Around the world today, eggs have been a breakfast staple from time immemorial and for all good reasons. After all, an egg is a storehouse of vital nutrients, making them an integral part of a healthy diet. And for those of you who are afraid of indulging in this power food because you’re worried that it will add to your weight, remember, one egg contains about 80 calories and about five grams of fat. Hence, smart consumption is a far healthier option to cutting them out completely. Don’t be afraid of eggs! They are a super health food and can be prepared in many interesting ways.
Eggs are a well known rich source of protein – an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. The body uses protein to build and repair tissues as well as making enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. Unfortunately, unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body does not store protein, and therefore has no reservoir to draw on when it needs a new supply. Thus, eggs are the perfect sources and a smart food choice for those who reduce their intake of carbohydrates in a bit to lose excess weight.
Another important nutrient you will find abundantly in egg white is riboflavin or Vitamin B2. And for all of you wondering what’s the benefit of this nutrient, Riboflavin is a water-soluble vitamin which is involved in vital metabolic processes in the body and is necessary for normal cell function, growth, and energy production. Eggs are a common food source and have been eaten by humans across the world for thousands of years. Eggs are also produced by the female animals of many different species, but by far and away the most common choice for consumption is the egg of the chicken.
The main safety concern is risk of salmonella food poisoning. The best protection is to cook eggs at a high enough temperature for a long enough period of time, meaning poached, scrambled and hard boiled eggs carry a much lower salmonella risk. Another safety concern regarding eggs is that they are a common food allergen, particularly among young children. Substitutes can be used to bind ingredients together but they are not as good at helping mixtures rise. If using a replacement for eggs in baking, adding a little extra baking powder may help.
The yolk, which many of us avoid out of fear, is actually a very healthy food, if consumed in moderation. Mainly fat, the yolk contains 1.33 gm of cholesterol per 100 gms and is a rich source of Vitamins A and B, calcium, phosphorous, lecithin and iron. Incidentally, the iron found in the yolk is easily digested and assimilated in the body.
According to nutrition experts, one can eat one whole egg every day without harming one’s cholesterol and other blood-fat levels. But for those who crave for more eggs, you can reduce fat by using one whole egg and the whites of the rest of the eggs. And now for all the ways you can eat them. There are four basic ways in which eggs can be prepared, which are as under:-
- Boiled Egg – For many of us, this is a comfort food that brings back yummy childhood memories. Boiling an egg is one of the healthiest way you can consume it and is the perfect option for those watching their weight. To make the perfect boiled egg, drop the eggs in their shells (preferably at room temperature) into simmering water, and cook for three to 10 minutes on a medium flame. A short cooking time produces a soft boiled egg, with a runny yolk while boiling the eggs for a longer time will give you a nice hard boiled eggs, which can be eaten plain, sliced, mashed and even added to variety of dishes.
- Poached Egg – You may have heard the term often and wondered what exactly the hype is all about. Well, to put it simply, a poached egg is one that has been cooked by poaching it in water. Like a boiled egg, this too is an oil free preparation method. To poach an egg, let water simmer in a pan. Crack the egg into a small bowl and then gently slid it into the pan. Cook the egg until the white has solidified but make sure the yolk remains soft. The ‘perfect’ poached egg has a runny yolk, with a hardening crust.
- Scrambled Egg – This preparation of eggs is an all time favourite with kids. For the perfect scrambled egg, all you need to do is whisk up the eggs in a bowl before pouring them into a hot pan. Whisking will make the batter airy resulting in a light and fluffy preparation when done. Once you pour the batter into the pan, allow it to set for a few seconds and them stir through it and scramble it up. You can add a variety of ingredients like fine chopped vegetables, cold meats, shredded chicken or cheese for more texture and flavour.
These can either be mixed into the batter or served as a side dish. Alternatively, pour the egg batter into a hot pan, allow it to settle and cook for a while, arrange the ingredients in a neat line at the centre and then fold the edges over. Cover the pan and let this cook for a minute or two on a slow flame. Incidentally, the all-time favourite for me, the bhurji made with eggs, finely chopped onions, tomatoes, corn, chillies and coriander is the Indian version of the scrambled egg.
- Fried Egg – Last but not the least, is the the fried egg. For many of us who are forever racing against time nothing makes for a more filling meal than a couple of fried eggs jammed between slices of bread. Fried eggs are made by cracking the egg into a hot, oiled pan. In fried eggs too, one can either go for the egg well done or for sunny side up.
In the former version, the egg is fried well on both sides thus ensuring that both, the white and the yolk are cooked. For the latter, the eggs are left to cook on one side only. Thus, while one side of the egg gets cooked, the top side, especially the yolk remains runny. To get the perfect sunny side up, heat oil in a pan. Crack the eggs into it taking care not to break the yolk. Let it cook for about five minutes or till the whites by the yolk are cooked to your choice. Slide the eggs off carefully into a plate.
For those who do not consume eggs, alternatives used in baking include other rising agents or binding materials, such as ground flax seeds or potato starch flour. Tofu can also act as a partial binding agent, since it is high in lecithin due to its soy content. Applesauce can be used, as well as arrowroot and banana. Extracted soybean lecithin, in turn, is often used in packaged foods as an inexpensive substitute for egg-derived lecithin. Chickpea brine, also known as aquafaba, can replace egg whites in desserts like meringues and mousses.
Other egg substitutes are made from just the white of the egg for those who worry about the high cholesterol and fat content in eggs. These products usually have added vitamins and minerals, as well as vegetable-based emulsifiers and thickeners such as xanthan gum or guar gum. These allow the product to maintain the nutrition and several culinary properties of real eggs, making possible foods such as Hollandaise sauce, custard, mayonnaise, and most baked goods with these substitutes.