Eggs: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Explore the health benefits, nutritional information, and various uses of eggs in different cuisines, as well as the history and best storage practices for this versatile food.

What Is an Egg?

An egg is an oval or round object laid by a female bird, reptile, fish, or invertebrate, usually containing a developing embryo. The eggs of birds are enclosed in a chalky shell and those of reptiles are in a leathery membrane. The most commonly unfertilized eggs eaten by humans are chicken eggs.

Are Eggs Good For You?

Whether or not eggs are good for you is up for debate. One side says they are a great source of protein and fat and the other side says the high cholesterol content isn’t heart healthy.

7 Health Benefits Of Eggs

  1. Eggs may help improve brain development and function
    • The choline in eggs helps the nerve cells in the brain communicate and build cell membranes
    • Choline is also very important for pregnant women and breastfeeding women because of the role it plays in brain development
  2. Eggs may be good for the eyes
    • The lutein found in eggs may significantly reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, two common eye disorders
  3. Eggs are a good source of protein
    • Proteins are the building blocks of human cells
    • Eggs also contain all the essential amino acids needed in the body, so they are complete proteins
  4. Eggs help build a healthy immune system
    • The vitamin A, vitamin B-12, and selenium in eggs are antioxidants and important to keeping the immune system healthy
  5. Eggs keep us full longer
    • Eggs are a filling meal, providing protein and fat, which keeps us satiated longer
  6. Eggs may help HDL cholesterol
    • Some studies suggest that consuming up to 3 eggs a day can increase HDL levels (the good cholesterol) in healthy subjects

      7. Eggs have some omega-3 fatty acids. The omega-3 fatty acids are in the form of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which may help maintain brain function and vision

History, Background About General Facts about Eggs

  • Different kinds of eggs were/still are eaten in different parts of the world. Ostrich and chicken are the most common
  • Eggs are relatively easy to obtain, excellent protein sources, adaptable to many different types of recipes
  • Fowl from the jungle were domesticated in India by 3200 B.C.E.
  • Record from China and Egypt show that fowl were domesticated by humans and laying eggs around 1400 B.C.E.
  • There is archaeological evidence for egg consumption dating back to the Neolithic age (3900-1700 BCE)
  • Europe has had domesticated hens since 600 B.C.
  • The Romans found egg-laying hens in England, Gaul, and among the Germans
  • Ostrich eggs have been eaten since the days of the Phoenicians
  • Quail eggs are common now in the U.S. and Japan
  • Other eggs consumed by various other cultures include: partridges, gulls, turkeys, pelicans, ducks, and geese
  • Nearly 200 breeds and varieties of chickens have been established worldwide
  • Most U.S. laying hens are Single-Comb White Leghorns
  • In the 1920s and 1930s, egg farms were primarily operations from people’s homes. Farmers had chickens to supply their own families with eggs and would sell any extra eggs at local farmers’ markets
  • Some farmers started building up flocks of about 400 hens that were free range in order to produce eggs to sell
  • Living outside caused some problems (weather and predators). “Pecking order” became an issue, with fighting among the chickens
  • Hen houses became indoor places to raise hens. There they weren’t exposed to predators and the outdoors. Instead of the hens eating whatever they found outside, feed could be better controlled indoors, too, reducing the mortality by 18%
  • Annually, about 60 percent of the eggs produced are used by consumers, about 9 percent are used by the foodservice industry and the rest are turned into egg products which are used mostly by foodservice operators to make the meals we eat in restaurants and by food manufacturers to make foods like mayonnaise and cakes mixes.

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Eggs?

You can find eggs in almost every cuisine around the globe:

  • Chinese - century egg (preserved egg), egg drop soup
  • Italian - deviled eggs, pasta carbonara
  • French - omelette, Oeufs en meurette (eggs poached in red wine), quiche, Croque Madame or Monsieur
  • English - Scotch eggs
  • Spanish - Spanish tortilla
  • American - French toast
  • Japanese - onsen tomago (boiled eggs), iritamago (scrambled eggs and soy sauce)
  • Mediterranean - avgolemono (sauce made with eggs)
  • Indian - kalakki (scrambled eggs with curry), bhurji (scrambled eggs and onions)
  • Cambodian - Bai pong moan (fried eggs and rice)
  • Southeast Asia (Philippines and Vietnam) - balut (fertilized egg)
  • Tunisian - brik (fried egg in a pastry)
  • Finnish - egg butter (hard-boiled eggs and butter)
  • American - egg in a hole (toast with egg in the middle), scrambled eggs, French toast
  • Korean - Gyeran changjorim (eggs with soy sauce)
  • Mexican - Huevos divorciados (fried egg breakfast dish), Huevos rancheros, machaca (steak and eggs), migas
  • Thai - Khai yat sai (omelet)
  • Iranian - kuku (baked egg dish)
  • Middle Eastern - shakshuka
  • Mozambique - Ovos moles de papaia (egg yolk in papaya pudding)

What Is The Best Way To Store Eggs?

The best way to store eggs depends on whether you have unwashed or washed eggs and the storage conditions available. Here are some guidelines:

  1. Unwashed Eggs (with natural protective coating):

    • Room Temperature: Unwashed eggs can be stored at room temperature for up to one week. Keep them in a cool place away from direct sunlight and strong odors.
    • Refrigerator: For longer storage, it's recommended to store unwashed eggs in the refrigerator. Place them in their original carton or an airtight container to prevent odors from permeating the eggs. They can typically last for 3-4 weeks in the refrigerator.
  2. Washed Eggs (without natural protective coating):

    • Refrigerator: Washed eggs should be stored in the refrigerator. The removal of the natural protective coating during the washing process makes the eggs more susceptible to bacteria. Keep them in their original carton or an airtight container, and they can usually be stored for 3-4 weeks.

General tips for egg storage:

  • Keep eggs away from strong-smelling foods as they can absorb odors.
  • Do not store eggs near raw meat or fish to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Always store eggs with the pointed end down. This helps to keep the air pocket centered and maintains freshness.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes, such as moving eggs from the refrigerator to room temperature or vice versa, as it can cause condensation on the eggshell, potentially facilitating bacterial growth.

It's important to note that the storage guidelines may vary based on local regulations and practices. If you're unsure about the freshness or safety of an egg, you can perform the "float test." Place the egg in a bowl of water; if it sinks to the bottom and lays flat, it is fresh. If it stands upright or floats, it is older and should be discarded.

Lastly, always check for any cracks or abnormalities in the eggs before storing or consuming them. Cracked or damaged eggs should be used immediately and not stored.

What Are The Different Types Of Eggs?

  • The most commonly consumed eggs are from chickens.
  • Other eggs consumed by various other cultures include: partridges, quail, ostrich, gulls, turkeys, pelicans, ducks, and geese

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Eggs

Eggs are generally safe to consume unless you have an allergy. If you follow a low-cholesterol diet, you may want to limit your egg consumption because eggs are high in cholesterol.