Eggs Across The Lifespan

Eggs contain a number of nutrients that are essential throughout the lifespan:

  • High-quality protein contains building blocks needed to support healthy bones and muscles. Research suggests that exercise, along with optimal protein intake, can slow the effects of sarcopenia or chronic age-related muscle loss.
  • Choline is essential for normal liver function and brain health. It is especially important during pregnancy to support normal fetal growth and development, and most pregnant women do not consume adequate amounts of choline. Consuming eggs during pregnancy is one solution to choline consumption issues.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that are believed to reduce the risk of developing cataracts and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a disease that develops with age.

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Are the Current Choline Recommendations for Pregnant Women Suboptimal?

Choline is an essential nutrient, particularly during pregnancy, due to its important role in brain development. It is a precursor of phosphatidylcholine (PC), a component of all cell membranes, as well as several other key metabolites critical to supporting increased cell division, tissue expansion, and lipoprotein synthesis during fetal development. In addition to dietary intake, choline can be synthesized within the body, however not at levels sufficient to meet increased demands during pregnancy and lactation.

The current Dietary Reference Intake (DRI), established in 1998, is 450 mg/day for pregnant women, although it is noted in the DRI documentation that “data were not sufficient” for deriving a true requirement and that “the estimate is uncertain,” and may be revised when more data become available.1 Several studies have been conducted since then, the most recent of which was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition which suggests that the current DRI may be suboptimal during pregnancy.2

Researchers from Cornell University studied healthy third-trimester pregnant and non-pregnant women who were randomly assigned to receive either 480 or 930 mg choline/day for 12 weeks. Choline was obtained both from the diet (primarily from eggs) and a supplement. During the last 6 weeks of the study, a special stable isotope form of choline was provided, which allowed the investigators to track choline metabolism in the participants as well as in the fetus by studying placenta tissue and cord blood following delivery.

Results showed that there was a substantial demand for choline during pregnancy, as predicted. However, in those women consuming 930 mg choline/day, biomarkers of placental function and levels of the stress hormone cortisol in cord blood were improved compared to those consuming 480 mg choline/day. Further, several functions of choline were maximized in women consuming the higher versus the lower dosage, leading the scientists to conclude that “current recommendations may be suboptimal” during pregnancy.

Dietary choline is one of several nutritional factors associated with the occurrence of neural tube defects during pregnancy. Although folate intake from foods and supplements is well known to reduce the risk of a pregnancy being affected by neural tube defects, choline and methionine may also be important independent of folate intake. One study found that women consuming low levels of dietary choline have four times the risk of giving birth to a child with a neural tube defect.3

Although the majority of choline consumed in the aforementioned study was derived from supplements, dietary sources can also contribute to total choline intake, as well as provide other essential nutrients important during pregnancy. While dietary choline is found in a wide variety of foods, many foods do not have high quantities of the nutrient. Eggs have one of the highest amounts of choline of any food, providing 147 mg/large egg.

Whether findings from this study and others will lead to a re-visitation of the choline DRI for pregnant women remains to be determined.
1. IOM (Institute of Medicine). 1998. Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

2. Yan J, Jiang X, West AA, Perry CA, Malysheva OV, Brenna JT, Stabler SP, Allen RH, Gregory JF 3rd, Caudill MA. Pregnancy alters choline dynamics: results of a randomized trial using stable isotope methodology in pregnant and nonpregnant women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;98:1459-67.

3. Shaw GM, Carmichael SL, Yang W, Selvin S, Schaffer DM. Periconceptional dietary intake of choline and betaine and neural tube defects in offspring. Am J Epidemiol. 2004;160:102-9.

Lunch Prep Tips for Back to School

Today’s post is a part two for Mary Donkersloot’s tips on successful and tasty lunches for kids heading back to school.

Yesterday we chatted about what foods I packed (and didn’t pack in my son’s lunch). Today, I’ll share more about how to make successful lunches.

The first trick to a successful lunch is to find foods kids enjoy. The second trick is to avoid repeating any one food so often that he no longer enjoys it!  (“Mom – I’m sick of that!!”)  Here are some of my strategies:

Brown bag sandwiches ideas: Egg salad, chicken salad, sliced turkey, roast beef, ham or peanut butter Add an apple, yogurt, veggies sticks or other nutrient-rich choices (pack separately, so foods don’t get mushy).

