Guest blog by Sam Hadadi
From fried or scrambled to nut butter omelettes or poached eggs with slices of avocado and (coconut oil-spread) toast, it’s fair to say that we like our eggs in the morning, or at any time of day!
In fact, barely a day goes by when we don’t eat eggs in some way, shape or form. That huge slab of cake or brownie you’re enjoying over afternoon tea? Chances are it was made with eggs. That delicious, fresh pasta you whipped up – that’s got eggs in it, too. Heck, we even throw boiled eggs on our summer salads, and chuck them into curries too!
Here at Lucy Bee, we’re so crazy for eggs that we even have our own chickens.
Nothing will convince us that there’s a better pre-workout meal than freshly-laid eggs cooked with Lucy Bee.
Of course, we love to know everything that there is to know about all our favourite foods, eggs included. So if you ever wondered just how we came to discover this delicious, nutritious food, then sit down and get cracking…
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
Well, we’ll never know the answer to that one, but humans have been eating eggs since pretty much the dawn of time. Chinese history1 even suggests that domesticated hens were kept as far back as 6000 BC, whereas Europe has kept hens since 600BC.
In Thebes, Egypt, the tomb of Haremhab, which was built around 1420 BC, shows a picture of a man carrying bowls of ostrich eggs to be made as offerings. Amazing, isn’t it?
Yet food historians will tell you that we’ve been eating eggs since the prehistoric times, and we also know that Ancient Romans used to enjoy eating boiled eggs with simple sauces. They even enjoyed what was known as an “Omelette Souflee”, which would be drizzled with honey and sprinkled with pepper before serving.
Of course, eggs weren’t just considered delicious - they even have a religious symbolism surrounding them (yes, there is a reason behind those delicious chocolate Easter eggs!). Eggs are thought to represent the start of life, a new beginning (in Iran, brides and grooms exchange eggs), and so they have become an historical symbol of fertility and rebirth.
Over the years, eggs have become so engrained in history and religion that some creation myths even describe the universe as being hatched from an egg. Even the traditional box of a dozen eggs is thought to have its root in the number of Jesus’ disciples.
So, why else were they so popular? Well, for pretty much the same reasons we love to eat them now. Eggs are plentiful, cheap to purchase, an excellent source of protein and adaptable to all sorts of recipes, from custards and quiches to meringues, and cakes.
It never ceases to amaze us that people thought to use eggs in baking, but thank goodness that they did!
History even suggests that the Ancient Romans used eggs in cakes and breads as a binding (or thickening) agent, although no one knows exactly how this came about.
Now, across the world, people eat all different kinds of eggs – ostrich, duck, even pigeon fowl in ancient China – although the most popular come from chickens.
While the popularity of eggs dipped for a while when they were linked to bad cholesterol levels (more on that next), the demand for eggs is booming. In the UK alone, we eat an astonishing 32 million eggs each day2 – that’s 11.7 billion per year, and a whole lot of eggs!
You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette, and as many of you probably know, eggs have been swamped with controversy over the last few years.
This is mainly to do with the fears surrounding the cholesterol found in eggs, particularly the yolks. But is it really all that bad for us? Or has it been unfairly demonised?
First up, what is this supposedly troublesome thing called cholesterol? Well, cholesterol is a fatty substance also known as lipid and is crucial to help our body function healthily and properly. Our body makes its own cholesterol through the liver, although it can also be found in some foods, including eggs as you now know.
There are two types of cholesterol: LDL, otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol, or HDL (the so-called “good” stuff), which carries cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver, to be used as waste.
While we all need some cholesterol in our bodies, having too much can raise your risk of serious health conditions because it clogs the arteries. This can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Of course, things aren’t always as they seem – and the cholesterol found in eggs isn’t all that bad anyway, as we’ll go on to tell you. To assume that cholesterol in eggs is bad also assumes that when you eat more cholesterol, your blood cholesterol increases.
However, as you now know, our bodies make plenty of cholesterol all on its own. In fact, it makes as much as 1-2 grams on its own every single day3 – that’s 5-10 times more than you’ll find in a humble egg. What’s more, when you eat foods high in cholesterol, your body actually produces less of it.
