Uncracking the ‘Incredible Edible Egg’

Featured article in the Summer 2015 Issue of Nutrition Close-Up; written by Lisa Katic, RD, CSW

Beaten, scrambled, over-easy, fried, baked, hard-boiled or just plain raw, everyone has a preference for how they like their eggs. No matter how they are prepared, eggs are one of the most nutritious foods available with six grams of high-quality protein, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. They are also inexpensive, convenient, versatile and a tasty choice for any meal or snack. How many other foods can you name with so many glowing characteristics? 

It is unfortunate that with so many accolades under its shell, eggs have taken a nutrition beating for decades. When scientists decades ago linked dietary cholesterol intake to heart disease, egg yolks were one of the first targets as the yolk contains about 200 milligrams of cholesterol.  Most of us growing up came to learn about eggs in terms of their cholesterol-containing yolks and not for their nutritious attributes. It is a shame we were so hesitant to eat a single egg, but instead loaded up on pasta, rice, bread and other carbohydrate-containing foods, in part because they didn’t contain cholesterol or fat. The dysfunctional diet pendulum began to swing and still swings to this day.

Scientific guidance is sunny side up

Jointly published every five years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, Dietary Guidelines for Americans provides advice for making food choices that promote good health and prevent disease for Americans ages 2 years of age and older.  Recommendations are based on rigorous review of scientific evidence and form the basis of federal nutrition policy, education, and food assistance programs used by consumers, industry, nutrition educators, and health professionals.

Recommendations for dietary cholesterol found in eggs and other animal products have been established since the Dietary Guidelines were first published in 1980. Experts from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, who looked at the issue in 2013, said there was simply not enough evidence of harm to call for restricting cholesterol in diets. These scientists say that eating cholesterol-laden foods does not necessarily lead to higher levels of cholesterol in the blood. In fact, most of the cholesterol in your blood comes not from what you eat but from what your liver produces.

This and other scientific evidence led the current Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) to issue new recommendations, saying that dietary cholesterol is not considered a nutrient of concern.  New research suggests that eating cholesterol-rich foods doesn’t necessarily lead to higher cholesterol levels.

If taste is king, moderation is queen

With so much media attention on nutrition do’s and mostly don’ts, taste continues to be absent from food and nutrition reporting. We know that taste remains the number one reason consumers buy and eat certain foods; yet we continue to talk about them only in terms of nutrients. Many examples exist where foods have been demonized for containing a single nutrient that may be considered unhealthy or “bad” while the whole food may in fact be nutritious. Cholesterol in eggs is a perfect example of this conundrum. Carbohydrates in potatoes, gluten in bread, fat in red meat, and even sugar in fruits are examples of nutritious foods that can be included in the diet but are vilified for containing one perceived fatal flaw.

Incredible and even more edible

Eggs are often referred to as symbols of new beginnings and birth. There is no time like the present to honor this tradition and celebrate the egg, given its renewed green light. They are not only a great option for breakfast or brunch but also an easy and delicious choice for dinner. Eggs are often synonymous with coffee in the morning, but have you ever considered pairing your egg dishes with wines for dinner? Well, let’s consider our options. This egg recipe paired with a sparkling wine will enhance your next dinner and provide a whole new reason to add eggs to your repertoire. In doing so, we can learn to enjoy our food and enhance our health without all the angst brought on with restrictive guidelines and dietary recommendations.

Broccoli & cheddar frittata with sparkling rose

The quintessential wine pair with eggs is often champagne or sparkling wines. I chose a sparkling rose for this particular recipe because it will complement the sharpness of the cheddar cheese and also stand up to the hearty taste of the broccoli without overpowering the entire dish. When looking for a rose sparkler to pair with this recipe, ask for one that is dry but with enough fruit on the palate to complement all the ingredients. Wines that are more pink in color with notes of strawberry or ripe berries will please your palate and enhance this frittata nicely.

True “Champagne” comes only from the Champagne region of France. Any wine that is sparkling in nature but uses grapes from anywhere other than Champagne is termed a “sparkling wine.” True Champagne is made from only three types of grapes: chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier.

 

Lisa D. Katic, RD, CSW, is a registered dietitian and wine educator. She is President of K Consulting and hosts a blog, “Katics Korner, where Food+Wine=Health.” Lisa’s blog pairs simple, healthy recipes with favorite wines to maximize enjoyment of both..

Key Messages

  • After advising to limit egg yolk intake for decades owing to its cholesterol content, experts at the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology said in 2013 there was simply not enough evidence to call for restricting dietary cholesterol, and new DGAC recommendations in 2015 reaffirm this guidance.
  • Taste remains the number one reason consumers buy and eat certain foods, yet we continue to talk about them only in terms of nutrients.
  • It isn’t uncommon, and may be a mistake, to vilify carbohydrates in potatoes, gluten in bread, fat in red meat, and even sugar in fruits, for having one flaw in an otherwise nutritious food.
  • Eggs can be consumed at any meal or as a healthy snack. Be creative with food and wine pairings and get crackin!