Eggs have long been a staple in man’s diet. East Indian history indicates that wild birds were domesticated as early as 3200 B.C., and the Egyptians and Chinese had laying fowl as early as 1400 B.C. Europeans have had domesticated laying hens since 600 B.C., records indicate, and Columbus brought the first chickens to America in 1493. Today, the majority of laying hens in the United States are Single-Comb White Leghorns, which produce about 75 billion eggs each year. Individuals eat about 60 percent; food service industries use approximately nine percent; and the remaining 31 percent are used for making consumer products, such as mayonnaise and cake mixes.
In this day of germophobia and recalls, some people question the safety of eating eggs. But, when cooked properly, eggs are safe to eat. Eggs should not be eaten undercooked. They should be cooked until the whites and the yolks are firm and, when cooked in other dishes, the internal temperature of the dish should reach 160 degrees F. Properly cooking eggs ensures that any traces of Salmonella will be destroyed.
Proper food-handling practices are important, as well. The American Egg Board Incredible Edible Egg website suggests the following:
- Clean your hands, as well as the surfaces and utensils that come into contact with raw eggs – an important step for avoiding cross-contamination.
- Separate eggs from other foods in your grocery cart, grocery bags and in the refrigerator to prevent cross-contamination.
- Keep eggs in the main section of the refrigerator at a temperature between 33 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit – eggs accidentally left at room temperature should be discarded after two hours, or one hour in warm weather.
Eggs are a healthy choice for consumers. They contain high-quality protein, have many vitamins and minerals, and are low in calories—approximately 70 calories for a whole egg. In years past, eggs have gotten a bad rap for being high in cholesterol, but research has shown that a healthy adult can safely eat an egg each day with no detrimental effects on one’s overall risk of heart disease. And, the following benefits of eggs are indicated by The Incredible Edible Egg website:
- Weight management: The high-quality protein in eggs helps you to feel fuller longer and stay energized, which contributes to maintaining a healthy weight.
- Muscle strength and muscle-loss prevention: Research indicates that high-quality protein may help active adults build muscle strength and help prevent muscle loss in middle-aged and aging adults.
- Healthy pregnancy: Egg yolks are an excellent source of choline, an essential nutrient that contributes to fetal brain development and helps prevent birth defects. Two eggs provide about 250 milligrams of choline, or roughly half of the recommended daily intake for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- Brain function: Choline also aids the brain function of adults by maintaining the structure of brain cell membranes, and is a key component of the neuro-transmitter that helps relay messages from the brain through nerves to the muscles.
- Eye health: Lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants found in egg yolks, help prevent macular degeneration, a leading cause of age-related blindness. Though eggs contain a small amount of these two nutrients, research shows that the lutein from eggs may be more bioavailable than lutein from other food sources.
This time of year, cooking the perfect boiled egg is important for Easter egg painters and hunters. To achieve such an egg, it is important to cook the egg gently, so as not to crack the shell, or produce an egg with a rubbery texture. Place large eggs in a pan, and cover with water, approximately one inch above the level of the eggs. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then remove from the heat completely. Cover the pan with a lid, and allow the eggs to stand in the hot water for 15 minutes (extra large eggs should sit in the water an additional three minutes; medium eggs three minutes less). If you wish to cool the eggs, do so under running water, then place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For more information about eggs, including recipes for all of those boiled Easter eggs, visit The American Egg Board Incredible Edible Egg website.
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