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Egg

A chicken egg is a complete food with exceptional nutritional qualities, rich in protein and other nutrients with many health benefits when eaten in moderation. An egg has a yellow yolk and a surrounding egg white encased in a thin but hard outer shell. Choose certified organic or free-range eggs as commercial laying chickens are kept in inhumane conditions where pesticides and antibiotics are used which can concentrate in the chicken’s eggs.

Egg
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What it is

An egg is the reproductive body of an animal. As a food, people most often eat the eggs laid by chickens and sometimes ducks, goose, quail, ostrich, emu and to a lesser degree the eggs of fish and other animals. Here we consider the chicken egg, which is the most common egg found in markets and stores.

An egg is oval shaped with a hard but thin outer protective shell that can be colored white to a creamy brown depending on the type of chicken. The color of the eggshell does not reflect the nutritional quality of the egg, with different types of chickens often having different colored eggs. 

Inside this protective shell is the vitellus, commonly called the egg yolk, which is a small round ball of thick yellow liquid suspended in the translucent jelly-like albumen, known as the egg white. All parts of an egg are edible although the shell is usually thrown away. 

An egg can be considered the least evolved of all animal foods, being only a single cell of an animal. They are normally unfertilized as the hens are kept without a rooster. Fertilized eggs will remain in a similar state as an unfertilized egg as long as it is kept refrigerated as refrigeration stops any cellular growth.


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What is in it

When you consider that inside the egg is everything needed to nourish a growing chick, it should not be a surprise that the egg is a complete source of nutrition with exceptional qualities.

An egg is a very good source of the minerals iodine and selenium and of the vitamin B2 (riboflavin). It is also a good source of protein, the minerals molybdenum and phosphorus and the vitamins B5 (pantothenic acid), B12 (cobalamin) and Vitamin D.

The eggshell is very high in calcium.

A special note, the protein in egg is a complete protein, with all the amino acids need by the body. This protein in raw egg is only 51% bio-available while the protein in a cooked egg is 91% bio-available meaning that you get almost twice the protein from eating a cooked egg as eating a raw egg.

The white of the egg contains just over half the protein of the egg but little or no fat and no cholesterol.

The yolk of the egg is high in fat and cholesterol; it also contains just less than half the protein of the egg and most of the nutrients, being a very good source of chorine.


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What it is good for

Eggs
• Builds and maintains bones and tissues
• Important in brain development
• Strengthens nerve function
• Reduces inflammation
• Protects against cataracts
• Treats diarrhea
• Calms the fetus if excessive movement
• Treats dryness of the lungs, throat and eyes
• Helps treat anemia

Eggs can cause mucus and other such conditions in sluggish and overweight people. For these people it is best to eat few if any eggs at all.


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When you get it

Eggs are available in shops and markets all year around. Although fresh local farm eggs are more plentiful and therefore cheaper in the warmer months of the year from mid-spring to mid-autumn.


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Which to select

Be sure it checks eggs for cracks and breaks to ensure they are free of both as these may be signs that the egg will be spoiled or contaminated.

Breeding and Growing Methods

Whenever possible, choose firstly organically produced egg, then certified free-range eggs. 

We recommend that you avoid eating mass produced, intensively farmed eggs as these production methods are not considered humane to the chickens that lay the eggs and also these methods of production produce eggs that are less tasty and contain impurities, chemicals and medicines that are easily absorbed by your body.

Commercial Chicken

Most commercial egg laying chickens live in overcrowded conditions in large sheds with row upon row of small wire cages known as battery cages. These chickens never leave these cage and are not free to flap their wings, perch, scratch, dust bath or any other of the natural acts normally performed in the daily life of a chicken. They are given antibiotics and other drugs on a regular basis to maximize egg production and reduce the chances of diseases. These chickens never see the outside world and eat no fresh and naturally grown food. These birds are not considered humanely grown by most animal welfare organizations. 

As meat chickens and egg laying chickens are different strains due to selective breeding, the male chicks cannot be used for meat production and are usually culled in the hatchery. 

Free Range Eggs – Certified

As the name indicates, free-range eggs are laid by chicken that are allowed access to an outside run in which they can freely roam outside their sheds during the day. Only chickens that have not been given antibiotics at any stage during their life can be sold under the free-range label. 

