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Rest Day

Ode to the Egg
Text by Margie Lempert
Photos By Catherine Kendall


I always thought they were gross. My mother would soft boil one every morning: the sight of that oozy yolk ruining her perfectly good piece of toast made me shudder. How could someone eat something that smells like fart, anyway? Traumatic for a 15 year old to witness at 6:30am.

I wish I could tell you the first time I ate a plate of eggs, but I’ve no recollection. I’m sure I was in my twenties, and I’m sure it was in omelet form or else scrambled dry as a bone. It was definitely not poached or even hard-boiled – that would have been too much egginess for me to handle. Similar to my coffee progression (from milk and sugar with a splash of coffee, to Starbucks mochas, to espresso), my love of eggs came on tentatively, with caveats and in disguise.

Now I’m not afraid to admit that I am an egg enthusiast: fluffy, creamy, whipped, hard and, yes even runny and smelly, I devote Time to the egg. I hunt down the tastiest, and stay up late researching the best methods of preparation; I suppose you could say I’m obsessive. Turns out it’s a healthy obsession. Literally. 

What’s in an egg?

Inside that small, fragile shell you’ll find a shocking source of protein, vitamins and minerals. In fact, the ratio of amino acids (protein) in eggs is so close to ideal for human nutrition, they’re used as the model for rating quality of protein in all foods (pretty much stole that sentence right out of Nina Planck’s Real Food). Just one egg will provide you with 10%-30% your daily needs of no less than 11 of the 18 amino acids. 
Before I dive into the whole soufflé, let me address the white elephant, the yang, the other side of the coin, the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word ‘egg’: cholesterol. Eggs can’t be healthy cause they have lots of cholesterol, right? Well, so does breast milk, but that didn’t keep us from happily slurping from mom’s teat, did it?
Cholesterol is ok. It’s actually essential. Without it, we can’t build cell membranes; no new membranes, no life. It also puts us in a good mood. Studies have shown that people with low cholesterol (totals under 160 in men) tend to be pissed off and depressed. Apparently, cholesterol blocks re-uptake of that happy neurotransmitter serotonin. Just like prozac! So maybe if we chowed on cholesterol-laden foods we wouldn’t be popping so many pills.
But, I digress. (I’ll save cholesterol for another time. I don’t want to take away from the real topic here.)

Ok, so eggs have a stellar amino acid profile. We’re CrossFitters, we like protein, this is good.

Eggs also have loads of minerals that are good for your brain, like lecithin. Lecithin, found in the yolk, helps digest fat and is the source for choline. Choline is a key component of fat-containing structures in cell membranes, and a damned high percentage of our brain’s total mass comes from fat molecules. Guess what? Eggs contain the highest source of choline. 
Lutein, a fabulous carotenoid found in the yolk, helps prevent macular degeneration. You can find lutein in other foods, like spinach, but it’s easier to absorb from eggs.

You’ll also find a bunch of antioxidants like riboflavin, B12, biotin, and glutathione, all of which help to mitigate the cellular damage of life. Since we like to beat up our bodies with heavy cleans and 100-day burpee challenges, we’ve got a bit more cellular damage going on than your average Suzy. It’s important for us to pay attention to that stuff, so we can be warriors like Jacinto.

A quick note on that whole cholesterol thing: I do want to add that oxidized cholesterol is bad. It’s damaged and produces inflammation in the body. How you prepare your egg determines whether you’ve allowed the cholesterol to oxidize. Generally, you want to eat unbroken yolks – hard/soft boiled, poached or fried are superior to scrambled and omelets. Doesn’t mean you can’t have the latter, just eat them less frequently.

Eat the whole egg

You might have noticed that the couple of nutrients I mentioned above are found in the yolk. In fact, most of the good shit is in the yolk. Sure, the white gives you some protein, minerals and is a killer binding agent in cooking, but one of its main purposes is to protect that gorgeous yolk. We’ve ditched the yolk in recent years cause we’re scared of cholesterol, but that’s clearly not a legit argument. We’re also anti-yolk cause it’s got fat. Well most of those essential vitamins and minerals in eggs are fat soluble, meaning your body can’t use them unless there’s fat involved. That’s why, for example, lutein is more easily absorbed from yolks rather than spinach.

Which came first…?

I must interrupt myself for a minute to tell you something extremely important. Not all eggs are created equal. The goodness of your egg depends on the life of the chicken that laid it. See, most industrial laying chickens are crammed into dirty, smelly cages inside dirty, smelly warehouses. In fact, they’ve so little room to exist, they usually have their beaks trimmed so that they don’t peck each other in the ass. They’re fed a diet of supplements with maybe some ground up meat, pig and, yes, chicken thrown in there. 
People have gotten wise to the industrial egg business and have started buying eggs labeled organic, vegetarian feed and pastured. This is good, but let me break those labels down for you, cause they’re not the same and some are better than others.

