Being Easter-time, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about eggs and take a look in some detail at ‘real’ eggs as well as a variety which may perhaps be a little more appealing at this time of the year; chocolate eggs, which definitely get my vote!
So, first of all let’s look at ‘real’ eggs as I referred to them. Love them or loathe them, one thing for sure is that eggs have a unique chemistry and are an essential cooking andbaking ingredient. They are also an extremely varied food, coming from all sorts of sources and in a variety of colours.
Colours of eggs, while often regarded as an important element of purchasing eggs, is actually not important. Common belief is that brown eggs are healthier than white (my mother always used to tell me that!) but the truth is that the colour is not a factor – it’s the contents that matter. It is what the chicken eats and the way in which the chicken is kept that has an effect on how healthy the contents of the eggs are.
Varieties of eggs are extremely diverse. While chicken eggs are most common, duck eggs, quail eggs and even ostrich eggs can be bought for consumption. Each type of egg has a distinct flavour and chemistry. Duck eggs cannot usually be used in traditional baking recipes in place of chicken eggs, but they’re great poached on toast. Quail eggs are very small, but quickly cooked or even raw (organic only, of course!). Chicken eggs are, of course, very versatile and likely to be the most commonly used in your kitchen.
Eggs have many health benefits. They are full of high-quality protein (each egg contains 6.3 grams of protein), and are low in calories at about 68 calories per egg. They contain choline, a key component of cell membranes, especially brain cells and neurotransmitters, without which our bodies can become deficient in folic acid. An increased consumption of choline has proven to decrease inflammation, which, when it becomes a chronic problem, can lead to heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and osteoperosis. Eggs also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, two important carotenoids which help protect vision and reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration of the eyes.
But aren’t eggs supposed to be notoriously high in cholesterol? They are, but nutritionists have foundin recent years that high blood cholesterol actually comes from the consumption of saturated fat, not from dietary cholesterol. Eating one or two eggs a day is completely reasonable for someone on a healthy diet with regards to cholesterol. On the contrary, eggs are good for your heart and have been proven to help prevent blood clots thanks to the proteins within the yolk.
Eggs are one of the best and easiest sources of protein, and they are also one of the most important foods to buy organic. Not only do commercial eggs come from chickens that are fed hormones and chemical feeds, but the egg shell is extremely porous, and everything in the egg’s environment such as chicken droppings and soil filled with chemicals can enter the egg itself. Organic eggs come from chickens fed organic feed. Organic feed, without antibiotics and hormones, is very important when it comes to the quality of the eggs so it makes perfect sense to buy organic eggs, guaranteeing you the best in nutritional value. Organic eggs are now widely available from supermarkets and healthshops and are produced locally and organically by Ayia Skepi and Petrides.
Now time to move onto the chocolate variety! We all love Easter but it’s worth knowing that many chocolate eggs are loaded with preservatives and hydrogenated fats, and made with conventionally-grown ingredients. Some of the ‘cheaper’ unheard of brands of Easter Eggs that you can buy here from some stores taste appalling, probably because, suspect ingredients aside, their cocoa content is minimal. But it’s not just the taste….it’s where they originate from and the fact that there are some serious ethical concerns regarding their production. It is estimated that nearly 15,000 children work on cocoa farms in West Africa and Latin America for very little money, while hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest have been destroyed to make way for cocoa plantations. But despite the ethical qualms, our appetite for cocoa shows no signs of abating. With 40 per cent of chocolate estimated to have been grown by child labourers, one of our favourite treats can leave a bitter taste.
Chocolate is never more popular than at Easter. Thanks to concerns about the provenance of cocoa beans, Easter is neither ethical or green. But thankfully for chocolate-lovers like me, you don’t have to miss out. What’s required is a savvier, more sensible approach and buying Fairtrade and organic chocolate is the obvious way to go both from an ethical and taste point of view.
Whilst some companies such as Cadbury’s take a more ethical stance and others such as Lindt and Ferrero unfortunately have a way to go, I am delighted that at least we are able to buy organic Easter Eggs here from one of my favourite manufacturers of organic chocolate; Green & Black’s, a limited selection of which are available from Alphamega. I’m not sure whether any other brands of organic Easter Eggs are available in Cyprus – I have not seen any – however, I have tasted many brands of organic chocolate and my opinion is that the quality and taste of Green & Black’s takes some beating! If you are a real chocolate connossieur, you may have already tried raw chocolate and although not available in Cyprus, UK company offers a range of organic raw chocolate Easter Eggs which you may wish to note, although I would advise you to try raw chocolate first because although it is superior chocolate in many ways, not least for its high antioxidant levels, it is very much an acquired taste.
Whatever your choice of eggs for consumption during this festive period, have a Happy Easter!
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