Eggs, often seen as the ultimate breakfast food, are an excellent source of high-quality protein. They are also not too caloric (only 75 calories per egg), relatively low in fat and packed with all kinds of nutrients, such as iron (particularly contained in egg yolk), vitamins and minerals. Some of the eggs' specialties are lutein (known as the “eye vitamin”) and zeaxanthin. As we know all too well, sodium content is often the catch in many otherwise fine foods.
What are eggs? Is there an ewww factor?
Eggs are produced by females of many species and a great majority of them have nutritional value (recognized both by predators and humans), but here we are, of course, talking about eggs produced by domestic chickens. Birds transform nutrients found in their diet into eggs at a rather fast pace. Curiously, eggs distributed commercially are most typically unfertalized. In fact, most hens have never even seen a rooster in their entire lives. Birds can be induced to lay eggs simply by the right conditions and proper feeding. So, if you or anyone you know suffers from an “ewww factor” thinking that every contains a baby chick, well it’s just not the case. Other than that, it is true that eggs come from birds. However, the hen’s physiology is such that the during egg laying there is no contact with excrements (because the tube through which eggs travel outside of the bird’s body becomes inverted ‘like a sock’).
Brief history of egg consumption
Diane Toops, in her book Eggs: A Global History, paints a grand picture of just how important eggs are in human culture.
Fascination with the perfect symmetry, beauty, funcitonality and mysterious symbolism of the egg has existed since time immemorial. It represents the beginning of time, a source of life, wisdom, strenght, vitality, procreation, death and Christ’s reincarnation, bound together by tales of the creation of the world and man from an egg, summed up in the latin proverb omne vivum ec ovo (all life comes from the egg)… One notable image of the egg as a source of all things is an eighteenth-century engraving of an alchemist trying to get wisdom and knowledge, or ‘that Elixir by which wonders are performed’, out of the egg=shaped philosopher’s stone, demonstrating the reverence in which the egg was held. Although he used both fire ans sword he did not annihilate the egg completely, so that it could grow and receive new life.
In is important to note that even the domestication of the chicken which probably occured around 7,500 BCE was largely due to egg laying as opposed to raising birds for food. This was a matter of simple observation of how nutritiously valuable eggs were. Killing hens for food simplu did not make sense. In modern days, it is possible for a hen to lay 275 eggs per year, converting six times its body weight into eggs. Curiously, when USDA came up with its first version of the so called “Food Pyramid”, eggs were listed along with meats. By the same token, eggs were typically avoided during fasting days established by the Christian Church in the Middle Ages.
In today’s world, there are more than 60 million metric tons of eggs produced annualy worldwide. Over 6 billion hens are responsible for this amount of eggs, and the current trend is to establish more humane ways of keeping this bird population happy. For instance, battery husbandry of chickens was banned by the European Union in recent years.
Sodium content in eggs
One 50g large egg is believed to contain about 62 milligrams of sodium. A typical serving of two eggs still stays under 140 milligrams. This actually allows eggs to be considered low sodium food! In fact, eggs are often recommended as a good breakfast option for people trying to keep a low sodium diet. Especially when combined with such distinctly low sodium products as fruit, vegetables and many kinds of milk products.
It is critical, of course, not to introduce additional sodium by adding salt when cooking. Quality fresh eggs have a great flavor and they don’t need to be salted. Consider getting organic cage-free eggs because they are know to be far superiour in their taste. It’s ok to use pepper, if you must. Most cheese types have high amounts of sodium, but to make an omlette you can use Swiss cheese which does not typically need salt as a part of its production process.
Known health concerns associated with eggs
Despite the eggs great nutritional qualities, they are not entirelu free of potential health issues arising from cholesterol content, risk of salmonella contamination, and allergies. However, the cholesterol content has been recently considered a lesser danger, as studies did not produce sufficient support for the prevailing view that eggs are extremely dangerous specifucally due to cholesterol and should be avoided. One or two eggs a day is considered safe for most healthy adults. Ask your health provider for more information if you plan to use eggs more frequently. Also, be advised that cholesterol is primarily (if not only) found in the eggs' yolk. Many popular recepies only use egg whites. Other than that, it is recommended that eggs are washed thoroughly, no matter how exactly you intend to use them. Raw eggs and runny eggs are certainly less safe compared to cooked eggs. According to statistics, one egg in 20,000 contains salmonella which is extremely dangerous and sometimes deadly. This is why eggs should be handled with the same precautions that exist for raw poultry.
Eggs are fantastic. They are not the lowest in sodium, but low enough to use almost daily with great nutritional benefits.
See also: Sodium amounts in milk