Free-range eggs are not necessarily organic and may be fed non-organic food.

Ensure that the egg is certified as free range, in Australia they will have the Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia Ltd (FREPA) certification

Organic Eggs – Certified

Organic chickens are fed on diets prepared from naturally grown ingredients that are not treated with insecticides or pesticides. In addition, space allowances are higher, and only chickens that have not been given antibiotics at any stage during their life can be sold under the organic label. Organic chickens also have the minimum requirements of free-range chickens with the addition of a totally organic diet.

Ensure that the egg is certified as organic by a relevant government of industry body.

To ensure the eggs you are purchasing are truly organic and free-range always look for certification. The certifying bodies should strictly enforce and test for the acceptable conditions.

Egg Sizes

The size of the egg does not reflect the quality of the contents. 

Different countries have different sizing conventions.

United States

The most common size of chicken eggs is “large”. This is the size referred to in recipes.

Jumbo     Greater than 2.5 oz. or 71g     
Extra Large     Greater than 2.25 oz. or 64g     
Large (L)     Greater than 2 oz. or 57g     
Medium (M)     Greater than 1.75 oz. or 50g     
Small (S)     Greater than 1.5 oz. or 43g     
Peewee     Greater than 1.25 oz. or 35g

Australia

Mega        72g
Jumbo     68g
Extra Large     60g
Large         52g
Medium    43g

Europe

Very Large     73g and over
Large         63-73g
Medium     53-63g
Small         53g and under

New Zealand

8 (Jumbo)     68g
7 (Large)     62g
6 (Standard)     53g
5 (Medium)     44g
4 (Pullet)     35g
 


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Where to store

Refrigerate eggs and use them within two weeks. When cracked, if there is any foul smell, throw the egg away.


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How to use

As with preparing chicken meat, containers and surfaces that have been used to process raw eggs should not come in contact with ready-to-eat food.

The egg is the most versatile and important ingredient in the kitchen. 

They can be eaten as a basic food, being
• Fried
• Boiled
• Scrambled
• Pickled
• Poached 

In these form they are often known as a breakfast food in restaurants, cafes and homes around the world.

With the specific properties of the egg yolk and the egg white they have many greater roles in cooking. 

The egg yolk is an emulsifier; the lecithin in the yolk stabilizes liquids and allows fats and other liquids to be combined.

The high protein content of the egg white makes it able to be beaten to form a light and fluffy foam that can aerate recipes. 
• Add sugar to whipped whites for a meringue
• Whip into cream and chocolate to make a light chocolate mousse.
• Fold into flour and cheese and bake to make a cheese soufflé

In many recipes, especially for baking cakes, the whole egg comes together to form the duel role of combining the ingredients together and helping to make it light to eat.
 


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How much you need

Egg consumption should be limited to 6 eggs per week. More that this can lead to adverse health conditions including type 2 diabetes, 


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Things to watch out for

High levels of egg consumption (daily) are associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Allergies to eggs are one if the most common food allergies in infants. They are more likely to be allergic to the white of the egg than to the yolk.

Salmonella contamination is a risk with eggs as with chickens. Commercial chicken eggs are washed upon laying but there are risks of contamination if there is weakness or damage to the shell. 

It is recommended that eggs are refrigeratored and eaten within 2 weeks and cracked eggs are discarded. Like with raw chicken meat, that all surfaces and containers used with raw eggs be washed thoroughly to reduce any chances of contamination.


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References

The Journal of Nutrition, Digestibility of Cooked and Raw Egg Protein in Humans as Assessed by Stable Isotope Techniques, http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/abstract/128/10/1716, retrieved May 09.

American Egg Board, 2007, http://www.incredibleegg.org/egg_facts.html, retrieved 12/2008.

Animals Australia, http://www.unleashed.org.au/videos/?video=darren_cordeux_why_vegan, retrieved 5/2009.

Wikipedia, 2009, Err (food),  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egg_(food), retrieved 04/2009

The Journal of Nutrition – The American Society for Nutrition, http://jn.nutrition.org, retrieved 05/2009.

Bratman, Steven, and David Kroll. Natural Health Bible. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1999.

Paul Pitchford, Healing with whole food, North Atlantic Books, 2002.


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