CUD (Digestive Use Coefficient).
- Rich in vitamins and minerals, the product has a strong antioxidant action, against aging and cellular degeneration . In fact, in the egg there are also protective factors, such as flavonoids, which fight the alterations of free radicals
- Phospholipids, methionine and choline of the yolk act in defense of the liver
- the biotin contained in the yolk, vitamin of the B complex, is a safeguard for the good mood and beauty of skin and hair.
- Due to the presence of carotenoids, precursors of vitamin A, the egg offers protection to the skin, mucous membranes and sight .
- Taken as a remineralizer , it participates in the formation and well-being of the bones ; it also intervenes in the proper functioning of the nervous and immune systems.
- Since it contains lecithins among the fats , the egg can help maintain the elasticity of the arteries.
- The eggs are assimilable and digestible , with a minimum of one hour and ¾ for the soft-boiled egg and a maximum of 3 hours for the omelette.
Also read our article on What happens if you start eating 3 eggs a day
The consumption of eggs, a panacea for …
Egg is a complete food and its substances are used by the body at 95%, a very high percentage compared to other foods.
For this reason, its consumption, especially soft-boiled, a cooking method that allows you to fully exploit all its properties , is precious for children and the elderly, during pregnancy and breastfeeding and in case of anemia and depression .
Since it does not leave undigested residues in the digestive system and therefore does not irritate the intestines, the egg is recommended for those suffering from colon diseases.
Even in the presence of gastritis, ulcer and other stomach diseases, the egg can be consumed because it causes a much lower secretion of hydrochloric acid than that due to meat and fish .
moreover, for those suffering from gout , the egg is more suitable than meat because it releases a negligible quantity of purines which, produced by the digestion of proteins, in excess cause the disease.
Do eggs raise cholesterol?
In 20 years, the percentage of cholesterol in eggs has decreased by 8%, from 371 mg per hectogram to 344 mg, thanks to the vegetarian diet to which the layers are subjected .
The lecithins and mono-polyunsaturated fatty acids present in the yolk favor the transport of “bad” cholesterol from the arteries to the liver and enhance the “good” one.
The American Harvard School of Public Health believes that yolk in healthy subjects does not raise blood cholesterol and is not associated with an increase in cardiovascular disease. This is because the cholesterol deriving from food is only 20% of that present in the body, compared to the endogenous 80% produced by the liver.
However, the considerable amount of cholesterol in an egg imposes on those who suffer from diabetes or hypercholesterolemia a moderate consumption , to avoid the effect of accumulation.
The intake of eggs in the diet should be limited by those suffering from stones or inflammation of the biliary tract. In fact, it favors the contraction of the gallbladder and the emptying of the gallbladder, thus triggering painful colic.
The egg is not responsible for the ailment but signals liver problems.
The egg white is difficult to digest and must always be cooked because it contains avidin , a protein substance that, when raw, prevents its absorption.
Eczema, itching and other skin disorders, after taking an egg, indicate a possible allergy, due to the early administration of the product during weaning.
For this reason, the egg should not be introduced into the diet before the 10th month of life . Some studies seem to show a positive link between the introduction of eggs before the sixth month and a reduction in the risk of allergies, but there is still no absolute agreement on this aspect.
How many eggs can you eat per week?
An American experiment concluded that one or two eggs a day could be consumed without consequences.
However, in general it is advisable not to exceed 3-4 eggs per week , also considering those contained in food. Those who follow a low-calorie diet can include 4 eggs per week in their diet .
For a sportsman , who obviously burns more calories , the number of eggs can increase, also because they are not as bad for the liver as many tend to believe.
Replacement idea: can you eat an egg for breakfast?
We know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day , essential for a healthy diet as it allows for a correct distribution of the caloric intake over the 24 hours. Is it possible to eat egg for breakfast every now and then?
Absolutely yes, in fact the eggs would also help to stay fit! The statement comes from the research published in ” Nutrition Research “, which examined the effects on appetite of two types of breakfasts: a classic, based on carbohydrates, and a other protein-based, therefore containing eggs. Those who ate eggs felt full for the longest time and arrived at lunchtime without the classic languor.
For those who want it, an egg for breakfast, twice a week, is a perfect way to start the day.
the advice is to do it hard or soft-boiled to avoid added fats . As Melarossa teaches, it is important to vary your diet in order not to get bored and to be able to carry on your program.
Available in packages of up to 20 pieces, quail eggs are three times smaller and more delicate than chicken eggs, which they replace in a 5 to 1 ratio.
They have a thin, brownish shell with a greenish tinge and dark spots: they weigh 20-30 g. Produced by brown-headed Japanese quail, they are cooked like other eggs , but must be washed with hot water before use.
Quail eggs can be enjoyed hard-boiled, boiled for 3 minutes, for garnishes, salads, and aspic.
In addition, they are excellent in “niçoise”, with boiled potatoes, tomatoes and green beans, or “bavosine”, scrambled until half cooked and flavored with white truffle.
How to choose eggs
In the shop it is possible to find for sale only packaged eggs, with an explanatory label.
