#249 Eggscellent Easter

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The recipe says to separate the eggs,
but it doesn't say how far to separate them.

Gracie Allen

The Good, the Bad, and the Eggly

By Joe Wilkes

Eggs in the GrassNow is the time when our attention turns to the humble egg. A simple dietary staple the rest of the year, this is the week when it gets all tarted up in pastel dyes and glitter and gets hidden throughout the house, hopefully to be found by children on Easter instead of in June, putrefying in that too-good-a-hiding-place. Boiled, fried, scrambled, poached, or emulsified into decadent mayonnaises, hollandaises, and aiolis, the egg is every cook's best friend. But these little chicken ova are not without controversy. For years, nutrition experts have been debating whether the egg is a great, affordable source of protein, or a cholesterol-raising killer. We'll take a look at the pluses and minuses of adding eggs to your diet as well as some preparation tips. Let's get cracking!

The Good

PenniesOne of the best things about eggs is you don't have to shell (ha!) out much money. Eggs can cost as little as eight cents apiece—one of the least expensive sources of protein around.

  • A typical whole egg contains only 75 calories and 6 grams of protein, with only 5 grams of fat, 2 of which are saturated. It is full of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, B6, B12, and E, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorous, pantothenic acid, and zinc. And the protein is considered to be the most complete and balanced for humans of any protein source other than mother's milk.

  • Sun EggsIt is one of the rare foods that contains vitamin D. While the human body can produce vitamin D itself from exposure to sunlight, egg yolks are one of the few dietary sources for the vitamin.

  • It also contains choline, which is considered brain food, and is important for pregnant women to ensure healthy brain development in their children.

  • Blue EyesIt is high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent diseases of the eye such as macular degeneration. In a study conducted by the Agricultural Research Service on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it was found that lutein from eggs was absorbed into the body at a much higher rate than any other food source, including spinach.

  • Eggs contain lecithin. Lecithin has been shown to significantly inhibit cholesterol absorption, so although they have higher levels of dietary cholesterol, eggs are something of a break-even proposition.

  • Egg-YokeSome eggs have omega-3s. Nowadays you can also find eggs where the farmer has let the chickens roam free and fed them feeds which make for more nutritious eggs. For example, you can buy eggs where the chickens were fed kelp and polyunsaturated fats which produce eggs which are high in heart-smart omega-3s, like more expensive seafood. Other feeds can produce chickens with much lower dietary cholesterol levels.

  • Egg FacesEggs are filling. Studies have shown that people who eat high-protein breakfasts like eggs tend to be less hungry during the day than people who eat high-carb breakfasts like bagels. Generally the egg eaters averaged 300 fewer total calories a day.

  • Egg WhitesDon't be yoked to the yolks. If you're worried about fat, calories, and dietary cholesterol levels, you can stick to egg whites. One egg white has only 17 calories and it's all protein—4 grams. Unfortunately, you'll lose most of the nutrients that the yolk provides, but it's a great, easy way to add more protein to your diet. Most supermarkets now sell egg whites already separated for added convenience.

The Bad

As you probably noticed in the "Good" list, a common caveat with eggs is their high cholesterol levels. One large egg contains over 200 milligrams of cholesterol—over 70 percent of the U.S. government's recommended daily allowance. But don't throw the eggs away yet, there are some factors to consider.

  • Olive OilDietary cholesterol is not the same as blood, or serum, cholesterol. The same way that fat in olive oil is not the same fat that ends up in your love handles, dietary cholesterol does not automatically raise your blood cholesterol level. Cholesterol is necessary for cell membrane growth and normal cell function and in the production of bile which helps our body digest fats. Too much blood cholesterol, though, can cause plaque buildup in our arteries, which could lead to a dangerous blockage and contribute to stroke or heart attack.

  • Bacon CheeseBurgerEggs aren't perfect, but saturated and trans fats are worse. While too much dietary cholesterol can elevate blood cholesterol levels somewhat, it's saturated fats and trans fats that are the real culprits. If you're skipping your morning eggs because you're watching your cholesterol but having a bacon double cheeseburger for lunch, you may be getting less dietary cholesterol overall, but the saturated fats are going to be what really make your blood cholesterol scores soar more than if you just had the eggs. If you want to lower your cholesterol levels, you'll get the most bang for your buck by cutting out saturated and trans fats, which our livers turn into the worst kind of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in our bloodstream.

  • ElephantYou may have high cholesterol, but is it big cholesterol? Speaking of LDL levels, there has been some good news for eggs recently. Studies are beginning to show when it comes to LDL and HDL (high-density lipoprotein), size matters. A 2006 University of Connecticut study showed that the livers of egg eaters produced larger particles of both LDL and HDL. The bigger LDL particles were too big to embed themselves in artery walls, contributing to plaque, and in fact, had somewhat of a snowball effect sweeping up smaller particles on their way out of the body. The good HDL particles also were bigger, and did an even better job than usual moving cholesterol out. These findings supported a 2000 Michigan State University study that sampled 27,000 people and found cholesterol readings in those that ate four eggs a week to be lower than those that ate none.

  • Shrimp ChartNot all people manufacture cholesterol in the same way. Some are called "hyper-responders." Their livers produce lots of cholesterol regardless of what they eat. Other lucky people can eat eggs, shrimp, and foods high in saturated fat and not see their blood cholesterol levels spike at all. The best way to see how certain foods affect your cholesterol levels is to consult with your physician and try adding and subtracting food items from your diet and see how it affects your levels.

