Happy belated Easter for those of you who celebrated yesterday (and Happy Passover as well). While my son is too young to appreciate the Easter egg hunts that I was obsessed with as a kid, one tradition I have engaged him in since he was 6 months old is eating an egg a day (well, he started off with egg yolks). There’s something special to those oblique solids (other than dying them cool colors and hiding them in places where you hope nobody will find them…and then watching kids of all ages competitively hunt for them like they were crazed lunatics). Over the years, eggs got a bad rep for being unhealthy (you know, high cholesterol, full of fat, yadda yadda….), but to be honest, if you are not a vegan (and there is nothing wrong with being vegan, believe me – vegans do not eat eggs [or any animal product]), eggs are one of the most perfect whole foods – especially children. I definitely wouldn’t recommend overdosing on them (yes, this could lead to a cholesterol and weight gain problem), but it’s important to recognize all of the healthy facets these gems of nature have to offer. No matter which shade or size they come in, here are some nifty nutrition tips about eggs and why you should consider feeding them to your baby, toddler, and kids ONLY if there is no known allergy and if you are not vegan:
Believe it or not, egg yolks can be a perfect first food for many babies. It is important to note to use only the egg yolk (as the protein in the whites can pose as an allergen before 9 months of age). Try hard-boiling the egg and removing the yolk to mix in with formula or breastmilk to start; then the yolk can be mixed with pureed vegetables and/or fruits. It is considered safe to try whole eggs with babies starting at 9 months.
Eggs are a great source of protein, which is extremely important for growing babies and children, especially since the protein in eggs is a “whole protein.” One egg contains 6 grams of high-quality protein and all 9 essential amino acids.
Eggs contain the right kind of fat. One egg contains just 5 grams of fat and only 1.5 grams of that is saturated fat. Children need healthy fats in their diet for brain development and proper growth of body tissue and organs.
Numerous vitamins, including vitamin A, potassium, and many B vitamins (like folic acid, choline and biotin), are also packed into this oval-shaped staple [Source: USDA ].
Eggs are one of the only foods that contain naturally occurring vitamin D, which as we know, is very important for our bones and immune health.
Eggs promote healthy hair and nails because of their high sulphur content and wide array of vitamins and minerals. Many people find their hair growing faster after adding eggs to their diet, especially if they were previously deficient in foods containing sulphur or B12.
In fact, very few foods share the same diverse nutrient makeup available in a single egg. Many of these are specifically needed for the health of the nerves and the brain.
Despite the criticism of fats in fad diets over recent years (and all of you know that healthy fats are needed for a balanced diet), it’s important to note that eggs should not be blamed for an increased risk of heart disease. Due to the “anti-fat” diet trend that raged back in the 90s, eggs fell out of favor and people gravitated toward egg whites as a substitute. In truth, the yolk is where many of the vitamins and nutrients are found.
I’ll do an article next week on cholesterol and why it’s actually important for children to have in their diets, but overall, I think the topic of cholesterol has unfortunately become very confusing. Dietary advice on the subject is often so far off that consumers actually hurt their health by trying to avoid cholesterol.
So even if you weren’t hopping around like the Easter Bunny with a basket full of eggs yesterday, take into consideration all of the health benefits eggs have to offer and think about ways to incorporate them into your family’s diet (if you aren’t vegan). Some people simply do not care for the taste of eggs or are passionate about not eating and/or using animal products (super understandable!), so if that describes you, I take no offense if you hate this article (hopefully if anything, you were able to learn about why choline is important instead). Please be aware to buy your eggs from a reputable store or farmers’ market, where they have been kept cool/refrigerated and do not have any cracks. Personally, I think the best kind of eggs to get are ones from a farm where the hens are allowed to pasture and eat what they’re supposed to…while living a happy and humane life. I actually refuse to buy conventional eggs, as I cry thinking about the commercial farming hen houses. You’d be a blubbering mess if I went into the horrid details of how the hens (and chicks) are treated. Yes, it’s worth the few extra bucks a dozen of eggs if you can afford it. And you don’t need to go to fancy grocery stores to get decent, humanely-raised eggs. Many times, farmers’ market eggs are affordable and fresh off of the farm. Many people ask about the new hybrid of “Omega-3 eggs”….all this really means is the hens were fed a diet rich in Omega-3s to be passed onto the eggs. Yea, there’s some added health benefit, but if you’re on a tight budget, don’t break the bank thinking you have to get these eggs.
Have an egg-cellent Monday (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and stay tuned next week to learn all about CHOLESTEROL!