Here’s Everything That’s Inside (and Outside) the Humble Egg: A Tiny Science Lesson
Eggs are a kitchen staple you might not think too much about when you’re placing a carton in your shopping cart or frying one up for breakfast — but there’s a lot going on under the shell. The humble ingredient is nothing short of a superfood and well worth getting to know more closely.
All of this is predicated by remembering that quality makes a big difference when it comes to eggs and their nutritious benefits. Pete & Gerry’s® Pasture-Raised Eggs come from flocks raised according to Certified Humane® Pasture-Raised standards, with ample room to roam, forage, and explore on expansive pastures, and with at least 108 square feet of pasture per hen. Healthy hens equate to healthy eggs. And here are just a few of the great things that are packed inside of them.
One large egg contains just 70 calories and a whopping 6 grams of protein. To put that in perspective, someone who consumes an average of 2,000 calories per day should be eating about 50 grams of protein a day. So whipping up a three-egg omelet gets you more than a third of the way there!
The high-protein food is also extremely low in carbohydrates and a good source of unsaturated fats, including omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for heart health. 13 essential vitamins and minerals are packed into eggs, including vitamin D and phosphorus for bone health, choline for brain health, and the antioxidants selenium and riboflavin. In fact, eggs are one of the few food sources of vitamin D, and hens that are pasture-raised produce eggs with levels three to four times higher than those that aren’t pasture-raised.
It’s a popular misconception that the color of the eggshell is an indicator of the egg’s nutrition. The color of the shell, whether brown or white, actually doesn’t equate to a healthier egg; it is simply a result of the hen that laid it. (Want to know more? We explain it here, and we bet you can’t guess what you’ll learn from the color of the egg!)
What is more important to look at, from a nutritional view, is the color of the yolk. Deep amber yolks come from happier hens. Rich, golden, perky egg yolks like those of Pete & Gerry’s® Pasture-Raised Eggs are a sign of the hens’ lifestyles. Hens that have well-rounded, natural diets and plenty of room to forage and feed on expansive pastures will produce eggs whose yolks are more nutrient-dense and therefore deeper in color.
The FDA Recommends Eggs in Your Diet
Another common misconception is that eggs are high in cholesterol and therefore can raise our own cholesterol levels and risk of heart disease. While eggs are indeed a source of dietary cholesterol (one large egg contains 186 milligrams of cholesterol in the yolk), this myth has been debunked over the years. Studies have shown that dietary cholesterol (cholesterol that comes from the food we eat, as opposed to that which our bodies create) doesn’t raise cholesterol levels the way saturated or trans fat does, so consuming eggs doesn’t increase the risk of heart disease for most people. In fact, the FDA recommends eggs in your diet and states there’s no data showing a link between dietary cholesterol and an increased cardiovascular disease risk.
Eggs in Baking
The magic of eggs isn’t just in their nutrition but in their molecular makeup. Look beyond the breakfast table and you’ll find that eggs are a crucial component in baking, giving structure and texture to everything from chocolate chip cookies to birthday cake.
When you whip egg whites, the proteins combine with tiny air bubbles to create a stable foam. Then, when this foam reacts with the heat of a hot oven, it acts as a natural leavening agent in soufflés and delicate sponge cakes to help them rise without baking powder or yeast. Quality egg whites have more viscosity than the watery whites of cheap eggs, which is one of the little variables in any baking project that can yield better and more consistent results.
Egg yolks contain all the fat in eggs and this fat helps distribute flavor and velvety texture evenly through whatever you’re baking. Yolks also have the unique ability to bind liquids and fats together, which helps thicken sauces, pastry cream, ice cream, and more.
When egg whites and yolks work together — i.e., in a recipe that calls for full eggs — they act as a binder. Whole eggs solidify when heated, which allows baked goods to firm up when cooked. They also make baked goods more light and tender while providing lift.