It’s Egg Season by Dana Carpender

It’s egg season! We tend to forget, because of battery egg farming techniques, that eggs really are a seasonal food – kept in natural lighting conditions, hens lay far fewer eggs in the winter, and more in the spring and summer. That’s why eggs are associated with Easter: They’ve been a symbol of spring since – well, forever.

Between the increased egg yield, and grocery stores running specials for folks planning to dye eggs, eggs are dirt-cheap these days. That means it’s a great time to eat eggs, not just for breakfast, but lunch, dinner, and even for snacks. Eggs are endlessly versatile, not only lending themselves to a wide variety of flavors, but letting you create a number of different textures, too. For these reasons, I never get tired of eggs.

Yet years of anti-egg propaganda have left many people afraid of eggs. Indeed, unlimited egg consumption is one of the things that the anti-low-carb forces brandish as a weapon against us – “All those eggs! You’ll give yourself high cholesterol! You’ll get heart disease!”

It’s important that you know that the whole cholesterol theory of heart disease etiology is in question. A number of other factors appear to be far more important, with systemic inflammation being at the top of the list. (It’s also important for you to know that low cholesterol is dangerous. Total cholesterol under 170 is associated with increased mortality, especially from cancer, stroke, and – believe it or not – violence and suicide. After all, your brain is very rich in cholesterol.)

We need cholesterol.

It’s essential for every cell in our bodies. Cholesterol insulates nerve fibers, maintains cell walls, produces vitamin D, various hormones, and digestive juices. If we eat less cholesterol, we make it in our liver. If we eat more, we make less. It’s a clever natural balance.

Too, in much of the world, cholesterol as high as 225-240 is considered normal. Maybe I’m a whack-job conspiracy nut, but I suspect that American standards for cholesterol keep getting adjusted downward to create a market for cholesterol-lowering drugs. That’s just me, though.

But do eggs jack up your blood cholesterol levels? No doubt eggs contain cholesterol – about 200 mgs apiece. But there’s little evidence that eating cholesterol increases coronary risk. A 1994 study in the Journal of Internal Medicine looked at 12 men and 12 women (a small study, I’ll admit), each eating 2 eggs per day for 6 weeks. Their total cholesterol did rise by 4% – but their HDL (good) cholesterol rose by 10% – meaning that their coronary risk had decreased. In an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers looked at the Framingham study, the biggest, longest lasting study of heart disease to date. They found no relationship between egg consumption and coronary disease. And The Journal of Nutrition ran an article a couple of years back showing that even men who had an abnormally strong response to dietary cholesterol stayed within National Cholesterol Education Program Guidelines when adding 640 mgs of egg cholesterol per day to their diets. That’s three eggs a day – coincidentally, the number I eat most days. If three eggs a day doesn’t negatively affect even those who have an abnormally strong response to dietary cholesterol, what the heck is anyone worrying about?

But what do eggs contain aside from cholesterol?

All sorts of fabulous things. Eggs are a terrific source of protein, of course, with 6 or 7 grams each, depending on their size. Indeed, egg protein is of such good quality that it’s the standard against which all other proteins are measured. Eggs do contain a little carbohydrate; about a half a gram apiece. You’ll get somewhere between 65 and 75 calories.

Just one egg will give you 19% of your iodine, 13% of your riboflavin, 10% of the antioxidant mineral selenium, and 8% of your vitamin A (and that’s preformed A, which is much more easily absorbed and used than the provitamin A in vegetables.) You’ll get 7% of your B12, 5% of your folacin, 4% of your iron, 3% of your B6, copper, and zinc, 2% of your calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Eggs are a terrific source of sulphur, which makes your nails and hair strong and healthy (and grow faster!) Sulphur also makes your connective tissue strong and flexible, and is used by your liver in the process of removing toxins from your body.

Eggs are also one of the few natural dietary sources of vitamin D.

I say “natural” because of course the vitamin D in milk has been added artificially, not that that’s a bad thing. Mostly we’re supposed to make vitamin D in our own bodies, by exposing our skin to the sun. But in this sun-phobic day and age, many people don’t set foot out the door without slathering on sunscreen. This makes dietary sources of D all the more important. (Please, if you’re a constant sunscreen user, take vitamin D supplements, too.)

But it doesn’t stop there! Eggs supply phosphatidyl choline, which is an important structural component of brain and nerve tissue. Too, your body can use phosphatidyl choline to make the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, important for memory. A study published in the journal Brain Research found, “The administration of phosphatidylcholine to mice with dementia improved memory…” Interestingly enough, phosphatidyl choline, aka lecithin (say “less-a-thin”) also lowers blood cholesterol levels.

Eggs are also a source of the omega-3

Eggs are also a source of the omega-3 fat DHA, which is the main structural component of brain tissue. This makes eggs an especially good bet for women who are pregnant, and for small children who are still building brain tissue.

You’ll also get lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids that fight macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, because of the egg yolk’s fats, the carotenoids in egg yolks are better absorbed than those from plant sources, such as carrots and spinach.

Which leads us to an interesting fact: Most of the really fabulous nutritional components of eggs – the DHA, the phosphatidyl choline, much of the vitamins (including the A and D), the carotenoids – are in the yolk. Yes, the yolk. The part that you’ve been told to throw away “for your health.”

Please, please, do not fall for egg white omelets and nasty “99% real egg” egg replacers. Eat eggs. Real eggs. The whites and the rich, delicious, nutritious yolks.

