Special feature on what you don’t know about eggs … Part 1

It is common to hear eggs being lumped together with dairy foods and referred to as “eggs and dairy. It is important, however, to understand how eggs are unique as a food. Chickens—and the eggs laid by female chickens (hens)—belong to the bird class of animals (Aves). Hen’s eggs are one among many types of bird eggs enjoyed in diets worldwide. Eggs from ducks, geese, quail, turkeys, and ostriches are also part of many cuisines. Birds (including chickens) are omnivore, which means that they eat both meat and plants. Hens, for example, often enjoy eating insects, insect larvae (grubs), and worms. Some of this intake helps explain the unique combination of nutrients found in eggs.
All B vitamins are found in eggs, including vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, choline, biotin, and folic acid. Choline is a standout among these B vitamins. In fact, eggs rank higher in choline than any of our other foods.
Although research has shown that egg possess the best protein, its consumption in Ghana is relatively low, researchers say this is due to the impression that egg contains cholesterol. It is to demystify this impression that the Ghana National Association of Poultry Farmers (GNAPF) has organized a stakeholders meeting to create awareness in Ghanaians that eating at least one egg a day is good for their health
Speaking at the event, the National Chairman of the Association, Victor Oppong Agyei stated that, there are two types of cholesterol which eggs have and are good for the human body and urged Ghanaians to discard the myth surrounding the eating of egg
According to him, the myth that egg contains too much of cholesterol so we should not eat not eat too much of it is far-fetched and that the two types of cholesterol which are High Density Liquid Protein (HDL) and Low Density Liquid Protein (LDL) and they all have their respective functions in the body and so there is nothing wrong with eating two or three eggs a day.
Eggs have long been recognized as a source of high-quality protein. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other public health authorities actually use eggs as their reference standard for evaluating the protein quality in all other foods. Egg protein is usually referred to as “HBV” protein, meaning protein with High Biological Value. Since eggs are used as the reference standard for food protein, they score 100% on the HBV chart. The high quality of egg protein is based on the mixture of amino acids it contains. (Amino acids are the building blocks for making proteins.) Eggs provide a complete range of amino acids, including branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine), sulfur-containing amino acids (methionine, cysteine), lysine, tryptophan, and all other essential amino acids. Their protein is sometimes referred to as a “complete protein” for this reason.
Another complicating factor in egg research is the fibre-free nature of eggs. Since fibre typically has a risk-lowering affect for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, egg intake might show up as problematic in a diet that was otherwise very low in fibre, yet helpful in a diet that was otherwise rich in fibre. These factors described above do not change our view of eggs as an unusually nutrient-rich food that can provide a unique combination of nutrients for a very small number of calories. But they do underscore the importance of integrating eggs into an otherwise healthy meal plan.
Not all egg studies show potential cardiovascular benefits, however, and in some studies, egg intake has been related to some increased mortality risk. However, as mentioned previously, it is been difficult for researchers to separate out the possible role of other foods in many studies. Particularly in mortality studies, which often examine diet in very general terms, they are unable to look closely at specific egg amounts in the diet
In recent years, there has been a food marketplace trend of greater availability of eggs that are unusually rich in omega-3 fats. These eggs get their high levels of omega-3s through the addition of omega-3 oils to the hen’s feed. Oils added to the hen’s diet as a way of increasing omega-3s include menhaden oil, krill oil, flaxseed oil, and algae oil. The supplementation of the hen’s diet with these oils usually produces as much as 250 milligrams of omega-3s per egg yolk. What many consumers do not know is that virtually all egg yolks contain omega-3 fats and that by providing hens with a natural, pasture-based diet their omega-3 levels can be naturally increased. Eggs have always had a primary place in mythologies, religions, and cultural practices worldwide, and have typically been regarded as symbols of rebirth, renewal, beginnings, and fertility. One of the most widely held food and holiday associations is that of the Easter egg. How the egg became associated with this holiday seems to have roots that are both biological and cultural. Before the more modern techniques of poultry raising, hens laid few eggs during the winter. This meant that Easter, occurring with the advent of spring, coincided with the hen’s renewed cycle of laying numerous eggs.
Additionally, since eggs were traditionally considered a food of luxury, they were forbidden during Lent, so Christians had to wait until Easter to eat them—another reason eggs became associated with this holiday. Interestingly enough, the custom of painting eggshells has an extensive history and was a popular custom among many ancient civilizations, including the Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, and Persians
While organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) allow for regular consumption of eggs in a meal plan, they typically warn that eggs are difficult to include because of their high cholesterol content and potential for increasing risk of heart disease. For persons with health blood cholesterol levels not needing cholesterol-lowering drugs, the AHA recommends a maximum of 300 milligrams of cholesterol per day from food. Since one conventionally produced egg contains about 180-220 milligrams of cholesterol, about two-thirds of the daily limit gets used up by consumption of one egg. Interestingly, several recent large-scale diet studies suggest that the cholesterol content of an egg may be less of a concern in relationship to heart disease than previously thought.
By Bismark Adika/MJA-Ghana