If ever there were a symbol of the renewal and freshness of spring that transcends all traditions, a reasonable argument could be made that it is the egg.
Eggs have an important place in the ritual of the Passover seder. They are a central part of Easter celebrations. And while the humble egg's status as a healthy food has had its ups and downs in the arena of public opinion, recent research has suggested that eggs, when eaten in moderation, do a body good. Here are eight reasons to indulge this holiday weekend, no matter what you're celebrating.
Eggs are rich in the proteins lutein and zeaxanthin, which <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0014483500908704" target="_hplink">have been associated</a> with helping to stave off macular degeneration and cataract development.
An egg a day may keep the cardiologist away, according to <a href="http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/egg-nutrition" target="_hplink">one study</a> that found a relationship between a diet with regular egg consumption and a lower risk of blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
Egg yolks are one of the richest sources of dietary choline -- a B vitamin that is often thought of as a "brain food" because it contributes to neurological function and development. The nutrient is especially important for pregnant women, because it is <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15640516" target="_hplink">particularly essential to fetal development of the brain</a>.
The choline found in egg yolks isn't just important for brain development -- it also may help stave off breast cancer, according to some research. An <a href="http://breast-cancer-research.com/content/5/3/R59">analysis of data from the longitudinal Nurse's Health Study</a> found that women who reported eating eggs regularly as teenagers were less likely to develop breast cancer as adults. <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-04/epr-enf040208.php" target="_hplink">Other studies have found</a> an association between egg consumption and lower breast cancer rates, although a <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11914299" target="_hplink">survey of the literature</a> provided conflicting information: while eating fewer than two eggs per week was associated with lower breast cancer risk, eating seven eggs per week raised the risk, compared to eating no eggs.
Eggs are also high in sulfur, an essential nutrient that helps with everything from vitamin B absorption to liver function. But sulfur <a href="http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/sulfur-000328.htm" target="_hplink">is also necessary</a> for the production of collagen and keratin, which help create and maintain shiny hair, strong nails and glowing skin.
Eggs get a bad rap because they are high in cholesterol, with a large egg averaging 212 milligrams. And while regularly eating meals that are high in dietary cholesterol <em>can</em> lead to high blood cholesterol, <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cholesterol/HQ00608" target="_hplink">the two aren't ipso facto related</a>, according to the Mayo Clinic. In fact, many <a href="http://philjournalsci.dost.gov.ph/vol140no1/pdfs/7_the effect of egg consumption on lipid profile among selected filipino adults.pdf" target="_hplink" target="_hplink">recent studies</a> have found that regular egg consumption <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12683227" target="_hplink">has <em>no</em> effect on total blood cholesterol levels</a>.
With six grams of protein a pop, along with all of the amino acids our bodies need to build muscle, <a href="http://www.americanathletemag.com/ArticleView/tabid/156/ArticleID/79/Eat-to-Win-The-Top-5-Muscle-Building-Foods.aspx" target="_hplink">eggs are a great choice</a> for encouraging muscle development.
Eating eggs for breakfast can help overweight and obese adults lose weight, <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18679412" target="_hplink">according to one randomized study</a> from Louisiana State University. Researchers gave participants breakfasts that were identical in calorie portions of either eggs or bagels. After 8 weeks, the group who ate the diet portion of eggs had a 61 percent larger reduction in BMI than the group who ate a diet portion of bagel.