10/02/2012 03:20 pm ET Updated Dec 02, 2012

The Incredible Edible Egg

Olga Berman

Hooray, eggs are back in vogue! Have you noticed the appearance of poached eggs, deviled eggs, and hard-cooked eggs on restaurant menus? I'm not talking about diners, I mean our trendy, celeb-chef digs. I couldn't be happier for the return of this little nutrition packed ovoid.

Where oh where has the little jewel been. Back in the 60's some laboratory made a connection between the cholesterol in eggs and heart disease and the little innocents were banned from any health conscious eater's daily regime. Banned to the occasional special brunch of eggs benedict smothered in rich hollandaise. Banned to the hidden ingredient list in cake batter. At long last, our friend has made a return to the limelight and it's about time.

We seem to be embracing a very old-fashioned idea called moderation. We are tearing the scarlet letter off many foods that for decades we only ate in private late-night frig raids. Now, we seem to know that there is a goldilocks way of eating that falls between deprivation and gluttony. Eggs are one of the many beneficiaries of this new-found wisdom.

Let's debunk the myths about eggs and celebrate the gift that all those happy hens give us. First, are hens happy?

Well, that depends on where they live. This is a plug for buying your eggs from a reputable farmer's market or CSA. We've all heard the horror stories about chicken farms that raise hens so heavy they can't walk just so we can have extra plump breasts in our supermarket. They are over-crowded, have a high mortality rate, and are fed chemical-laden diets, which we in turn ingest. Their pale yellow yolks are no where near as tasty as the almost orange yoked eggs happy hens lay. Please, buy your eggs from someone who loves their girls.

Are eggs safe? We have also heard about the salmonella that lurks in those pristine white shells. If you buy from a good farm that raises hens humanely and organically, you're likely safe. However, here are a few precautions to take to make sure.
  • Wash your hands and any surface that touches raw eggs
  • Keep eggs separate from other foods in your refrigerator and grocery cart
  • Crack each egg separately, so you can discard any with suspicious coloring or odor
  • Buy organic eggs from a reputable source (did I say that already? Well, it's important)
Aren't eggs full of fat and cholesterol? Yes and no. Eggs do have fat and cholesterol, but don't run from eggs just yet. The fat in the yolk provides our bodies with energy and helps absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. Fats provide insulation for body temperature regulation and play a role in brain development, blood clotting and reducing inflammation. Fat has 9 calories of energy in every gram, which is more than twice as much as proteins or carbohydrates. When exercising, carbohydrates are typically burned up within the first 20 minutes of activity, then our bodies rely on stored fat to keep us going.

Here is some data to back up my plea to keep happy hens employed:

A whole egg has a mere 71 calories. It has 5 grams of fat, 211 grams of cholesterol and 6 grams of protein. That is a nice nutritional balance. Sure, you don't want to eat 5 or 6 eggs per day, but neither should we deprive ourselves of the amazing array of nutrients this little gem carries.
Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein. Many of us, particularly women, get too little protein. Try a hard-boiled egg sprinkled with Truffle Salt for a real protein packed treat each day.
Here's a simple guideline for packing flavorful nutrients into your day. Click to this Calorie Calculator to determine your ideal daily caloric intake (always confirm this with your doctor). Divide your diet into these components

30% good fat 30% protein 40% complex carbohydrates (like veggies)

One gram of protein has about four calories, one gram of fat has about nine calories, and one gram of carbohydrate has about four calories.

Doesn't that little egg seem harmless now? Not the villain of heart health that we were taught for so long. In fact, the egg is a superhero in the saga of healthy living. The other superhero is the small farmer raising smiling hens and feeding them organically; the only way to get a truly health-packed delicious egg. (I'm serious about this!)

In my view, eggs are really something to cluck about in a diet abundant with flavorful goodness. They are so versatile. You can do almost anything to an egg and it will be delicious - bake it, fry it, poach it, scramble it, bake with it, whisk it into salad dressings, cover it with hollandaise.

If you're aren't convinced yet to pick up a pack of fresh, organic eggs on your next trip to the farmer's market, but you're still reading, then try this and I know you'll be hooked.

Make a salad of fresh greens (arugula and mache are my favorites), add crisp lardons or bacon, halved grape tomatoes, and shaved fennel. Place a poached egg on top, drizzle with a little thick, sweet aged balsamic and a sprinkle of sea salt. Excuse me a minute, my mouth is watering.

Or recreate this luscious meal I had at The Light Horse Restaurant in Alexandria, VA recently that was a testament to the power of an egg. The plate was filled with a mound of creamy white beans with crunchy sauteed shitake mushrooms and an elegant bunch of pea tendrils on top. Gently placed just next to the pea tendrils was a perfectly round softly poached egg. When the yolk was pierced it made a lovely rich sauce for this hearty cool weather dish.

God bless those happy hens!

Note: How to Poach an Egg
Fill a deep saucepan with water and heat to just before boiling; lower heat if it begins to boil and keep it at a simmer. Add a teaspoon of white vinegar; it helps the white to congeal. Crack your egg into a small bowl and holding it just over the pan, slowly let it slip into the water. The water should be deep enough to cover the egg. Just as the white begins to cover the yolk, but is still a little transparent, scoop out the egg with a slotted spoon. This should take about 4 minutes. Let it drain a minute, then let it fall onto warm olive oiled toast, a salad or pasta. Pierce yolk just before eating. Ahhhh delicious!

Cary Kelly

I am the owner of Ah love Oil & Vinegar, food specialty stores in Arlington and Fairfax, VA. We are committed to promoting artisan-crafted foods and focus on products that have few steps between the earth and your mouth. We look for food-crafters who make one thing with integrity and quality. Ah love Oil & Vinegar is a museum to these crafters' work to which we invite you to come and taste. We love meeting the producers and hearing about the passion they have for their work. We are proud to be part of the growing specialty food movement.