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Prairie Fare: Try Some “Egg-cellent” Food for Your Eyes

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Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
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Besides providing us with eye-health pigments, eggs are better known as a versatile, inexpensive source of protein.

By Julie Garden Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Do you need any eggs today?” the local farmer would ask my mother when he stopped by every week or two when I was a child.

She would buy at least a couple dozen eggs. I would scramble to the kitchen and open the egg cartons to see if there were any eggs with brown shells. I was convinced that brown eggs had better flavor.

I claimed all the brown-shelled eggs as my future breakfast meals. Although I wasn’t particularly interested in nutrition back then, I certainly liked scrambled eggs made from farm-fresh eggs with dark gold yolks.

I think the farmer figured out my interest in brown eggs, or perhaps my mom told him. He grinned at me when I waited by the door to check the cartons. Sometimes I’d open the carton and discover that every egg had a brown shell.

Nutritionally, eggs with brown shells are the same as eggs with white shells. The color of the egg shells reflects the breed of the chicken. The color of the yolks can be enhanced by adjusting the chickenfeed. According to the American Egg Board, adding orange marigold petals to the chicken feed can translate into eggs with darker gold yolks.

As I admired my stash of brown-shelled eggs, little did I know that eating eggs was helping keep my eyes healthy for the future.

Egg yolks contain the natural pigments (natural colorants) known as lutein and zeaxanthin. Eating foods high in these pigments “feeds” the macula lutea, which is a 1/4-inch yellow spot in the retina of the eye. This area of the eye helps us see sharply and clearly.

Because our body cannot manufacture lutein and zeaxanthin, we need to consume these pigments in our diet. In fact, consuming foods rich in these pigments is associated with lowering our risk for macular degeneration and cataracts. These two eye diseases are leading causes of blindness among older adults.

Other foods particularly high in these eye-healthy pigments include corn, spinach, kale and orange bell peppers.

Besides providing us with eye-health pigments, eggs are better known as a versatile, inexpensive source of protein. Eggs provide at least 13 vitamins and minerals. They usually are considered the “gold standard” for protein because our bodies can use the protein in them very efficiently to build and maintain muscle.

At less than 20 cents each, eggs are very affordable, too. Each egg counts as 1 ounce of protein.

We used to be advised to restrict our use of eggs due to their cholesterol content. More recent research has shown that most healthy people can enjoy an egg a day.

A study reported in the Journal of Nutrition showed that when older adults consumed an egg a day, they raised the lutein and zeaxanthin levels in their blood. Eating an egg a day did not increase their blood cholesterol levels.

However, follow the advice of your health-care provider if you are on a special diet.

Here’s an omelet recipe adapted from the American Egg Board. If you never have attempted to make an omelet, give it a try. Most importantly, you need a good nonstick pan. If your attempt at making an omelet is unsuccessful, you still will have delicious scrambled eggs!

Featuring eggs and spinach, this recipe is especially eye-healthy. Serve with fresh fruit, whole- wheat toast and fat-free milk for a complete meal at any time of the day.

Spinach, Ham and Cheese Omelet

2 eggs

2 Tbsp. low-fat or fat-free milk

1 tsp. butter

Salt and pepper

1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) finely shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 c. baby spinach

2 Tbsp. finely chopped fully cooked ham

Ground black pepper (optional)

Beat the eggs and milk in a small bowl until blended. Melt butter in a 7- to 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Tilt the pan to coat evenly with melted butter. Pour in egg mixture, which should begin to “set” at the edges immediately. Gently push the cooked portion of the egg from the edges to the center, tilting the pan so the uncooked portion runs under the cooked portion. Adjust the heat if the eggs are browning too quickly. Continue the cooking process until the top surface is thickened and no visible egg white remains. Place cheese on one side of the omelet, top with spinach and ham. Fold omelet in half. Slide onto a plate to serve.

Makes one serving. Each serving has 260 calories, 16 grams (g) of fat, 3 g of carbohydrate, 23 g of protein and 520 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)


NDSU Agriculture Communication – March 22, 2012

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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