Give Eggs a Break

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.

Saturday is #marketday @ Abingdon Farmers Market in Virginia 10am - noon When I was growing up eggs were often called "the perfect food" -- a massive dose of protein packed into a small container with all the essential nutrients for making strong bodies. Everyone endorsed them. We all ate them at almost every meal.

Then some egghead discovered cholesterol and everything got scrambled.

Eggs contain more cholesterol than almost any food source, a whopping 212 milligrams or so per yolk. So when doctors started prescribing less cholesterol in the diet, eggs were the first to go.

That decision may have been a little too hard-boiled.

Recent research suggests that the cholesterol in a person's diet is less important than saturated fat when it comes to high cholesterol levels in the blood. Eating eggs doesn't make a big difference one way or another unless you fry them in butter or enjoy them with a mess of greasy hash browns.

But reversals like this don't go over easy with most folks.

Eggs still carry a bad rap. They are much less a part of our diet than they used to be. Many of us now separate the yolk, which contains most of the egg's cholesterol, from the whites, which are still rich in protein and vitamins. Some even buy egg substitute in a carton, which is just egg whites and some preservatives mixed with food coloring and other chemicals.
Fresh Eggs Tin Sign

It makes you wonder how egg farmers manage to keep their sunny side up.

Truth is, there are fewer egg farms and more eggs being sold than ever before. Fifty years ago backyard flocks supplied the majority of the eggs in the U.S. Today, a few large companies with factory flocks churn out about 240 eggs per year for every person in the country; that's about the annual output of one healthy hen for each person. American consumers are gradually buying fewer eggs per person off supermarket shelves each year, but at the same time they're buying more eggs that have been made into breads and pastas.

Go to almost any farmers market and ask what item sells out most quickly and reliably. "Fresh eggs," is the most likely answer. Hand-gathered eggs from free-ranging and organically raised hens are in demand at premium prices.

So, the demise of eggs in the American diet isn't all its cracked up to be... until Easter rolls around.

Remember dyeing Easter eggs? Remember Easter egg hunts on a grassy lawn? Remember peeling back the colored shell to get at the hard-boiled egg beneath? Try to find an egg this Easter.

Sure, there are eggs-a-plenty at Easter time, the traditional symbol of spring and new life, but most aren't real eggs. They're plastic. Or creme-filled chocolate. Most Easter egg hunts use those plastic shells that open in the middle and have a piece of candy or a prize inside.

Blame it on fears of salmonella. Blame it on cholesterol. But is it really better to load up on chocolate and sweet cremes just to avoid a yolk?

Think about it next time your eggs are taking a beating.

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