The Eggly

Glass of Raw EggsThey're cheap, delicious, high in protein and nutrients, and the news about cholesterol is getting better all the time. The American Heart Association has even recently allowed that one egg per day is probably OK—just so long as you're not getting a ton of dietary cholesterol from other sources. So if you decide to add eggs into your diet, here are some facts to keep in mind.

  • Forget Rocky and his glass of raw eggs. Aside from the salmonella concerns, according to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, protein from cooked eggs is believed to be almost twice as absorbable as raw.

  • Can't remember which eggs are raw and which are boiled? Try spinning the egg on its side. Boiled eggs will spin for some time. Raw eggs will quickly stop spinning and begin to wobble.

  • EggCupThe fresher the eggs, the more difficult they are to peel. Although we don't recommend boiling and eating rotten eggs, the eggs that are closing in on their "use by" date might be easier to peel for egg salad.

  • Fridge EggsDon't keep your eggs in the refrigerator door. Even if your refrigerator comes with egg holders, eggs should go in the main part of the fridge, which is colder.

  • Free-range hens tend to have less cholesterol than their caged counterparts. Not all eggs are created equal. Check the nutrition labels on the eggs at your store. The breed of the chicken, what they were fed, and how they were raised, all play parts in the nutritional makeup of your egg.

  • Boiled EggsThe perfect boiled egg. Cover the egg(s) in water in a saucepan. On medium heat, let the water come to a boil. As soon as the water begins to boil, turn off the burner and cover the saucepan. Let the eggs stand in the hot water for 10 minutes. Then, rinse in cold water. This should result in perfect boiled eggs with firm but creamy yolks.

Joe WilkesIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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6 Ways to Make Your Little Hoppers Happy—and Healthy

By Jordana Haspel

Easter BasketThey're filled with colored boiled eggs, little chocolate footballs, and brightly colored marshmallow peeps, and kids think they're the best thing since Halloween. But Easter baskets also pack a fattening, sugar-filled punch. With childhood obesity on the rise, it may be time for us to rethink these bountiful baskets. So here are some ideas for healthier Easter goodies that will still have your kids brimming with excitement:

  • Plush BunnyStuffed bunny. Instead of chocolate, make it a plush bunny. It will last longer, won't rot your child's teeth, and could be their new best friend.

  • Dark ChocolateGo dark. You probably can't totally eliminate chocolate from the basket without screams of protest, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Chocolate—especially dark chocolate—contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant powers, and can contribute to cardiovascular health. This doesn't mean go gorge on Cadbury eggs, however; chocolate still has a lot of fat and sugar. But some small, dark chocolate candies on a special occasion like Easter won't do a lot of harm. Better yet, give dark chocolate—covered raisins or almonds.

  • BubblesBubbles. These soapy suds delight everyone, young and old. Your children will have as much fun chasing them as they have hunting for those elusive Easter eggs. Just make sure to remind them—this is one holiday treat that doesn't go in their mouths!

  • Colored chalk. It's finally spring and time to get those kids out of doors. They'll love making a mess on the sidewalk, and you'll love that they're not in front of the TV. Being outside will give them a chance to run around, plus sunlight helps increase vitamin D. Just make sure to give them sunblock!

  • PretzelsPretzels. A small bag of pretzels isn't exactly good for you (high in sodium and carbs), but it's not horrible either. They're junky enough to make your children feel like they're getting away with something by eating them, but are low in fat and sugar compared to other snacks. And they can burn off these carbs running around.

  • CookiesHealthy snacks. Nuts and fruit are great additions, or even a box of 100% juice (make sure it has no added sugar). Try baking healthier versions of muffins or cookies. Check out one of our articles on healthy food substitutions for ideas. Even some more candy is OK, just not too much, and keep the portions small.

Easter baskets may never be very healthy—like Halloween trick-or-treating, that's kind of the point. But following these tips will help you minimize the damage. Even better, try feeding your kids so little junk food every day that these baskets seem like a huge treat. They'll enjoy the holiday even more, and will thank you when they become adults who live and eat healthily.

Jordana HaspelIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Egg IQ!

By Joe Wilkes
  1. OmeletHow many eggs were in the world's largest omelet? The record holder is Chef Carlos Fernandez who used 5,000 eggs to make a 1,320-pound omelet in Madrid, Spain.

  2. Egg PoresHow many pores on a typical eggshell? It may seem solid, but an eggshell has over 17,000 pores. They absorb odors and flavors very easily. This is why it's a better idea to leave them in their carton instead of putting them in the egg holder of your refrigerator door.

  3. Chicken FeedHow many pounds of feed must a hen eat to produce a dozen eggs? A hen must eat four pounds of feed to make a carton of eggs (well, just the eggs, not the carton). Keep that in mind when comparing eggs. Those bargain eggs may be cheaper because the hens were fed cheaply. Farmers who feed their hens better grain and vegetation may have to charge more for their eggs, but they may have greater nutritional value.

  4. How long can eggs last past their packing date? In the refrigerator, four to five weeks. Make sure that's the packing date and not the "use by" or "sell by" date though.

  5. Big EggHow much did the world's largest egg weigh? It weighed one pound and had a double yolk. Pity the poor chicken. It's like giving birth to a thirty-pound baby!

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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