The ultimate convenience food, eggs are powerhouses of nutrition, packed with protein and a range of 18 vitamins and minerals. They're also hugely versatile. Almost all eggs are edible but the most commonly consumed are hen's eggs. Bantam, quail, duck and goose eggs are also readily available and vary in size and flavour.
All year round.
Choose the best
Always select eggs marked with the most distant 'best before' date (28 days after they have been laid) and eat them before it expires. Never buy eggs that are broken or cracked. The colour of the shell isn't an indication of quality, or the bird's feed - it's dictated by what breed of bird the egg came from.
Hen's eggs come in different grades (Grade A or Class A are the best) and sizes, which are defined by weight, rather than volume (S, 45g; M, 53g; L, 63g; XL, 73g). While most Good Food recipes call for large-sized eggs, for individual servings, such as when frying or poaching, size doesn't matter so much. But baking is different - if you can't find the egg size that the recipe calls for, make sure you're using the right volume.
The way in which the bird that laid the egg is reared is also an important factor in making your selection. Organic eggs are most expensive, as they are laid by hens who have been reared in the most humane way possible, with strict criteria to govern their housing, freedom of movement, feed (all-organic) and environment (organic land). Free-range is next, then barn eggs. Caged eggs are the cheapest eggs, as the hens who lay them are farmed in the cheapest manner, stocked at the highest densities, with very limited room to move around and no access to direct sunlight.
Another label to look out for is the Lion Quality stamp - eggs marked with this will have been laid by hens vaccinated against salmonella.
Read more about standards in egg production at British Egg Information, the official site for British Lion Quality eggs.
Just crack them open, and you're ready to go: tap the middle of the egg against the rim of a bowl to crack the shell; insert the tips of your thumbs into the crack; draw the two halves apart, allowing the egg to drop into the bowl; using a teaspoon, fish out any fragments of shell that may have fallen into the bowl.
It's a good idea to crack each egg into an empty bowl before adding to your mixing bowl, just in case one is bad. If you're in any doubt about how fresh an egg is before you crack it open, drop it in a glass of water. A fresh egg will drop to the bottom of the glass and stay there. A slightly older (but still safe to eat) egg will hover in the middle, while a stale egg will float on the surface - a sure sign that it should be thrown away. Once cracked open, a very fresh egg will have a plump yolk that stands proud from the white, and the white itself will have two layers, the one that surrounds the yolk being the higher of the two.
Store in their carton, or upright, in a cool, dark, dry place away from strong smells such as onion.
Cook eggs on their own, either scrambled, poached, boiled or fried, or use to make dishes such as omelettes, frittatas, soufflés, pancakes, sauces or cakes, or use to glaze breads and pies.
Benefits of Eggs
1. Eggs are great for the eyes. According to one study, an egg a day may prevent macular degeneraton due to the carotenoid content, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin. Both nutrients are more readily available to our bodies from eggs than from other sources.
2. In another study, researchers found that people who eat eggs every day lower their risk of developing cataracts, also because of the lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs.
3. One egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein and all 9 essential amino acids.
4. According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, there is no significant link between egg consumption and heart disease. In fact, according to one study, regular consumption of eggs may help prevent blood clots, stroke, and heart attacks.
5. They are a good source of choline. One egg yolk has about 300 micrograms of choline. Choline is an important nutrient that helps regulate the brain, nervous system, and cardiovascular system.
6. They contain the right kind of fat. One egg contains just 5 grams of fat and only 1.5 grams of that is saturated fat.
7. New research shows that, contrary to previous belief, moderate consumption of eggs does not have a negative impact on cholesterol. In fact, recent studies have shown that regular consumption of two eggs per day does not affect a person's lipid profile and may, in fact, improve it. Research suggests that it is saturated fat that raises cholesterol rather than dietary cholesterol.
8. Eggs are one of the only foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D.
9. Eggs may prevent breast cancer. In one study, women who consumed at least 6 eggs per week lowered their risk of breast cancer by 44%.
10. Eggs promote healthy hair and nails because of their high sulphur content and wide array of vitamins and minerals. Many people find their hair growing faster after adding eggs to their diet, especially if they were previously deficient in foods containing sulphur or B12.
The egg is not a complete food as it lacks sugars and vitamin C, but it is rich in other valuable nutrients 100g of whole egg (2 eggs weighing 50g net each) contains 12.4% proteins 8.7% fats, a good amount of vitamin B1,B2,PP, A and D, and a good quantity of iron phosphorous, sulphur and potassium up an energy value of 128kcal (food composition tables National Institute ed 1997).
Proteins have considerable nutritional value; they contain amino acids that the human organism has difficulty producing therefore they must be introduced through diet to ensure growth and reconstruction of tissues proteins contained in the white and the yolk of an egg are the best source of protein for man albeit certain proteins in the white can cause allergic reaction in individuals with particular sensitivity.
Fats; Eggs contain a modest quantity of fats (compared to 16-47% found in cheese and 35% in salami and sausage products) with various chemical structures; eggs contain triglycerides rich in saturated fat phospholipids and cholesterol Note that eggs now contain one forth less cholesterol than in the past at 371mg/100g. for this reason Indications on weekly consumption of egg given to hypercholesterolemia sufferers are now less restrictive but there is still a ban on packaged products with a high yolk content e.g. mayonnaise custards certain desserts (typically tiramisu) or pasta dishes containing which is also rich in cholesterol.
Phospholipids are highly unsaturated lipid molecules of which lecithin is the most important; lecithin abounds in the yolk and contains choline which is indispensable to cell nuclei and particularly to nerve cells These compounds are useful for contrasting hypercholesterolemia and are necessary for the metabolism of the liver.
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