On the egg packaging are indicated:
- country of origin
- farming method
- name and address of the packer
- identification number of the packing center
- minimum duration (no later than 28 days from the laying date)
- storage method (in the refrigerator)
- number of eggs contained
- quality and weight categories
- degree of freshness.
Sometimes, nutrition claims are also present. in fact, for consumer safety , the eggs are equipped with the identikit on the shell, consisting of 11 characters between numbers and letters. Here’s what information it gives us .
As regards, specifically, the type of farming, each number corresponds to certain conditions of life of the laying hens:
- “Cage-raised eggs” (identified with the number 3), come from animals that live in sheds, in coops
- “Free-range eggs” (2): they are from hens closed in sheds, with their legs on the ground
- the “free-range eggs” (1) come from layers free to scratch outside;
- “Eggs from organic farming” (0)
Egg quality categories
There are also egg quality categories :
- Category A : These eggs are the only ones on sale in the supermarket. They must be intact, not treated with washing, refrigeration or other processes, but only dry brushed.
- Category B : eggs qualitatively inferior to those of Category A, which are not sold directly to the consumer, but are intended for industry, food or non-food.
Category A eggs must have the following characteristics:
- normal, clean, intact shell and cuticle
- air chamber no more than 6 mm high, immobile
- for eggs marketed under the wording ‘extra’, the height must not exceed 4 mm
- clear, limpid albumen , with a gelatinous consistency, free from foreign bodies of any kind
- yolk visible to candling only as shading, without apparent outline, which does not significantly move away from the center of the egg in the event of its rotation, free from foreign bodies of any kind
- germ with imperceptible development
- absence of extraneous odors.
Category A eggs, depending on their weight, are classified into:
- XL – extra large: weight equal to or greater than 73 grams
- L – large: weight less than 72 grams
- M – medium: weight equal to or greater than 53 g and less than 62 grams
- S – small: weight less than 53 grams.
How to store eggs
Eggs, when you buy them, are not placed in the refrigerated counters but the advice to safeguard their taste and healthiness, once at home, is instead to place them in the refrigerator , in the special compartment at 4 ° C, with the tip down to slow down the degradation processes and the development of pathogens. The ideal would be to consume them within three weeks of purchase .
The egg shell should not be washed : it contains a patina that protects it from external agents. On the other hand, if the eggs have a damaged shell or, once opened, they have the typical patch of blood , better discard them.
To freeze eggs at home, the yolk and white must be separated. the “reds” in a tray, sprinkled with salt and sugar to prevent them from coagulating, the “whites” lightly beaten and in a glass jar with lid.
If you want to use whole egg in cooking, be careful to avoid contact with other raw foods during preparations.
Instead, let’s see which methods are implemented, at an industrial level, for the conservation of egg products :
- pasteurization : used for example for egg white and egg yolk mixes (yolk and egg white are subjected to heat treatment: this increases the shelf life of the food and facilitates industrial dosage)
- concentration (by evaporating the water under vacuum) with possible addition of glucose or salt (useful treatment for egg products intended for use in pastry)
- freezing (the egg white and the yolk are separated or they freeze together after removing the shell)
How to tell if an egg is fresh
A fresh egg is recognized by its air chamber , that is the space inside the wider end, delimited by two thin membranes that separate the shell from the egg white .
Since the shell is porous, air enters it over time, which increases its volume. In the fresh egg , looked at in transparency, this empty space must not exceed 6 millimeters .
The larger the chamber, the more the product remains afloat , when it is immersed in a liter of water with 120 g of salt. A floating egg must be discarded because it is old, while the one that goes to the bottom is undoubtedly very fresh.
When the product remains in the middle of the water, without moving, it has about 6 days; if it remains vertical, with the wide part upwards, it has 11.
Thus, in relation to the mm of height of the inner tube, the following are found on the market:
- “fresh” eggs, packaged within 10 days of laying;
- very fresh, packed within 3 days of laying,
- with “deposition date”, packed the same day.
Is the color of the shell a sign of freshness?
The color of the egg shell depends on the breed and the feed of the hens , therefore it is not an indicator of its freshness. Instead, what is important to note about the shell is that it is clean and homogeneous, because the irregularities could favor contamination from the outside .
Eggs – use beauty
If the nutritional properties of eggs are indisputable, so are their cosmetic properties. It is no coincidence, in fact, that since the dawn of time they have been used for the care and beauty of skin and hair. Here are two DIY recipes for you to try.
Nourishing hair mask
If egg yolk strengthens hair , makes it shiny and eliminates frizz, egg white helps prevent the unsightly problem of oily hair.
Here is the recipe for making a nourishing hair mask very easily.
- 1 egg (2 if you have long hair)
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 3 tablespoons of honey
- Beat the egg and add the oil and honey.
- Work the mixture until it becomes a smooth cream.
Apply the mask on dry hair, from root to tip, with light circular massages. Leave on for 20 minutes, then rinse with plenty of water and proceed with the normal shampoo. To make the mask even more nourishing, use it after shampooing and, after the exposure time, rinse it with warm water.
