Eat Well to Be Well: Eggs – an exceptional source of nutrition

Eat Well to Be Well

Looking for a food that packs high quality protein, antioxidants, essential nutrients for eye health, muscle strength, brain function, is affordable and provides only 70 calories? Look no further than your egg carton. Unless you are allergic to eggs, most people can eat eggs and reap the nutritional benefits they provide. Let’s “eggs-plore” what this oval wonder all has to offer.

Most of us know that eggs are a good source of protein. One egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein. High-quality protein is an easily digestible protein that contains all nine essential amino acids needed for protein synthesis. Consuming foods containing high-quality protein, along with being physically active, helps enhance muscle strength and prevents muscle loss as we age. In addition, high-quality protein can aid in maintaining a healthy body weight as it makes us feel fuller for a longer period of time.

Does macular degeneration run in your family? Eggs contain two important nutrients that may help prevent this leading cause of age-related blindness. The two nutrients are lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that protect and maintain healthy cells in the eyes. Although many green leafy vegetables contain these nutrients, research has shown that lutein from eggs is absorbed better than lutein from other food sources.

Ever heard of an essential nutrient called choline? This nutrient, grouped together with the B vitamins, was recognized by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 1998 and is an important part of all body tissue. We can make a small amount of choline but we also need some from our diet. One egg will provide 126 mg of choline out of the 425 mg needed by adult women and 550 mg needed by adult men daily. Choline is also necessary for brain health, nervous system functioning and during pregnancy for proper fetal development of the brain and spinal cord. Egg yolk is one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin necessary for absorbing calcium and promoting bone growth. Without sufficient vitamin D, children can develop rickets, characterized by narrow rib cages and bowed legs and adults can develop osteomalacia, characterized by loss of minerals from bone, bone pain, muscle aches and an increase in bone fractures. Egg yolks contain 41 International Units (IU) of vitamin D out of 600 IU recommended daily for people aged 19-70 and 800 IU for people over age 70.

Do you avoid eggs because you feel they are too high in cholesterol? That may not be necessary anymore. Eggs contain 185 mg of cholesterol, down from 215 mg, a 14 percent decrease due to a higher quality diet fed to chickens than in the past. The American Heart Association recommends that individuals consume no more than 300 mg of cholesterol a day. Cholesterol is a type of fat that may lead to heart disease. Only the egg yolk contains cholesterol so you can have as many egg whites as you wish.

Eggs certainly are a nutrition powerhouse and it’s no wonder the slogan “The Incredible Edible Egg” has been around for more than 30 years! Whether you buy eggs from the grocery store, a farmers market, or raise chickens in your backyard, eggs can be a nutritious and economical part of your diet.

Since eggs can be contaminated with bacteria like salmonella, here are some tips from foodsafety.gov on how to prevent food poisoning: If fixing scrambled eggs, cook until firm, not runny. For fried, poached, boiled or baked eggs, cook until both the white and yolk are firm. Egg mixtures such as casseroles, cook until the center of the mixture reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit when measured with a food thermometer.

Following are some easy egg recipes that you and your family can enjoy. The first two recipes come from incredibleegg.org and the third recipe is from Eating Well magazine.

Muffin Frittatas

Make these ahead and reheat in the microwave. Great for breakfast or lunch.

Other vegetables can be substituted for those listed below. 6 servings.

  • 6 eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 oz.)
  • ¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • ¾ cup chopped zucchini
  • 2 tbsp chopped red onion
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs, milk, salt and pepper in medium bowl until well blended. Add cheese, zucchini, bell pepper and onion, mix well. Spoon evenly into 12 greased muffin cups, about ¼ cup each.
  2. Bake in 350 degree oven until just set, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on rack for 5 minutes. Remove from cups, serve warm.

Calories – 164, fat – 11 g, cholesterol – 207 mg, protein – 12 g


Microwave Italian Breakfast Flatbread

Easy and tasty breakfast! 1 serving.

  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp fully cooked Italian or spicy breakfast sausage crumbles
  • 1 flatbread (6-inch diameter)
  • 2 tbsp shredded Italian cheese blend or other cheese
  1. Beat egg and milk in 2-cup cereal bowl until blended. Add sausage
  2. Microwave on high for 30 seconds; push cooked edges toward center. Microwave until egg is almost set, about 15 to 45 seconds longer.
  3. Cut egg into 4 or 5 pieces; arrange on flatbread. Top with cheese. Microwave an additional 10 to 15 seconds to melt cheese. Serve immediately.

Calories – 317, fat – 18 g, cholesterol – 209 mg, protein – 18 g


Mini Chile Relleno Casseroles

Individual portion-sized mini casserole that can be for breakfast or any meal of the day!

Eight 6-ounce or four 10-ounce heatproof ramekins.

  • 2 4-ounce cans diced green chiles, drained and patted dry
  • ¾ cup frozen corn, thawed and patted dry
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat eight 6-ounce or four 10-ounce heatproof ramekins with cooking spray and place on a baking sheet.
  2. Equally divide green chiles, corn and scallions among the ramekins. Top each with cheese. Whisk milk, egg whites, eggs and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Divide egg mixture evenly among the ramekins.
  3. Bake the mini casseroles until the tops begin to brown and the eggs are set, about 25 minutes for 6-ounce ramekins and about 35 minutes for 10-ounce ramekins.

Calories – 215, fat – 7 g, cholesterol – 218 mg, protein – 23 g


Cheryl_Mussatto_pictureCheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian who works as an adjunct professor at Allen Community College, where she teaches a course called Basic Nutrition. She is also a certified health and wellness coach. She writes Eat Well to Be Well, a column about health and nutrition, and may be contacted at [email protected].

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