What could be easier than two pieces of bread with something in the middle?  Even at 6 AM, it’s not that difficult to manage.

Bread:  Of course, it’s best to look for a whole grain as the first ingredient.  You’re doing even better, if it says stoneground, wheat berry, sprouted or flourless.  If you start your kids on whole grains early in life, they’ll be accustomed to the taste and texture.  If not, you may have a battle on your hands.  Compromise– send a baguette or sourdough bread one day and whole grain bread the next.  Keep it interesting by using tortillas, English muffins or whole grain crackers. If the whole grain is never going to happen, don’t go to war over it. Make a trade-white bread instead of chips or grains containing added sugars, like muffins or bars.

Spreads:   Give your sandwich a little moisture from a variety of spreads – bbq sauce, pesto, ketchup, canola oil mayonnaise, or vinaigrette dressing.  Guacamole is great with chicken — mashed avocado with lime and freshly chopped garlic with a little salt.  Hummus works well with cheese or vegetables.

Buy at your market, premade ideas:

  • Meatloaf with a side of ketchup, a bowl of corn, and a bit of bread with olive oil
  • Bean and cheese, chicken, beef burritos
  • Pot stickers, side of peas, toasted bread, hard-boiled egg
  • Chicken, beef or veggie taquitos with side of guacamole. Serve with a bag of baby carrots and a fruit

Other premade ideas with a little prep:

  • Veggie burger – In nonstick pan, fry patty in vegetable oil till slightly browned on each side. Pack the condiments and bread separately. Serve with edamame beans, peas or corn, and a side of cherry tomatoes.
  • Chicken tenders, side of cooked vegetable – cooked carrots drizzled with olive oil and thyme, and a side of mashed potatoes leftover from last night’s dinner
  • BBQ chicken roll-up:  In a tortilla, place chopped chicken, bbq sauce, a bit of mayo mixed with yogurt, green onions, and white, red or green cabbage.
  • Soups:  chili, lentil, split pea, tomato, butternut squash, carrot, minestrone with whole grain crackers and a few slices of cheese.
  • Leftover chicken breast sliced and placed into plastic storage container, with a side of bbq sauce.  Serve with apple, and crispy corn tortilla, that has been cut into strips and fried in canola oil on a pan.  Wrap in paper towel and then in foil.
  • Make your own “bistro” snack boxes:  hard-boiled egg, small pita with individual peanut butter or hummus, grapes, apple slices, and a bit of cheese, nuts, veggies and more. Make it fun!

If my son has an after school activity, I send a snack in his lunch, often one he would share with his pals.  Their favorite is a ziplock bag of cashews mixed with chocolate chips.  Remind your child they’ve had their sweet treat for the day, and serve fruit as your nighttime snack.  If you’re at a nut free school, try whole grain crackers with cheese.



The Power of Vitamin A

Vitamin A Eggs

Vitamin A is most commonly recognized for its beneficial effects on eye health, while its other important functions are often overlooked.  As with other vitamins, there are different forms of vitamin A – one form that is most readily absorbed in the body is known as retinol, which is found in liver, eggs, and milk. Retinoids (including retinol) have many important and diverse functions throughout the body including roles in vision, regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation, growth of bone tissue, immune function, and activation of tumor suppressor genes.  These functions are especially important with respect to pregnancy and childbirth, infancy, childhood growth, night vision, red blood cell production, and resistance to infectious disease.1

Another way for the body to get the vitamin A it needs it to convert pro-vitamin A carotenoids like beta carotene to retinol. Beta carotene is found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables including carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and cantaloupe.  The carotenoid form of vitamin A also provides unique health benefits. Most carotenoid forms of vitamin A function as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. There are two forms of carotenoids that play a specific role in eye health which are known as the xanthophylls lutein and zeaxanthin.2 Foods such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard are sources of foods that contain both forms of carotenoid for optimal eye health.1 Eggs provide small amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin and research shows these nutrients in eggs may be more bioavailable (better utilized by the body) than that from sources with higher content including supplements.2