-Organic means the chickens are not pumped not full of antibiotics and other wacky, unnatural shit. Generally the way they’re raised is a bit more humane too.

-Vegetarian feed means the chickens didn’t get forced into cannibalism. It also means they probably did not get out in the sun very much.

-Pastured means the chickens were raised hanging out on the land; fencing is probably minimal and their food is mostly grass, grubs, worms with some supplementation of chicken scratch (i.e. human-made food).

Which do you think sounds best? You’re all pretty smart, so I’m guessing you went with pastured. Ding ding ding.

Why, exactly, is pastured better? Well all those nutrients found in eggs are MUCH higher in eggs from pastured chickens. See, chickens are omnivores. They’re meant to eat insects and grasses, which contain all those vitamins and minerals, not to mention omega-3 fatty acid. The ratio of omega-3 fatty acid (good) to omega-6 fatty acid (bad in large quantities) is pretty much ideal in pastured eggs; it can be up to 20 times out of balance in industrial eggs. Check out this fascinating comparison of the nutrient profile for pastured eggs vs. industrial eggs

Here’s a test:

Which egg is industrial, organic and pastured?

Egg 2

Yep, that one with the gorgeous dark yellow yolk is pastured. You can literally see its nutritional value. All those carotenoids ready to fight for your health. And the one in the middle? That’s the industry standard. Finally, we’ve got organic on the right.

Taste is everything

Health is good, but food is just as much about experiencing deliciousness. There is nothing quite like a perfectly prepared, pastured egg. It’s not smelly, the texture is silky and creamy, the taste is rich and deep. 

Final thoughts and tips

This is by no means an exhaustive post on the wonderfulness of eggs. There’s plenty more to know, but you’ve probably already had to scroll down so much that it’d just irritate you if I wrote more. So let me just finish with these quick notes: eggs keep a long time, maybe a month, especially if you get them fresh from the farm. Older eggs are easier to peel and older egg whites are easier to whip into meringue.

Go to the farmers market for your eggs. Ask the farmer how they raise their chickens. More than likely the farmers who sell eggs on the side are raising them best, as opposed to farmers in the egg business; larger volume generally affects quality.

My favorite way to boil an egg:

Place one or two eggs in a fairly small saucepan. Cover them with cold water and add a pinch of salt. The salt helps keep the egg white from leaking out in case you’ve got a little crack in your egg.

Place your pan on the burner and turn the heat up high. Bring water to boil.

Once the water has boiled, turn off the heat and cover your pot. Set your timer for 9 minutes* and check your email.

When your timer goes off, grab a spoon, lift your eggs out of the hot water and slip them into cold water for 2 or 3 minutes.

Once they’ve cooled to warm or room temp, crack the egg on the round end and peel the shell. You should have a firm, not hard, egg white containing a fluffy, creamy, dry egg yolk. Get fancy by sprinkling on a little paprika or dill, be simple with salt and pepper, or chop into a salad.
*9 minutes is a general guide. With pastured eggs, you’ll have some little, titchy eggs and some so big you feel pain for the chicken that laid it. Adjust your time up or down accordingly.


Where I learned about this stuff:

"Protein Power Lifeplan" by Michael Eades

"Real Food" by Nina Planck

Meet Real Free Range Eggs Mother Earth News

Eggs WhFoods

Reader Comments (30)

Nicely written Margie! Tell me more about cholesterol please...
May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDan R
Yum - the egg in that picture looks delicious. I'll have to try your method. My current technique is: put eggs in a pan with cold water (leave tops slightly exposed), add salt and bring to a gentle boil. Once boiling, set a timer for ~5 minutes and leave them at the boil until it goes off. Immediately remove them from the heat and replace the hot water with cold. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel and eat with salt and pepper and whatever else seems tasty. I like translucent, custardy yolks that have just set and might even have a dab of liquid in the middle - so if you like 'em chalky, this is not the method for you. Clearly, the size issue holds - I adjust the timing.

Which egg farms do you recommend?
May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLaurel
I've always loved eggs. Hard boiled, scrambled, fried, over easy, over medium, sunny side up.Well, not poached, cause that's just nasty.

John showed me an excellent recipe, which I've modified into perfection and have most every morning now.

