Dining on a Dime: Eggs

by Anastassia Skarlinski

North Carolina farms have approximately one egg-laying chicken for every person in North Carolina. Those chickens lay around seven and a half million eggs a day. This makes eggs an inexpensive and plentiful protein for you to add to your diet.

Eggs have fallen in and out of favor over the years. The main concern was the cholesterol level in eggs. More recent studies have found that eating one egg per day is not associated with an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. This is great news because eggs have a lot of nutrition benefits. For something to be a complete protein, it has to offer all of the essential amino acids a person needs. Most plant proteins – peanuts, beans, or rice – are not complete proteins. This creates a need to mix and match proteins to receive all of the amino acids needed. Eggs are a complete protein—no mixing or matching is required to achieve all nine essential amino acids.

Eggs aren’t just protein; they are also a great source of many nutrients. Eggs contain every B vitamin and phosphorus, vitamin D, iron, selenium, calcium, and choline. Your body uses choline to maintain the structure of your cell walls. It also helps the neurotransmitters responsible for mood, memory, and muscle movement. There are antioxidants in eggs too, specifically lutein and zeaxanthin.  These are important for your eye health. It should be noted that most of these vitamins are found in the yolk; the egg white is mostly protein.

So, should you eat white or brown eggs? It doesn’t really matter, eat whichever you like. The color of the shell is only indicative of the breed of chicken that laid it. You should eat your eggs cooked for a couple of reasons. First, cooking decreases your risk of contracting salmonella. Salmonella is a food-borne illness sometimes found in poultry products, and overall, not an experience you want to have. The other reason to cook your eggs is that you cannot absorb all of the protein found in your eggs when they are raw. There is also an element in raw eggs that blocks your ability to absorb certain nutrients.

Now, how should you cook your eggs? Legend has it that the 100 folds in a chef’s toque represent the 100 ways to cook an egg. Whether that is true or not, there are indeed many ways to cook an egg. The simplest way may be to boil them in their shells, 4 minutes for a soft-boiled egg up to 12 minutes for a hard-cooked egg. You can also poach them, bake them, coddle them, or fry them in a pan. A dish that is surprisingly easy but almost always impresses is quiche. Quiche is a baked egg pie filled with cheese, vegetables, and/or meats. Your imagination is the limit as far as fillings go, although common fillings include; spinach and mushroom, sausage and peppers, broccoli and cheese, asparagus with gruyere, or ham and onion. You should cook your vegetables and meats before baking (this is also a great way to use up leftovers). Quiche can be served warm or cold, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Quiche is also great for meal prep; you can store a baked quiche in the fridge for 3-4 days.

I usually serve it along with a green or fruit salad. If you do not like pie crust you can bake the quiche without it in the pie pan, just grease the pan first.