While vitamin A provides the body with many benefits, it’s important to remind clients that too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing. Vitamin A is fat soluble which means the body stores it most often in the liver. This also means that vitamin A can build up to toxic levels in the body. This rarely happens from food sources because, if the body builds up supplies of vitamin A, it will slow down the conversion of beta carotene. Vitamin A toxicity usually occurs when people take too much in supplement or pill form. Toxic levels can cause liver problems, central nervous system problems, deterioration of bone density, and birth defects.4  Below is a chart that outlines the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Vitamin A as well as the upper limits.3

RDA   for Preformed Vitamin A (Retinol)

Age Males: mcg/day (IU/day) Females: mcg/day (IU/day)
0-6 months 400 (1,333 IU) 400 (1,333 IU)
7-12 months 500 (1,667 IU) 500 (1,667 IU)
1-3 years 300 (1,000 IU) 300 (1,000 IU)
4-8 years 400 (1,333 IU) 400 (1,333 IU)
9-13 years 600 (2,000 IU) 600 (2,000 IU)
14-18 years 900 (3,000 IU) 700 (2,333 IU)
19 years and older 900 (3,000 IU) 700 (2,333 IU)
Pregnancy (18 years  and   younger) 750 (2,500 IU)
Pregnancy (19 years and older) 770 (2,567 IU)
Breastfeeding (18 years and younger 1,200 (4,000 IU)
Breastfeeding (19 years and older) 1,300 (4,333 IU)


Tolerable Upper Intake Level   (UL) for Preformed Vitamin A (Retinol)

Age Group UL in mcg/day (IU/day)
Infants 0-12 months 600 (2,000 IU)
Children 1-3 years 600 (2,000 IU)
Children 4-8 years 900 (3,000 IU)
Children 9-13 years 1,700 (5,667 IU)
Adolescents 14-18 years 2,800 (9,333 IU)
Adults 19 years and older 3,000 (10,000 IU)








In addition to lutein and zeaxanthin, eggs contain the retinoid form of vitamin A and in fact, butter, cheese, and eggs are among the top 10 sources of vitamin A for U.S. adults.  Carrots, tomatoes, leafy greens, and sweet potatoes are also found in the top 10 pro vitamin A-containing foods in the U.S.4Try this recipe that perfectly pairs eggs with kale and sweet potatoes and get all the benefits vitamin A provides.

Eggs over Kale and Sweet Potato Grits

Servings: 4

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 2 cups fresh kale, chopped
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • ¾ cup grits, quick cooking
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 eggs


  • Step 1: Heat oven to 350°F. Coat 4 individual soufflé dishes (or 2-quart casserole dish) with 1 tsp. vegetable oil. Make 3-4 slits in sweet potato; cook in microwave until just soft. When cool enough to handle, peel, cut into chunks, and puree in a food processor.
  • Step 2: Heat remaining vegetable oil in sauce pan, and sauté kale about 5 minutes. In a medium sauce pan, boil water and milk, add grits and sweet potatoes; cook 5 minutes
  • Step 3: Remove from heat; stir in sautéed kale. Divide grits mixture evening among 4 soufflé dishes (or place all in casserole dish). Make 4 depressions in the grits mixture with the back of a large spoon. Carefully break one egg into each hollow. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until eggs are cooked. Let cool 10 minutes before serving

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories: 280; Total fat: 9g; Saturated fat: 2g; Protein: 12g; Carbohydrates: 38g; Cholesterol: 185g; Dietary Fiber 4g; Sodium: 410mg

Each serving provides: An excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin C, thiamine, niacin, folate, phosphorus, and iodine, and a good source of protein, fiber, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, potassium, calcium, iron, and magnesium


1)       Evert, A. (2013, February 18). Vitamin a: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. Retrieved from

2)       Goodrow EF, et al. Consumption of one egg per day increases serum lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations in older adults without altering serum lipid and lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations.JN 2006; 136(25):19-24.

3)       Higdon, J. (2007, November). Vitamin a: Micronutrient information center. Retrieved from

4)       USDA Database of Vitamin A (mcg RAE) and Vitamin E (mg AT) for National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2000. 2006. Beltsville, MD: Agricultural Research Service, Food Surveys Research Group.

