The recent recall of over half billion eggs due to an outbreak of salmonella has everyone worried about the safety of eggs they buy from the store. There is quite a buzz in the media over this recall, which is once again being used to create a sense of panic so people sit up and pay attention to the so called breaking news! Sure, there is reason to be careful, but there are many ways you can protect your family without giving up on eggs completely. Eggs are a good source of complete protein especially useful for growing children.
Recently I connected with Mitch Kantor, Ph.D., who is the Executive Director of the Egg Nutrition Center (ENC). He provided answers to a few questions about egg nutrition via email:
Question: What is the benefit of including eggs in my toddler’s diet? At what age should I start?
Answer: A primary function at the toddler stage is growth , and the high quality protein in eggs is an excellent source of all the necessary amino acids needed to promote growth. In addition , choline, a nutrient found in eggs (and not found in abundance in many other food sources) , helps support the development of the memory center in the child’s rapidly growing brain.
Question: Are there any egg allergies I should be concerned about?
Answer: The American Academy of Pediatrics no longer recommends refraining from introducing eggs beyond 6 months of age. Although eggs are one of the more common food allergies, pediatricians are now suggesting introducing small amounts of known allergens into the diets of children who are suspected to have allergic reactions in order to develop a tolerance.
Question: What is the benefit of organic eggs vs. standard eggs?
Answer: Organic eggs are eggs that come from hens whose diets contain grain grown without pesticides. Nutritionally, there is no evidence to support a nutritional benefit of organic vs standard eggs.
Question: What is meant by “free range”, “antibiotics free” on the label?
Answer: Free range eggs means that the hens have access to the outdoors. Their diets are uncontrolled so the nutrient value of their eggs may vary. The use of antibiotics in laying hens is not a standard practice in the egg industry. So, for the most part, almost all eggs in the food supply are antibiotic free.
Question: I have heard that eggs contain a lot of cholesterol. Is that true?
Answer: A large egg contains around 212 mg of cholesterol according to the USDA. Scientific evidence has shown that dietary cholesterol like that found in eggs does not raise blood cholesterol in most people. Our liver makes most of the cholesterol that travels in our blood and unless there is an abnormality, excess dietary cholesterol is excreted by our body , or used in various bodily processes .
Question: What is the best way of cooking eggs to preserve their nutritional value?
Answer: The best way to preserve nutrients in any food is to keep it refrigerated until ready to use and cook it for a short time in a minimum of water. Using the microwave to quickly cook an egg would be the best way to preserve the many healthy nutrients in an egg.
Do you have an egg-related question not answered above? Leave it in comments below. I will follow up with Dr Kantor and get it answered. Feel free to also share any other comments or opinions.