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Published March 26, 2010, 12:00 AM

Once-maligned egg now part of healthy diet

“Mom, I’m hungry,” my 11-year-old daughter said. “What would you like to eat?” I responded.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

“Mom, I’m hungry,” my 11-year-old daughter said.

“What would you like to eat?” I responded.

“Oh, you know,” she said, tilting her head to the side and looking at me with pleading eyes while rapidly batting her eyelashes.

This tactic has worked for a long time.

I immediately knew what she wanted to eat. It wasn’t something coated in chocolate, stored in a cookie jar or located in a carton in the freezer.

She wanted a fried egg, cooked in a small dab of melted butter with a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper.

I introduced her to the delights of a nicely prepared egg when she was a toddler without many teeth. Eggs are quite easy to chew.

She found our small frying pan, and I quickly made her a perfectly round, flat egg. I tried to convince her to prepare an egg for me, but she was busy eating, so I prepared an egg for myself.

Our two dachshunds wandered over and looked at me with equally pleading eyes when I sat down to eat my egg. They won. I gave them my egg and prepared another one.

Egg protein earns a “gold star” for quality. An egg equals an ounce of protein and has just 80 calories and 5.5 grams of fat. Eggs also contain vitamins and minerals.

Even better, where else can you have a protein-rich snack for less than 20 cents?

Eggs have fallen in and out of favor through the years. Most nutrition professionals now say that an egg a day is OK for healthy people to consume unless they are advised otherwise by a health care provider.

An egg contains about 300 milligrams of cholesterol. However, dietary cholesterol has less of an effect on blood cholesterol than once believed. In fact, people who are trying to lower their blood cholesterol levels should pay closer attention to the amount of saturated fat and trans fat in the foods they choose.

Eggs have been getting some attention for their role in maintaining eye health and potentially helping prevent macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. Recent research has shown the value of lutein, a natural pigment in egg yolks. Even though eggs contain less lutein than leafy greens, the lutein in eggs is more easily absorbed.

Despite all their positive features, eggs sometimes are linked to food safety issues. They need to be stored and handled properly.

Eating raw eggs is not considered safe because eggs may contain salmonella, a type of bacteria that especially is dangerous for the very young, old and immune-compromised. In uncooked recipes calling for raw whole eggs, yolks or whites, substitute pasteurized eggs for whole eggs and meringue powder for egg whites.

Many restaurant menus that offer eggs served with runny yolks include a food safety advisory message. Eating undercooked eggs could pose a safety risk. The advisory is meant to alert you to the hazard but allow you to make a personal choice.

At the grocery store, don’t let the date on the carton confuse you. The date on eggs is a “sell by” date, which the grocery store must follow. The eggs are still safe to use at home for four to six weeks as long as they’re stored in a refrigerator at

40 degrees or lower.

Cook eggs thoroughly. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, recipes, such as breakfast casseroles containing eggs, should reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees as measured with a food thermometer.

Try this tasty and easy recipe adapted from the Iowa Egg Council.


Eggchilada

1 egg

1 flour tortilla (white or whole wheat)

2 tbsp. chunky salsa

1 tbsp. shredded cheddar cheese

Low-fat sour cream, additional salsa (optional)

Spray pan with nonstick spray. Beat egg in a bowl and pour into a nonstick skillet over medium heat. As the egg begins to set, gently draw a pancake turner across the bottom of the skillet, forming large, soft curds. Cook until the egg is thickened but still moist. Fold in salsa and cheese. Spread the egg mixture down the center of the tortilla. Roll the tortilla around the egg. Garnish with salsa and sour cream, if desired.

Makes one serving that has 250 calories, 11 grams (g) of fat, 26 g of carbohydrate, 12 g of protein, 1 g of fiber and 520 milligrams of sodium.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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