Text and Photos by Henrylito D. Tacio
The low demand for eggs in the local market is very surprising in a country where balut, penoy, and kwek kwek is a street food delicacy. In some department stores, itlog na maalat are readily available.
One triggering factor for lower consumption is the health issues often associated with eggs. The fear of excessive cholesterol from daily consumption of eggs has often limited the demand for it, as Filipinos have opted to go “safe” and go for substitutes to supplement their diet.
“Eggs are high in cholesterol, and a diet high in cholesterol can contribute to elevated blood cholesterol levels,” explains American physician Thomas Behrenbeck. “However, the extent to which dietary cholesterol raises blood cholesterol levels isn’t clear. Many scientists believe that saturated fats and trans fats have a greater impact than dietary cholesterol does in raising blood cholesterol.”
On the other hand, the American Heart Association recently acknowledged that as long as you limit dietary cholesterol from other sources, it may be possible to include a daily egg in a healthy diet.
So, what’s the real score? Here’s what Dr. Behrenbeck shares: “One large egg has about 213 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol — all of which is found in the yolk. If you are healthy, it’s recommended that you limit your dietary cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg a day. If you have cardiovascular disease, diabetes or high LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol, you should limit your dietary cholesterol intake to less than 200 mg a day. Therefore, if you eat an egg on a given day, it’s important to limit or avoid other sources of cholesterol for the rest of that day.”
Despite what is being said about cholesterol, not too many know that cholesterol also helps maintain the flexibility and permeability of cell membranes and is also a raw material for the fatty lubricants that help keep the skin supple. Cholesterol is likewise essential for producing sex hormones, cortisol, vitamin D, and bile salts.
Eggs also contain protein, vitamins, and minerals. “Eggs are considered to be one of the best sources of protein available,” reported James McIntosh in an article that appeared in Medical News Today. “One medium-sized egg weighing 44 grams typically contains 5.53 grams of protein. Around 12.6% of the edible portion of an egg is protein.”
“Egg protein – the most nutritious protein known – is the standard by which other proteins are compared,” wrote Dr. Lorenzo David T. Guzman in an article that appeared in Greenfields. “All the essential amino acids or building blocks of protein are present in such generous quantities in an egg.”
Although protein is more concentrated around the yolk, there is, in fact, more protein in the albumen. Also known as egg white, albumen accounts for most of an egg’s liquid weight, about 67 percent. Albumen contains more than half the egg’s total protein, niacin, riboflavin, chlorine, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and sulfur.
“Eggs are also rich in other nutrients and vitamins, except vitamin C,” Dr. Guzman informed. The egg is a source of all the B vitamins. It is a particularly rich source of vitamins B12 and B2 (riboflavin) and a useful source of folate. The egg is also a good source of the fat-soluble vitamins A and D and provides some vitamin E.
Likewise, eggs contain many of the minerals that the human body requires for health. In particular, eggs are an excellent source of iodine, required to make the thyroid hormone, and phosphorus, required for bone health. The egg is a significant source of selenium, an important antioxidant, and provides some zinc, important for wound healing, growth, and fighting infection. Eggs also contain iron, the vital ingredient of red blood cells, although the availability of this iron to the body is still under investigation.
“Even with these nutrients, 100 grams of egg have only 144 calories compared to ham’s 374, cheddar cheese’s 398, hamburger’s 377, and salmon’s 203,” Dr. Guzman pointed out. “Eggs are, therefore, good for weight-watchers and convalescents who must eat light but nutritious food. Eggs are usually one of the first solid foods that mothers feed to infants. Eggs also aid in the rapid growth of children and teenagers and are served as a quick, easily prepared meal for adults and elderly.”
According to McIntosh, the majority of fat in an egg is that which is generally regarded to be the healthiest; approximately 38% is monounsaturated, and 16% is polyunsaturated, with only 28% being saturated.
“Eggs are also a rich supply of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids,” McIntosh wrote. “These are predominantly in the form of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which helps with the maintenance of brain function and normal vision. These fatty acids are most commonly found in oily fish and so eggs provide an alternative source for people that are unable to eat fish.”
Oftentimes, people who travel eat hard-boiled eggs. Partly, such practice helps. According to experts, a medium egg has an energy value of 78 kilocalories (324 kilojoules). The consumption of one egg daily would contribute around three percent of the average energy requirement of an adult man (or four percent for an adult woman).
Chicken eggs are widely used in many types of dishes, both sweet and savory. Eggs can be pickled, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, scrambled, fried, and refrigerated. They can also be eaten raw, though this is not recommended for people who may be especially susceptible to salmonella, such as the elderly and pregnant women.
Eggs, as well as flour, are the structural ingredients in baking. Eggs provide leavening; add color, texture, flavor, and richness to the batter. They are very important in helping to bind all the other ingredients together. Beaten eggs are a leavening agent as they incorporate air into the batter, which will expand in the oven and cause the cake to rise. Some cakes use beaten eggs as their only source of leavening. Eggs are also used as a thickener in custards and creams and to glaze pastries and bread. Egg whites are used to make meringues.
While eating eggs is good for your health, there are instances that might endanger your life. McIntosh discouraged eating raw or undercooked eggs as bacteria can enter the egg through pores in the shells.
“Eggs exit the bird’s body via the same passageway that feces are excreted from and so there is a risk that bacteria such as Salmonella could enter the egg at this stage,” he explained. “Bacteria can also enter the egg if they are present in the bird’s reproductive tract before the shell has formed around the egg’s contents.”
Eggs whose shells are cracked should be avoided at all costs. Most experts recommend that eggs should be stored in the refrigerator. In the United States, the Department of Agriculture said that if eggs are left out at room temperature, they can sweat, making it easier for bacteria to move into the egg and grow.
“Washing eggs is not recommended as this can not only lead to water getting into the egg through the pores of the shell but also remove the protective coating that is put on the outside of the shell by the bird that lays it,” McIntosh said.
Now, which comes first: the egg or the chicken? Most scientists say the chicken. Those who argue that it’s the egg say it has something to do with Adam being created first. But that is another story…