However, despite many studies4 proving that eggs are not associated with bad cholesterol levels in the body (although they could affect diabetics), this fear still seems to live on. Yet, when people eat three eggs a day on a weight loss diet, research has shown that the body can be healthier than ever. The study proved that these same people went on to lose weight, decrease inflammation and maintain or improve their blood cholesterol levels5.
All this seems to let eggs off the hook in terms of cholesterol. However, if you’re still unsure, here’s the current guidance from the British Heart Foundation: “Unless you have been told otherwise by your doctor or dietician, if you like eggs, they can be included as part of a balanced and varied diet.”
Of course, if you are concerned or worried about unhealthy cholesterol levels, then you can work to reduce your LDL levels under the guidance of your doctor by eating a healthy, balanced diet full of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and good fats. If you’re a smoker, it also helps to quit lighting up, and regular exercise is always a good thing.
So, now we know that the cholesterol in eggs isn’t actually all that bad, will a humble egg a day keep the doctor at bay? Are they good for us after all?
For such a cheap source of food, eggs are incredibly rich in nutrients and health-giving properties. Both the yolks and the whites are loaded with good-quality protein (the highest quality of any food6), which are the building blocks of a healthy body.
In fact, you can expect to get around six grams of protein from a single egg (much cheaper than those store-bought protein bars, we’re sure you’ll agree!), and all for only around 70 calories. This can help to increase lean muscle, lower blood pressure and so much more. Eggs are even rich in essential amino acids, which help our body to use the proteins found in them more effectively.
If you buy Omega-3 enriched eggs, then you’ll also be able to enjoy the benefits of these wonderful fatty acids. Not only are omega-3s great for keeping skin and hair healthy and glowing, but they can also reduce our risk of heart disease, depression, Alzheimer’s and even asthma. They’re also perfect for mums-to-be as they help brain development in babies.
Far from being bad for us, egg yolks are also one of the most antioxidant-rich and vitamin-laden foods known to man. They contain calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, B6 and vitamin B12, which boosts our immune system. They’re also rich in vitamins A, D and E, as well as biotin, which aids energy metabolism and boost healthy skin and hair. They’re even high in folic acid, which is perfect for pregnant women as it helps to support growth in babies.
Egg yolks also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two anti-oxidants which are crucial for healthy eyes. You can also expect to get a decent dose of choline, a nutrient that around 90 per cent of people rarely get enough of and is crucial during pregnancy (of course, make sure your eggs are well-cooked if you are pregnant). Choline is also essential for healthy cardiovascular and brain function.
Of course, for athletes looking to cut or lose weight, then ditching the yolks, which are higher in fat, can help them to cut crucial calories. As we have also mentioned, there are concerns that yolks may be dangerous for diabetics, too. If in doubt, speak to a doctor or dietician first!
Once upon a time, eggs were the simplest of meal choices. You simply reached for a chicken egg in your fridge, then picked scrambled or poached and got on with it!
However, this is no more. From duck or quail eggs to caged hens, free-range and organic, there are so many choices out there. So, which eggs to buy? Which are healthiest for us?
As you know, here at Lucy Bee, we love to grow our own wherever we can, and this extends to eggs. We keep our own hens, who delight us every single day with delicious, fresh eggs. However, if you don’t have this luxury, then here’s our guide on the eggs you’ll commonly find in supermarkets:
Because of certain bacteria, such as salmonella, which could be present in eggs, people (and in particular, pregnant women) are advised to avoid eating raw or undercooked eggs. However, if you buy eggs which have been stamped with a red lion, then you can rest assured that they have been produced to the highest standards of food safety – despite testing thousands of eggs, no salmonella has been found in Red Lion Quality eggs. Always buy stamped where you can!
Caged Eggs –
Tiny battery cages were banned across the EU in 2012. Caged birds still have little room to move around in – 13 to 14 hens per square metre and a few furnishings – and beak trimming is standard. While caged eggs may be the cheapest, I prefer not to buy these.