Snack Ideas for Children On-the-Go

Summer is a busy time for most families kids are out of school, but camps and summertime activities keep people busy, often leading to eating on the go. Sometimes when people don’t plan ahead, less nutritious options are chosen, particularly for snacking. The great news is with a little planning, snacking can be a part of a balanced eating plan. Snacks that are portable and full of nutrients are best to maximize the nutrition of growing children.

basic-hard-boiled-eggsAccording to a recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), Americans are not consuming enough fruits and vegetables.1 “Pairing fruits and vegetables with protein, low-fat dairy, or whole grain not only helps close this gap, but also creates a more well-rounded snack”. Enjoy fresh, seasonal vegetables by cutting them up and dipping into hummus. It’s easy to add an extra punch of protein to the hummus by mashing up a hardboiled egg and mixing it in. Hummus already contains folate, vitamin B6, and iron, and the addition of an egg will supplement 13 essential nutrients along with the boost of high-quality protein. One egg provides a 4 year old with almost one-third of their protein requirements for the day. Hardboiled eggs also pair well with veggies or whole grains options (such as mini pita bread). See other ideas from MyPlate Snack Ideas. Keep a few of these foods on hand or in a cooler on the go and snacks are easy and convenient.  Always remember to keep snacks age-appropriate.

Another tip is to get the family involved in snack planning and preparation. Farmers’ markets are very popular in the summer, so bring the kids and have them pick out their favorite vegetables. If kids are not familiar with the different types of vegetables available, have them pick out their favorite colors to make a colorful snack they will enjoy. Bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, and green beans are just a few of the fresh veggie options that peak during the summer months. Add more fun by using cookie cutters to make fun shaped snacks or even make it educational and discuss what other foods are the same colors.

Eggs and Veggies

These tips can be used for your own family, but also you can remind your clients that snacks can be part of a balanced diet and a great way to boost nutrients that may be missed during meals. Happy Snacking and make sure to tell us some of your favorite go to snacks!



  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2011. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page,


I’ll Take My Folate…Sunny Side Up

Jim-House-150x150Today’s post is from James House, Ph.D. Dr. House is studying the relationship between water soluble vitamin nutrition, the metabolism of amino acids, and how they relate to optimal growth and health of individuals. He also maintains a strong focus towards the development of functional foods of animal origin.  He is also a member of ENC’s Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP).

Folate (folic acid, vitamin B9) is a water soluble B vitamin, traditionally associated with the consumption of green, leafy vegetables.  However, since the late 1990’s, several jurisdictions, including the US and Canada, have mandated the inclusion of synthetic folic acid into enriched white flour, as well as other cereal-based foods.  The main reason for this population health initiative was to effect a reduction in the number of babies born with a neural tube defect (NTD).  Evidence is accumulating that the initiative, combined with strong campaigns to encourage folic acid supplement usage by women of child bearing age, has been effective in reducing the occurrence and recurrence of NTDs.  However, the folic acid fortification strategy is not without its concerns.  The recent surge in the demand for gluten-free foods, coupled with a demand for foods lower in refined carbohydrates, challenges the usefulness of enriched wheat flour as the fortification vehicle.

_S Generic Eggs in Wooden Dish E2307

Eggs, on the other hand, are good sources of protein, naturally gluten-free, and contain little in the way of carbohydrate.  Furthermore, one large egg can supply 10% of the Daily Value for folate.  This value can be increased approximately 250%, up to 60 µg per egg, by increasing the synthetic folic acid content of the laying hen diet.  The hen converts the relatively inexpensive and synthetic form of folic acid in her diet to the more metabolically active form, called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate – this is the major circulating form of folate in the human bloodstream.  Previous research has documented that the folate found in egg is highly available (>100% relative to folic acid), in comparison to plant-based folates (generally <50%).  Therefore, folate-enriched eggs offer an additional food-based vehicle for the addition of this important water-soluble vitamin to the human food supply.  Beyond folate, other opportunities exist for egg fortification, including recent work examining the potential to enrich eggs with vitamins D and B12.