The Great Source of Protein
My mom often sent my sisters and me to school with our bellies full of scrambled eggs, telling us we needed our protein to get through the day. Turns out she was on to something. "Eggs are a phenomenal source of protein," says Elizabeth Ward, RD, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Feeding Your Baby and Toddler (Alpha).
What's the big deal? Egg protein supplies all the essential amino acids, which are the building blocks for hormones, skin, tissues, and more in the body. They are considered essential because our body cannot make them on its own; we have to get them from food. Because eggs are relatively easy to digest (compared with, say, a hamburger), you absorb the protein well, says Cynthia Sass, RD, of Tampa. In kids, protein is vital for growth, while adults use it to maintain lean tissue, repair muscle after exercise, and keep the immune system in tip-top shape.
In addition, one egg contains just 75 calories and offers a healthy portion of choline, "which plays a role in brain development," says Ward. This nutrient is important for memory storage in kids and adults and for reproductive health.
It seems the "good egg," once scoffed at for its cholesterol, is getting even better. Nowadays, it's not unusual for your local grocery store to carry eggs that supply omega-3s (Christopher Eggs and Eggland's Best are two examples). This healthy fat may aid in kids' cognitive development and could help prevent conditions such as heart disease and arthritis in adults. "While fatty fish are the best source of omega-3s, most kids don't like fish, and adults don't often eat it on a daily basis," says Sass, "so this is certainly a good way to work these healthy fats into the diet."
So what about the cholesterol? One egg supplies about 215 milligrams. (The recommended daily amount in those ages 2 and up is 300 milligrams.) However, some brands, like those mentioned above, may contain less due to the way the hens are fed, and smaller eggs will also supply less. If you're concerned about cholesterol, substitute egg whites (use one whole egg and two whites, for example, in an omelet).