I have a small ceramic bowl, perfect for a toaster ovencoat it with olive oilinsert a couple brussels sprouts, cut into halvessome broccolislices of chicken apple sausageperhaps some plum tomatoes, also cut into halvesscramble two eggs, adding pepper and oregano and pour over the topcook in the toaster oven for about 20 minutesadd hot sauceit's freaking awesome

Then finish it off with a banana with almond butter and a glass of grass-fed milk with chocolate whey protein and you're set.An excellent, almost paleo (except for the chocolate milk) meal.
May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterErik K.
eggs are yum!

thanks margie, a very good read.

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid McG
Ode to Margie:

What a job well doneWho knew eggs could be so fun?Is grass-fed beef next?

Good to know that hard-boiling is better than scrambling or an omelette.

I eat a lot of grass-fed beef now, mostly ground in hamburger form. Is this a problem? Should I be restricting the ground grass-fed and eating the steaks more? What's "too often/much"?

Thanks. :-)
May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterIan
Great article Margie--

Though I still prefer my eggs scrambled and "omeletted".

I am trying to get more used to Hard boiled and fried--brings back some bad childhood memories
May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShawn

What a great post! My husband and I eat eggs every morning. I always love to get confirmation that we're doing something healthy.

Ummm....I've been boiling my eggs for 12 minutes in roiling water. Sounds like that's too long, eh?No wonder we could practically use them to play racquetball...rubbery!

I thoroughly enjoy your nutrition info. After going to Robb Wolf's seminar in February, I am more interested than ever in what we're eating.

Happy weekend! (Hi Stephanie!)Cynthia in San Diego

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCynthia
Margie, that was an awesome post. I could eat eggs everyday including for dinner!

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFelix
Hey gang -

There are lots of ways to boil an egg - it all depends on how you like your yoke, as Laurel said. I appreciate all varieties, but have come to love the dry yet somehow still fluffy and creamy texture.

Experimentation is key!

Ian - nothing wrong with grassfed ground beef. Beef fat is pretty fantastic for you. It has similar health benefits as olive oil. This is probably a future topic to post about so I won't spill all the beans yet : ) Anyway, there's no stopping you from mixing it up with steaks (grass-fed) as well.

My most favoritest eggs (the one pictured, in fact) come from Grazin' Angus acres, which is also my most favoritest place to get my meat and chickens.You can find Dan or Ariel at Union Square market on Fri and Sat, or Chip at Carroll Gardens market on Sundays (this one starts in May).

Other good eggs: Flying Pigs Farm and Kinderhook Farm.

Cynthia - yes 12 in boiling is a bit long. If you reduced it to 8 or 9, you'd probably have a better texture.

Keep posting your fav egg dishes!
May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMargie
Love the post, Margie. I coulda read a few more paragraphs even-- only wish i had planned it better and had some eggs to snack on whilst reading.
May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJenna
one of my favorite things about eating hard boiled eggs, is that they they are like 'set it and forget it,' I put 12 in a pot and forget about them for like 25 or so minutes. Then I rinse and put in the fridge and eat all week long for breakfast.They are delicious.I wonder what they would taste like if I boiled them for the right amount of time?
May 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commentergabrus
Really enjoyed your ode, Margie. I like my eggs soft-boiled, German style: poke a little hole in the egg with a needle, put it in boiling water for exactly 5 minutes (if it's organic or pastured, 4 for industrial), then hold under cold water for a minute. Chop off the top and eat with a spoon with a little salt and maybe mustard. Yum!

Yesterday's Tabata:DUs: 5/12/59Swings w/50 lb dumbell: 9/10/77Situps instead of dots: 6/11/66Total 202

DUs are still a work in progress and I really suffered through the situps, gotta do more of those apparently.
May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBjorn
This is a great post, Margie. I am boiling water as we speak! Keep these articles coming.
May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew
We go up to Vermont quite often and pick our eggs up from a local farm where all the chickens are pastured. They don't sell in a store, just from their barn yard. Our next trip up is the weekend May 8-10 so if anyone wants I can pick some up. Just let me know (sorry, I can't remember the price but it was not high).
May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Makowski
erik - poached eggs are not gross! not if they are covered with hollandaise sauce and sitting on a country biscuit. yummy.
May 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenternicole
Great post, Margie! Glad you are sharing all the good and healthy information you know with us. Keep writing, please!
May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRossana
Great ode Margie! I love my eggs fried in olive oil - I eat two nice and runny every morning.
May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBethany
Love this Margie. Thanks for the post.
May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLiane
Great write up, I'll pass this one along!
May 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercharlie
(singing)"I love eggs, yes i do. I love egss, how about you?"Great article Margie! actually, I do eat eggs all the time and do notice a difference in the color and taste of eggs that are raised differently. Eggs for "brinner" (breakfast for dinner) are my favorite time to eat them. yum!

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