The Incredible Edible Egg

Every year when teaching Master of Science in Nutrition students biochemistry we'd come to the point of the class where we'd talk about cholesterol: what was it, what are the components what is it used for. Inevitably, mind you this was at least eight years ago, I would state that specific foods were not responsible for creating increases in cholesterol, and to this end eggs were getting a terrible rap. According to the biochemistry, and the law of physics what you take in, must be expended to get out. If you take in 3000 calories in a day, and only expend 2000, our miraculous, wonderful bodies will store the rest, for perhaps a time when food isn't abundant. In particular, the easier the food is to convert to glucose, the quicker it is to convert straight away to fats called triglycerides and some of these to go on to low density lipoprotien (LDL) aka 'bad cholesterol'. I informed my students that cholesterol plays an essential role as a starting product of Vitamin D3, adrenal and sex hormones and many other things. Back to eggs, they aren't bad -- they are a fabulous source of protein for folks who are not allergic or sensitive especially during cancer treatment. Boiled they travel well and are compact; they can also be scrambled, fried, or baked to chang their consistency and add a variety of flavors and textures that can be well tolerated. Most importantly, they contain anywhere from 7 to 9 grams of protein each, and other vital nutrients, namely folate and biotin that one needs during particularly chemotherapy. But let's stick to this protein thing for a second.

Bare with me for a minute while I give another quick biochemistry lesson. On a normal day our bodies use and breakdown about 300 grams of protein. Because our systems are master recyclers most of those amino acids and remnants are reused, but about 50 grams is eliminated from the body via stool. This amount must be replaced. If one is receiving chemotherapy or radiation this amount increases even more. Thus at the very minimum if you are in therapy you should be consuming 50-60 grams of protein. Some nutritionists will assign a lot more, though we must take into account other issues like kidney damage and chemotherapy type (some chemo is very hard on the kidney, and consuming large amounts to protein are too). We on the West Coast tend to be 'carboholics' and often may not even be getting a good 30 grams. Patients going through chemotherapy and radiation that are deficient in consuming protein may experience chemo brain, loss of stamina, loss of muscle mass, and fatigue. We don't want this.

Conventional eggs, that is those gotten from chickens that are caged and grain fed exclusively, tend to have lower protein and omega 3 fatty acid contents. Organic eggs tend to have higher protein content, higher omega 3 fatty acids, and higher mineral content. You can also rest assured that they have not been fed grain treated with pesticides. Many eggs coming from small flocks never get feed with soy or corn, two common allergens that may cause some reaction in people who are sensitive to these foods.

We had four chickens in the city a couple of years ago. It was not my idea. And I was advised against it by my therapist since the flock added to two dogs, two rabbits (one state fair blue ribbon), fish and one large turtle (apparently with a life span of 60 years). Neither did my partner advise that we get chickens. He's a carpenter and would have to construct the hen house. Did I mention I have two children? The chickens were raised from chicks. One, we called her Rosey, probably shouldn't have made it. But with the tenacity of round the clock care my children (and yes myself) gave her she pulled through with the only result of the illness to be blindness. Our flock of hens included Dove, Hortensia, Athena, and Rosey the Blind. For the years that we had the chickens, I have to say, I enjoyed eggs with yolks the deepest color yellow-orange, that prominently stood up on a firm white. The flavor was noticeably richer and more delicious than conventional eggs. So did our old lab who sought out the stray eggs that were laid outside of the hen house. She'd delicately take the egg from the back to the front sidewalk, drop it on the concrete and enjoy. We'd come home to a single cracked egg. I thought I'd eventually see a balled up napkin beside it, but that never happened.

I also noticed that the flavor of the eggs would differ as depending on what fruits and fruit leaves were available in the backyard. I'd mentioned this to a friend and she told me that, indeed, some folks will even purposedly make available certain food, in addition to the regular chicken feed, to derive certain flavors from the foods. I was certain if you could imbue flavor, you could also affect nutrition. Most compostable vegetable ends, especially greens are great for chickens. My chickens especially loved grape leaves (they were crazy for them) and the smaller grapes, and then the well ripened grapes. I actually ended up falling in love with those chickens. I enjoyed being greeted everyday by them, as well as the rest of the herd.

We got our organic eggs today from one of the island farm stands. They were pretty pricey, but we got them anyway. If you live in the city, you might be able to find an urban farmer friend that is willing to part with some eggs for a little donation or might even give them to you for free. Make sure they are cleaned properly before you consume them. If you are nervous about the cholesterol, think about eating eggs with vegetable sides. We have a great recipe for a Breakfast Vegetable Medley that my father (that's right) created and has almost every morning (and he looks like he's 20 years younger than he is).

If you were wondering about the last picture I am including, that person in the distance walking away from me is my partner. I guess there's only so many hours a person can talk about egg recipes before he loses it. :)