“Okay, okay!” you’re thinking. “So eggs are good for me. And cheap. And low carb. But how many fried or scrambled eggs can I eat? Sheesh!” So don’t just eat ’em boiled or scrambled. There are tons of ways to eat eggs:

  • Plain old hard boiled eggs (we just call ’em “boilies”) are one of our favorite snacks. Just one egg will kill hunger for a few hours.
  • Chop up some of those hard boiled eggs, and toss ’em with bagged salad and bottled dressing for a fast nutritious lunch. Add some cubed leftover ham, too, if you like.
  • Two words: Egg salad! I like to wrap mine in lettuce leaves to eat it. Lower carb than bread, of course, and also more nutritious. Think of the potassium and folacin!
  • Deviled/stuffed eggs are universally popular. You can vary them lots of ways – I’ve made them curried, with deviled ham, with mashed smoked salmon, with avocado, with Cajun seasoning – you name it. You’ll be the most popular person at the party.
  • Quiche turns eggs into dinner. You can make yours crustless, if you like, but I make mine with an almond/Parmesan crust.
  • Eggs Florentine make a good fast supper. Just cream some chopped spinach in your big skillet, then make hollows in it with the back of a spoon. Break an egg into each hollow, turn the burner to low, cover the pan, and let simmer till the eggs are set to your liking. (My favorite creamed spinach recipe: a 10 ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, drained; 1 clove garlic, crushed, 1/4 cup heavy cream, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Combine and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes.
  • Poaching eggs in salsa or tomato sauce works wonderfully well. Eggs poached in Creole Sauce is one of my very favorite breakfasts.
  • Wrap scrambled eggs in a low carb tortilla for a breakfast (or lunch, or supper) burrito. I’d throw in melted Monterey Jack (just put shredded cheese on the tortilla and give it 30-45 seconds on 6 or 7 power in your microwave), sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, and some salsa. Maybe even sour cream! Yum.
  • Surely I’ve made the point here long since that the omelet is the ultimate in fresh, tasty, nutritious fast food. Get a good non-stick pan, and make an omelet any time you want real food, fast!

Roughly sixty-million different combinations of veggies, meat, and cheese can be added to scrambled eggs. You’ve figured out mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, ham, sausage, onions, all that stuff. Maybe you’ve tried asparagus – asparagus with mushrooms, a scallion or two, plus a little dill is wonderful in scrambled eggs. But here’s a really exotic combo. This is actually more vegetables than eggs, and very filling, but feel free to add another egg if you like:

Low-Carb Indonesian Scrambled Eggs with Vegetables Recipe

  • 1/4 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 hot red chili pepper, seeded and minced (for a milder version, use an Anaheim or Poblano pepper)
  • 1/4 small head of cabbage, shredded
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons coconut oil or peanut oil
  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced

Cut up your vegetables and have them ready. Spray your big, heavy skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Put it over medium-high heat, and add the onions – you want to fry them, stirring often, until they’re actually starting to brown. Add the chile pepper, garlic and cabbage. Saute with the onion for a minute, then add a tablespoon of water, turn the burner to medium low, and cover the skillet for about 3-4 minutes.

While that’s happening, beat up your eggs with the turmeric and soy sauce. When the cabbage is just tender-crisp, pour in the beaten eggs and scramble till set. Serve immediately.

2 servings, each with: 184 Calories; 12g Fat; 11g Protein; 11g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 8 grams usable carb.

(Reprinted with permission from The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook, by Dana Carpender, 2006 Fair Winds Press.)

  • Don’t forget about baked custard! It makes a highly nutritious dessert, but it’s a nice make-ahead breakfast, too. The main ingredients of custard are eggs and milk, and you may use milk if you can tolerate the lactose carbs. (Milk has 12 grams of carbohydrate per cup, but lactose is a low-impact carb.) Or you can substitute half-and-half, heavy cream, or a heavy cream/water blend, depending on how rich you want your custard to be. Heavy cream makes a decadently rich custard with lots of vitamin A. I’ve adapted lots of custard recipes from regular cookbooks, using Splenda, and they’ve all worked out, but a half-and-half mixture of erythritol and Stevia in the Raw, or one of your favorite erythritol blends should work fine.
  • Eggs combine with cottage cheese to make terrific baked casserole dishes that are nutritious nearly beyond belief. I started playing with this idea for The Every Calorie Counts Cookbook, and really got carried away. The basic proportions are 6 eggs beaten with 1 cup cottage cheese. Season this as you like (include a 1/4 teaspoon salt), spread half the mixture in an 8×8 Pyrex baking pan, top with a filling that coordinates with your seasonings, add the rest of the egg/cottage cheese mixture, and bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes. I’ve used cumin and oregano in the egg mixture, and layered it with chunky salsa and shredded Monterey Jack. I’ve also seasoned the egg mixture with thyme and marjoram, and layered it with sauteed mushrooms, onions and asparagus, plus shredded Gruyere. Let your imagination soar.
  • One other point: People are now very scared of raw eggs, and I’ve even seen warnings about eating fried or poached eggs where the yolks are still runny. Personally, I think this is overdone hysteria. It is estimated that just 1 out of every 16,000 uncracked, properly refrigerated eggs is actually contaminated with salmonella. Seeing as I eat roughly 1,000 eggs per year, that’s one contaminated egg every 16 years. What are the chances that it will be the one I use raw in Caesar salad dressing or mayonnaise, make into an eggnog smoothy for my husband, or simply undercook a bit? I’ve got bigger things to worry about.

So go stock up on eggs while they’re cheap, for fast, healthy, low carb, budget friendly meals any time of day. It’s egg season! We tend to forget, because of battery egg farming techniques, that eggs really are a seasonal food – kept in natural lighting conditions, hens lay far fewer eggs in the winter, and more in the spring and summer. That’s why eggs are associated with both Passover and Easter: They’ve been a symbol of spring since – well, forever.

Happy Spring!
© Dana Carpender. Used by permission of the author. What do you think? Please send Dana your comments to Dana Carpender.

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