Egg-based anti-aging mask
To nourish the skin in a natural and economical way, to make it radiant and to fight the signs of aging, we recommend a “do it yourself” egg-based mask. Here are the ingredients:
- 1 yolk
- 1 teaspoon of honey:
- Separate the yolk from the white
- mix the honey with the yolk until you get a homogeneous cream.
After cleaning your face with the cleanser, apply the mask.
Leave on for 30 minutes and then remove the mask with a sponge soaked in warm water. Finally, rinse with plenty of cold water.
If the smell of the egg bothers you, you can add a few drops of lemon essential oil to the mask.
If you have sensitive or allergic skin, always ask your doctor, beautician or dermatologist for advice before using do-it-yourself remedies.
Eggs: use in cooking
There are more than a thousand recipes with eggs, but all the preparations are reduced to 10 basic : baked, poached, cocotte, soft-boiled, omelette, fried, plattered, parades, boiled, scrambled eggs.
Whatever dish you want to prepare, it is good to remove the eggs from the refrigerator at least an hour before using them.
The egg whites to be whipped must be kept at room temperature, with the addition of salt or cream of tartar to prevent them from remaining fluid and smooth, impossible to swell.
If you are sure that the egg is of the day, you can eat it raw , perhaps “oyster”, with salt, pepper and lemon juice, or to prepare a mayonnaise.
If you don’t use fresh eggs and want to consume them raw, go through the pasteurization procedure to avoid health risks. It will be sufficient to break the egg, heat it in a bain-marie working it with a whisk until it reaches a temperature of 60 ° C. In this way the heat will pasteurize the eggs without cooking them. If you intend to make sweet preparations, the eggs must be pasteurized with a syrup of water and sugar at 120 ° which will be poured slowly, incorporating it with a whisk, into the whipped eggs.
If, on the other hand, you consume cooked eggs, remember that the cooking method you choose affects the digestion times, which are obviously proportional to the quantity of fats used and the temperatures used: hard-boiled eggs, fried or with fat and omelettes remain for a long time in the stomach.
Here are the different methods of cooking eggs.
Put some oil in a pan (just enough so that the egg doesn’t stick to the surface), break the egg, pour it directly into the pan and let it simmer. Add some spice. Once the egg white has turned white and the yolk well compacted, your fried egg will be ready.
For this type of cooking, you need a recently harvested egg whose yolk, protected by the albumen, does not break.
Put the egg, very fresh and with all the shell, in the saucepan with cold water and cook for 7 minutes from the moment of boiling.
To peel it, pass the hard-boiled egg under a jet of cold water which, by penetrating, will make the shell come off more easily.
To cut it, wet the blade of the knife with ice water.
Beat the eggs with the salt, pour the mixture into a pan with a little oil and mix with a wooden spoon. Cook for a few minutes over low heat, until the eggs are cooked, and serve them hot.
Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan, carefully pour in the whole egg and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Drain the water and serve the egg hot, with all the shells.
Poached eggs are also called “affogate” or “poché”. To prepare them, shell the eggs and slide them, one at a time, into a pot containing 1 liter of water, 1 tablespoon of vinegar and 2 of salt, boiling.
Lower the heat and, after 3 minutes of cooking, drain the egg with a slotted spoon, collecting the egg white around the yolk.
To prepare poached eggs, it is good to use fresh eggs.
Break the eggs into a dish, add a pinch of salt and mix.
To make the omelette softer, the egg whites should be whipped until stiff. Grease a non-stick pan and, when the oil starts to sizzle, pour in the eggs. During cooking it is important to turn the omelette so that it is well cooked on all sides.
The diameter of the pan is fundamental, which must be 14 cm for 2 eggs and 22 cm for 4. If you use butter instead of oil, the preparation will remain softer and without crust. Oil, however, is a more genuine and healthy condiment, which is why it must be preferred as much as possible.
Lightly beat the eggs and add a pinch of salt. Pour a tablespoon of oil into a saucepan, add the egg and stir until it clots, then tilt the pan.
To make omelets , the pan must have high sides and be more flared than a pan.
According to Carlo Cracco’s recipe, only the yolk is used to prepare the marinated egg.
Place the yolk in a container, inside a small fountain of salt and sugar in equal parts.
Cover the egg yolk with more salt and sugar and let it rest for 4 hours or more, depending on whether you prefer the yolk soft inside and compact outside or hard.
The marinated egg, cleaned of the mix of salt and sugar, can be sliced and used in salads or pasta.
Recipes with eggs
Jolly in the kitchen, as well as for basic preparations (omelette, poached, hard-boiled …) eggs can also be used as a fundamental ingredient in many dishes, from appetizers to desserts: in egg pasta , for bases such as custard , the sponge cake and pastry , for sauces such as mayonnaise , in casseroles and savory quiche , in cakes and desserts (for example, are essential for desserts like tiramisu and creme brulee), biscuits, omelets and pancakes. Eggs also help to bind the dough of meatballs and meatballs and are used, together with breadcrumbs or flour, for the breading of meat and fish.