are some of the most fascinating parts of our diet, simply because they themselves are so unique. Eggs are reproductive shells laid by females of numerous species, including fish, reptiles, and, in terms of human nutrition, birds. While fish eggs are also eaten in a number of cultural dishes and national cuisines, bird eggs are the most commonly consumed variety of eggs by humans, and out of bird eggs, chicken eggs are by and large the most popular.
Eggs have been a part of the human diet for thousands of years, as they were discovered early on in our cultural development as a safe and beneficial form of food that could be acquired and cultivated along with a second form of food - chicken.
Eggs have become a staple part of diets across the world, as they are not only a food source in and of themselves, but they also function in the creation of hundreds of other meals and ingredients necessary for cooking a limitless range of food. The question is, besides its widespread availability, why have eggs become such an inherent part of global cuisine? Eggs are unique in their protein content, as they are rich with the "stuff of life", which would have developed into a baby chick, and eventually, a chicken, which is another key food in human diets. The list of foods in which eggs can be found would be an article all by itself, but suffice to say that eggs constitute an essential part of the human diet for a number of reasons, and should definitely be considered when trying to eat right.
Nutritional Value of Eggs
Eggs are so widely loved and used because they provide a powerhouse of nutrients inside their tiny package. There are enough nutrients in an egg to develop a single cell into a baby chick, and we need many of those same nutrients! Eggs contain significant levels of vitamin A, B-complex vitamins,vitamin D, E, and K, as well as phosphorous, selenium, calcium, and zinc. Furthermore, eggs also have various key organic compounds, such as omega-3s, antioxidants, and protein.
Health Benefits of Eggs
Growth and Development:
There is a reason why eggs are such an important food staple in our formative years; it seems like breakfast almost always contained an egg while we were young! The high concentration of protein, as well as other essential vitamins, means that our bodies can develop at a normal rate and get all of the necessary nutrients to grow properly and set young people on a trajectory for lifelong health. Protein is necessary for cell creation, which means that every part of our body, every organ, hair, blood vessel, and bone in some way relies on protein to exist. Also, protein is necessary for repair and regrowth, so it is a lifelong necessity for us that we can acquire through eggs!
While there has been significant criticism in recent decades about the potential dangers of eggs on heart health, due to its admittedly high content of cholesterol, many people don't look at the type of cholesterol, nor its effect on the body. Most studies have actually shown eggs to protect against strokes and improve heart health, as the "good cholesterol" (HDL cholesterol) levels increase, which can help to eliminate "bad cholesterol" in the body. By lowering LDL cholesterol levels, eggs help to avoid atherosclerosis, blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, and other serious cardiovascular conditions!
Weight Loss Efforts:
Since eggs are so full of those important proteins that our body needs for development, eggs also tend to be a very satisfying and filling form of food. They provide energy and nutrient stability in our body and satisfies our hunger. Eggs can be a great way to get the healthy balance you need without consuming excess calories, which is a great way to lose weight or keep your weight down.
One of the lesser known benefits of eggs is its impact on cognitive health, primarily due to the high levels of choline present. Choline is often grouped with B-vitamins, but in fact, it is a somewhat unknown nutrient that helps to create critical neural pathways in the brain. About 90% of the population is estimated to get less choline than the body requires, but whole eggs supplies choline in large quantities!
It seems as though any food with antioxidant capacity is considered healthy, but many people forget that eggs contain various antioxidants, including vitamin A, lutein, and zeaxanthin. Vitamin A works as an antioxidant in a number of areas in the body, but works particularly well with lutein and zeaxanthin in the eyes to protect against macular degeneration and the development of cataracts. Antioxidants are able to seek out free radicals and neutralize those dangerous particles (formed as byproducts of cellular metabolism) before they can cause oxidative stress on body organs, resulting in chronic diseases, such as cancer and heart disease.
The mineral composition of eggs is wonderful, but it is also unique, in that it can be difficult to obtain certain minerals, like iodine and selenium, in our diets. Eggs are so versatile and universal that we can almost unconsciously stay balanced by eating eggs, ensuring that the those rare minerals keep our antioxidant activity up (selenium) and maintain healthy hormonal functioning in our thyroid (iodine).
Importance of Cage-Free and Free Range Eggs
All of these important health benefits are derived, in part, from the condition in which the hen was raised. The diet that the mother hen has will obviously be reflected in the nutrient content of the egg. For that reason, it is a far better choice to consume pasture-fed eggs, as they have consistently been shown to have higher omega-3 content, vitamin E content, tend to be larger, and are more densely packed with nutrients.
While the price tag might be slightly higher for organic, free-range, or cage-free eggs, if you are serious about getting the most health benefits out of eggs that you can, dig a bit deeper in your pockets for those extra coins.