Barn Eggs –
If you can’t afford to go free-range or organic (although we would recommend that you do, wherever possible), then the best option is to buy barn eggs, which allow birds to roam freely indoors while performing many of their natural behaviours. However, consider that most barn-raised hens stay inside for their entire lives and live in fairly cramped conditions. Beak trimming, where the hens have their beaks cut, is also still routine.
Free Range Eggs –
Around half of the eggs produced in the UK are free-range, which means they’ve been laid by hens with unlimited daytime access. They also get to use runs that have vegetation, with at least four square metres of outside space per bird. At night, they’re kept in barns furnished with bedding and perches. Regardless of this, there’s no limit on flock size, and beak trimming is still common practice, except for most free-range British Blacktail eggs.
Organically reared hens are given the highest standards of animal welfare, with plenty of outdoors access and less crowded living conditions. Routine beak trimming is also banned under the rules of the Soil Association. If you like to know your animals have been treated fairly and your hens were kept happy, then this one is for you!
Duck eggs –
You’ll often find duck eggs on the menu in fancy restaurants, perfectly poached and oozing with bright yolks. They’re similar to chicken eggs in terms of nutrition, although they have a higher fat content and more protein and cholesterol. They’re also richer in minerals such as iron, B12, folate and vitamin A. We love the taste of duck eggs, although some do find they take a while to get used to – they tend to be richer in taste. However, duck eggs are wonderful in baking as they’re higher in albumen, which gives more structure, resulting in very light, fluffy cake with a higher lift.
Coloured eggs –
Many people also often ask us about a chicken’s egg shell colour – are brown shells or pinky white shells better? Well, the colour doesn’t affect the nutritional value in any sense, nor do the cooking characteristics change with the shade of shell. In fact, the only difference may be in price since hens that produce brown eggs are larger and require more food and care. Different breeds of hens lay different coloured eggs, for example, Ameraucanas, Araucanas and Cream Legbars lay blue eggs
While we know that eggs are best kept at room temperature for baking, should they be kept in or out of the fridge the rest of the time? It’s a huge source of debate and, although most fridges have their own rack just for storing eggs (some believe that unless they’re stored in the fridge, a build-up of bacteria could lead to food poisoning), many people tend to leave them out on the side.
So, which camp are you in? And who’s cracked it? Well, it seems that many science bods agree that storing eggs in the fridge can prevent salmonella. In fact, in a US study7 a few years back, investigators found that egg quality deteriorates after four weeks in temperatures of 7.2C or above (room temperature is 20C). Perfect temperature for longer storage is between 0.6C and 2.2C (a fridge has a temperature of between 1.7 and 3.3)
Still in doubt? Many people who favour room temperature storage will argue that supermarkets often keep eggs in the aisle, away from any fridge. Yet the British Egg Information Service says: “For optimum freshness and food safety, eggs should be kept at a constant temperature below 20 c. Most modern supermarkets are kept below 20 c so it is not necessary for retailers to store them in a fridge.”
However, to set worried minds at ease, there is a simple way to tell if your eggs are fresh (often, the sell-by dates don’t tell the true story as eggs can often be OK for much longer).
The float test is the ideal way to test an egg’s freshness – and all you need is a bowl of cold water. Simply place your eggs in the bowl and, if they sink and fall flat to their sides, then you can assume that they’re very fresh. If they’re a few weeks old but still good to eat, then they’ll still float to the bottom, but stand on one end. If they float to the surface, then chuck ‘em – they’re no good.
Across the globe, eggs are a readily available and inexpensive source of food and good-quality protein. They are easy to use, especially when preparing quick and healthy meals, and can make entire meals in themselves.
Happily, eggs are an extremely versatile food and can be prepared in many different ways, such as frying, hard cooking (perfect for adding to salads or into curries), or our favourites, scrambled and poached. Always wondered how to create the perfect scrambled or poached eggs? Then read on…
Perfectly Scrambled Eggs
2 large eggs (preferably organic)
6 tbsp. milk
A knob of Lucy Bee Coconut Oil
1) Lightly whisk the eggs, milk and a pinch of salt and pepper together until just combined. Heat a small pan, then add the coconut oil and let it melt.
