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A Scientific Look at Eggs

A Scientific Look at Eggs

The average person consumed two dozen eggs at Easter last year, according to the American Egg Board.

But eggs, brightly colored or plain, aren’t exclusive to the Christian holiday. The festival of Nowruz is celebrated in many Islamic countries and includes decorated eggs as part of the holiday meal, and the Jewish Passover includes eggs as part of the traditional Seder plate.

Decorated eggs may date back as far as 90,000 years, according to archaeological research explained by the University of Cambridge’s Dr. Brian Stewart. Hardy ostrich eggshells were used as water flasks in sub-Saharan Africa, making possible hunting trips into extremely arid areas.

Additionally, fragments found in archaeological digs show evidence of decoration, both by carving and possible colorization. The decorated eggshells, which were also repurposed into beads, may be evidence of modern human evolution as well as some of the world's earliest examples of art.

Besides decorated ovum, which often symbolize fertility or the new life of spring, eggs have been part of the human diet for thousands of years, according to FoodTimeline.org.

Although chicken eggs are the most common type of eggs consumed in the United States, all kinds of eggs have been dietary staples around the world. Eggs are affordable and available, are excellent sources of protein, can be easily prepared in a number of ways, and are invaluable in recipes for cakes, custards, breads and a wide range of other foods.

In fact, industry groups tout the outstanding nutritional value of eggs, noting their high-quality protein, antioxidants and nutrient-dense properties. A new study published last week shows that eggs can also help the body absorb important nutrients in raw vegetables.

But eggs haven’t always had a stellar reputation, scientifically speaking. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the popularity of eggs plummeted about 40 years ago, after the American Heart Association developed guidelines that warned against cholesterol consumption.

After years of study, however, the advisory committee that oversees the U.S. dietary guidelines is ready to lift those warnings. Turns out that cholesterol doesn’t have a clear-cut or consistent effect on humans. In other words, it’s complicated.

“This sort of shift in thinking about the chemical makeup of eggs is a great example of what we call the ‘Nature of Science’ here at VISTA,” says Dr. Molli Logerwell, VISTA Secondary Teacher Program instructor at George Mason. “One of the tenets of the Nature of Science is that scientific knowledge can change over time.

“As science learns more, whether about the impact of cholesterol on heart health or anything else, we have to change how we think, too.”

So whether you’re planning to dye a basket of them or just eat some scrambled with breakfast, eggs are back in vogue.


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