Here's some news that's making the American Egg Board chipper, and I must admit, I'm cracking a smile as well, too. (Ok, bad puns, I know.) Eggs are now 14 percent lower in cholesterol than previously recorded, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). So, one large egg, on average, now contains 185 mg instead of the 2002 figure of 215 mg. That's not an enormous savings, but every little bit helps for people trying to balance health and flavor.
The new data have already been incorporated into the USDA's nutrient database and will be used for nutrition labels on egg cartons and for menu labeling. I just received a periodic update for my nutrition information analysis software, which now includes the new nutrition data for eggs.
It may come as a suprise that eggs and egg dishes contribute 25 percent of Americans' dietary cholesterol. One might think their share of cholesterol intake would be higher. Other significant sources include meats and dairy products, or mixed dishes that contain ingredients derived from those sources.
The recently updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, recommend limiting cholesterol intake to 300 mg daily. What this translates to in terms of eggs per day is still one, which is consistent with research specific to possible impact on blood cholesterol levels. Chapter 3 of the new Dietary Guidelines includes this statement, "Independent of other dietary factors, evidence suggests that one egg (i.e., egg yolk) per day does not result in increased blood cholesterol levels, nor does it increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy people."
And that brings me back to how to enjoy eggs in the pursuit of life, liberty and culinary happiness. For someone who has few cardiovascular disease risks, that might mean eschewing the advice of the Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association and just about every other health organization. Mind you, that's not my suggestion. But considering the delectable aspects of soufflés, omelettes, crepes and other ovo-delights, if you made that choice, you would have my empathy.
So let's examine a few other strategies in more detail. One approach often suggested is to reduce the number of yolks per egg by separating and discarding yolks, so you could make a three-egg omelette with the whites of five eggs and one yolk. From a sustainability aspect, that seems counterproductive as you end up tossing vital nutrition down the drain. And think of what those chickens went through to make those yolks, not to mention all the feed they had to eat and all the poop they produced.
Do you feed the yolks to the Golden Retriever you find drooling at your feet in the throes of a Pavolvian-trance every time you start cooking? This has never happened in my kitchen.
Apparently, healthy dogs are not very sensitive to dietary cholesterol. You might then wonder about whether you should cook the yolks to reduce risk of salmonella poisoning. Well, dogs really can get salmonellosis, just like humans. But I digress, these are questions for a canine nutrition and food safety expert, not this speciallist in human nutrition and food safety.
Back to strategies for enjoying eggs. How about egg substitutes? Not a suitable option when you need to separate the yolks and the whites to whip your souffle to new heights. But they do the trick when making omelette or other dishes that don't require separation or aeration.
If you don't typically eat egg-rich dishes, a reasonable approach is to continue to cook with eggs when a recipe calls for a couple and has a large number of servings. For example, if you are baking a loaf of bread and the recipe calls for two eggs but yields 12 slices, that works out to 1/6 an egg or about 31 mg cholesterol per slice. Not too bad.
And though the Dietary Guidelines allow it for cholesterol, 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol could be rationalized into enjoying a three-egg omelette every other day. Too bad the Guidelines don't use the word "average" to describe the dietary goal. Nope, the wording is this: "Consume less than 300 mg per day of dietary cholesterol."
I'm holding out hope that chickens will work with us and start laying large eggs with 150 mg cholesterol. The girls are so close with medium eggs. They land at 164 mg. Small eggs? Score! Coming in at 141 mg cholesterol per egg, now we can have a two-egg omelette and achieve that Dietary Guidelines goal, as long as we're Spartan for the day with other cholesterol-containing foods (like say butter, to fry the omelette). And if we toss in some fresh veggies, oh yes, health and taste on the same plate - a culinary dietitian's dream.
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