Egg Nutrition Center Blog

The Multi-Functional Egg

Chef eggs

NawalToday’s blog post is written by Nawal Al-Nouri, ENC’s Dietetic Intern. Nawal studies Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and will be eligible to sit for the RD exam in December of 2013. She maintains a balanced lifestyle by staying active and exposing herself to new ideas, and enjoys cooking and experimenting with different food genres and flavors.

It may be interesting to learn that Columbus’ ships are believed to have carried the first of the chickens related to egg production in America today. It may also surprise you that eggs have several additional functions other than eating them scrambled, fried, poached, baked, in the shell, or as omelets.

Few foods are entirely as versatile as the egg. It has been stated that each of the one-hundred pleats on a chef’s toque represents a different way use eggs, and within each pleat are countless variations. Indisputably, there are other foods or products that can be used to perform similar functions as eggs in a certain setting, however no other food is known to match all properties of the egg. Below are a few unique purposes of the multi-functional egg:

Leaven- Eggs serve as a leavener to increase volume and add lightness to food due to their excellent ability to foam. Eggs, especially the whites, function to leaven soufflés, meringues, angel food cakes and more.

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Emulsify- Emulsions may be oil droplets in water, such as mayonnaise or water droplets in fat, such as butter. Egg yolks are considered chemical
emulsifiers, so they have one end that dissolve in water and one dissolved in oil, which helps combine two otherwise immiscible liquids.

Bind & thicken- Eggs act as “glue” and bind ingredients in foods such as meatloaves and casseroles to keep them from crumbling, as well as thicken puddings and sauces.

Impede crystallization- If crystals in candies, frostings, or ice creams form too quickly, they will be small in number but large in size, resulting in an unpleasant grainy texture. Egg whites in particular are introduced as an interfering agent, slowing down the crystallization process to form many fine crystals, bringing about a smooth overall texture.

salmon-150x117Color- The proteins in the eggs influence the browning reactions of foods while the alkaline nature of eggs will help improve browning of acidic products by lowering their acidity. Eggs are responsible for the rich golden glow in custards, egg noodles and béarnaise sauce.

Moisturize & Dry- The fat in the yolk of the egg helps moisturize baked goods, while the white helps give that desired crisp dryness in baked goods such as cream puffs.

The functions of egg whites, egg yolks, and whole eggs are diverse—contributing to its resourcefulness. Adding eggs to your food items provide a wide variety of nutrients, increasing the quantity of essential nutrients specifically in desserts and sauces which may otherwise not provide adequate nutrient value. Check out the American Egg Board’s Eggcyclopedia for a more in depth look at the versatility of eggs.

Author: Anna Shlachter MS, RDN, LDN