Health Benefits and Risks of Eggs

Eggs are associated with Easter; from chocolate covered Easter eggs to hard boiled eggs that are painted and decorated by children, it is hard to avoid eggs at Easter time. Real eggs (as oppose to the chocolate-covered variety) have many nutritional benefits but they also carry some risks for particular health problems. Eggs need to be cooked and stored properly to avoid a risk of food poisoning. In particular, children are also the most vulnerable to an egg allergy.

The Nutrients in Eggs

The most common type of egg that we eat is the chicken egg; however duck and goose eggs are also suitable for human consumption. Eggs vary in quality and size depending on the diet of the bird which lays them. Eggs are a great source of protein. The ingredients of eggs include:

  • essential amino acids
  • vitamin A
  • iron
  • several of the different types of Vitamin B (such as B9 and B2)
  • calcium
  • potassium.

Eggs contain a egg yolk and egg white; the egg white predominately contains water and the remainder of the egg white is made up of protein, vitamins and minerals. The egg yolk has more nutritional value than the egg white and contains a high percentage of vitamins.

How to Eat Eggs

Although eggs can be eaten raw, it is usually most common to cook eggs before eating them; there are many ways to cook eggs including boiling, scrambling, frying, pickling and adding them to baked products (such as cakes). Do not eat raw eggs if you are pregnant, a child or elderly. Eggs also need to be stored correctly otherwise there is the risk of food poisoning.

Cholesterol and Eggs

Despite the fact that (chicken) eggs contain many nutrients, they are also high in cholesterol (source). Egg yolks contain all the cholesterol whereas egg whites do not contain cholesterol. Although cholesterol is needed by the body to function properly, low-density lipoproteins (commonly known as bad cholesterol) are the “type” of cholesterol that increase the risk of heart attacks and clogged arteries (source: Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James F Balch, Phyllis A Balch). Therefore, in order to keep your cholesterol levels low, you should either limit your intake of other sources of cholesterol when you eat eggs or alternatively eat only the egg white.

Salmonella and Eggs

There is a risk of food poisoning, in particular from the bacteria Salmonella Enteritidis, with eggs. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, advise that as long as eggs are cooked properly, stored properly and handled properly the risk is minimal. Keep eggs in the refrigerator to minimize any potential increase in Salmonella Enteritidis and cook the eggs throughly. Salmonella Enteritidis causes fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps that can last between four and seven days; severe cases of Salmonella Enteritidis need hospitalization.

Egg Allergies

It maybe that you are allergic to dairy products such as eggs; an allergy to eggs also includes all food products that are made with eggs, so you need to be aware of what goes into every item of food that you buy. Children are the most vulnerable to egg allergies (source) but it is usual for older children to “grow out” of egg allergies. However, it is particularly important to know if your child is allergic to eggs because, like a lot of health problems, the seriousness of the risk is greater in children.

Foods to avoid if you have an egg allergy (unless otherwise stated on the labeling that eggs are not part of the ingredients) include:

  • chocolates, cakes and cookies
  • mayonnaise
  • salad dressings such as hollandaise and Caesar
  • ice-cream
  • meringues
  • pancakes
  • French toast
  • some fillings for cream pies.

Eggs and Easter

Painting eggs is a popular Easter tradition; eggs are usually hard boiled and the shell of the egg is painted in various designs. If you are painting eggs this Easter, you might want to remember some of the nutritional value of eggs too. In addition, its a fun thing to do with children – and hand painted, hard boiled eggs are more healthy than the consumption of lots of chocolate Easter eggs!

Photo by splorp

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