Unscrambling information about eggs

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In a previous column we discussed the value of eggs. From the mono diet studies of Dr. Roger J. Williams you will recall that the single best food sustaining the lives of his experimental animals indefinitely was the chicken egg. So, today let’s discuss some of the facts and fallacies about this wonderful food.

First, let’s discuss the myth that eggs increase the serum cholesterol levels.

The Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial, published Sept. 24, 1982, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, paradoxically found that people consuming more eggs had lower serum cholesterol than those consuming fewer eggs.

And to concur with those results, the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988-94, found when the diets of participants consuming less than one egg per week had a higher average serum cholesterol than those consuming more than four eggs per week.

Except in very rare cases eggs do not increase serum cholesterol.

So, which eggs are best for you?

Some general facts:

Grandma used to say white eggs were best for eating and brown eggs were best for cooking. But, Granny, to be truthful the color of the egg has nothing to do with anything except the egg shell color.

Next, a hen does not need a rooster to lay eggs. But for eggs to develop into chicks a rooster must breed with the hen.

If you find a trace of blood in the egg, this does not mean an embryo was developing. Sometimes in the egg-making process a hen may rupture a tiny blood vessel. This however has no other effect on the egg or its value.

You can tell how old an egg is by its character when cracked into a pan. If the yolk stands high and firm it is probably fresh. If the yolk and white spread out, it is probably old or has not been properly refrigerated.

With that general information in mind, what does the labeling on egg cartons really mean?

“Organic or organically grown” — It means grown without chemicals, insecticides and hormones. This should be a standard we should always strive for.

“Cage-free” — Eggs from hens not confined to small cages, many times with multiple hens in each cage.

Unfortunately many egg farms keep their laying hens in cages their entire lives. On large commercial egg farms, cages are often 24-by-24 inches and so low the hen cannot lift her head. Cages are stacked sometimes two or three tiers high. The bottom of each cage is slightly tilted so when an egg is laid, it rolls to one side of the cage to be picked up by an attendant.

Water is delivered in a trough and food comes by means of an auger. These egg farm hens may not get a chance to walk around or see the sun. Very unhealthy!

“Free Range” — In contrast to caged hens, free range means the birds can roam outdoors in a pasture setting.

In a properly managed facility, shelters are provided in the field for the birds to go to at night, or in inclement weather.

You can determine if the hens are truly free range by the vivid orange color of their yolks. The color is due to the considerable carotene in the grass the hens eat. Besides the carotene, we can naturally assume that a free-range hen is healthier and hence lay a more nutritious egg.

“Contains Omega III” — If the cartons says this we must assume the hens have been fed flax seed as part of their diet.

However, flax seed is only a precursor of Omega III, and we do not know how much flax seed the hens are fed or how much they eat. In my experience, hens do not like flax seed very well.

Because of the importance of the Omega III in a healthy human diet, I encourage taking it as a nutritional supplement.

“Fertile eggs” — I find these most interesting, mainly because of the enigma of the fertile egg.

When a hen decides in her little brain to have a family (called “being broody”), she must first allow a rooster into her life, although they need not copulate every day since the hen has a storage place for the roosters sperm.

She then begins to create a nest. Soon she begins laying fertile eggs into that nest. Since hens do not consistently lay an egg each day, it may take her as many as two weeks to accumulate a batch of eggs.

When something in her brain then tells her the time is right, she begins to set on the eggs. She only leaves her nest for very brief periods to take some food and water because the eggs must remain warm.

In 21 days, all of the eggs hatch basically at the same time.

But how could this happen when the first egg and the last egg were laid probably two weeks apart? Shouldn’t they hatch over a two-week span?

The answer is this: The development of the chick does not begin until the hen sets on the eggs and warms them to 99.5 degrees with her body heat. So, they all begin developing at exactly the same time.

A second paradox is this: Since this usually occurs in hot summer weather, why don’t the first laid eggs become rotten without refrigeration?

The answer to that is another mystery of the fertile egg. This also tells us there is something special about fertile eggs, that they retain their nutrients even without refrigeration since all hatched chicks from first laid to last are equally healthy.

Retired chiropractic doctor Francis Trapani’s background includes 41 years of practice plus doing investigative reporting and fitness programs for broadcast media in Hawaii. He has written three books and is working on a yoga self-help manual “The Doctor Prescribes Yoga.” For more information, go to drftrapani.com.

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