2) Pour in the egg mixture and let it sit for 20 seconds. Now, stir with a wooden spoon, folding it over from the base of the pan. Let it sit for a further few seconds before repeating the process.
3) Continue until the eggs are almost set and slightly runny in places (they continue to cook off the heat), then remove, give one last stir and serve.
Perfectly Poached Eggs
We love adding poached eggs to all manner of dishes for an extra, meat-free protein hit. Of course, it also tastes delicious on top of toasted bread too! In the Lucy Bee office, there’s some debate as to the best way to poach an egg:
White wine vinegar
1) Crack an egg into a ramekin, then fill a saucepan with water to the depth of roughly one and a half times the width of the egg. Add a pinch of salt, then bring the water to a boil.
2) Turn down the heat, although you still want it to be bubbling, then add a capful of vinegar (this helps the egg to set when you drop it in.)
3) Whisk the water to create a “vortex” in the middle, then pour the egg from the ramekin into the centre of the pan. Turn the heat down to a simmer and, after 3.5 minutes (for a runny egg) remove the egg with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen roll to absorb excess water. Serve with a sprinkling of pepper, or however you fancy!
Another way is to crack the egg into a saucepan of boiling water and let it simmer for 3 minutes then serve. I wonder if you have yet a different way of doing it?
Perfect Boiled Eggs
Boiled eggs make a fantastic healthy snack to eat on the run, and they’re also wonderful to keep in the fridge to add to salads or even homemade curries.
Egg – keep in its shell
1) Bring a pan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt and the egg (or eggs). To stop the egg cracking, dip it in the boiling water, take straight out then place back in the pan.
2) Stir your eggs every now and again to ensure they don’t settle at the bottom of the pan.
3) Depending on how hard or soft you want your eggs, leave them in the water for:
Three minutes or less for soft-boiled eggs
Five to seven minutes for medium-boiled eggs
10 to 15 minutes for hard-boiled eggs
4) As soon as your eggs are done, rinse them under cold water to stop them from cooking (over-cooking can cause the yolk to turn green or grey), then place in the fridge for half an hour to loosen the shells.
5) Peel the eggs once you’re ready to eat and keep in the fridge in a sealed container for up to five days.
Of course, eggs are also astonishing in baking as they have dozens of different uses. The whites can be whipped up and used to create fluffy meringues or add fluffiness to sponges or soufflés.
They can also be used to add texture (lecithin, found in eggs, helps to prevent moisture loss), for leavening (where you give your cakes and bakes a lift, often with baking powder or bicarb), or as a binder - the proteins work to bind and hold ingredients together. They can even be used to create an “egg wash” to brush over pastry and help it to become golden and beautiful!
We know that many people are intolerant or allergic to eggs, or you could enjoy a diet (vegan, for example) that doesn’t allow them. In that case, there are ways to enjoy your favourite recipes without using eggs. Here are some of the best:
In cakes and bakes:
For leavening, one egg can be substituted for –
1 tbsp. ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp. of water (this is a flax egg)
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar plus 1 tsp. bicarbonate soda
For binding, one egg can be substituted for –
½ banana, mashed
3 1/2 tbsp. avocado, mashed
3 tbsp. nut butter
For moisture –
1 tbsp. chia seed mixed with 1/3 cup of water, left to sit for 15 minutes (this is a chia egg)
60g apple puree
65g silken tofu
55g pumpkin puree
50g sweet potato puree
If that’s whetted your appetite, then it’s time to get cracking in the kitchen! Here are some of our favourite recipes using eggs for you to recreate at home – the dark chocolate cake is not to be missed!
If you love experimenting with Lucy Bee and eggs, then be sure to send us your favourite recipes. Enjoy!
P.S We hope you appreciate the fact that we egg-nored all egg-based puns until the very end!
About Lucy Bee Limited
Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.
The views and opinions expressed in videos and articles on the Lucy Bee website/s or social networking sites are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of Lucy Bee Limited.
Be the first to comment.
Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.