The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Eggs Finally Get a Break

Have you ever noticed that the stuff we all like to eat is the stuff the government “experts” say is going to kill us and that the things they say we should consume in order to extend our lives are the things that we'd all rather die than eat? I mean, do they ever really know what they're talking about?

Case in point: the Federal Food Folks have suddenly done a one-eighty and now the once loathed and hated egg is back in the good graces of the “experts” who formerly condemned it as the source of all the evil, artery-clogging, heart stopping cholesterol in our diets.

“Eggs are bad for you,” a generation was told. “Don't eat more than one or two a week or you'll just drop over dead of a heart attack.” “The cholesterol in eggs will kill you.” “The only good part of an egg is the white. The yolks are deadly.” Etc., etc. And throngs of people believed this nonsense. After all, if science says it, it must be true. Never mind logic. Never mind the fact that humankind has been consuming eggs since the first curious caveman decided to give the hard ovoid object that dropped from the nether regions of a chicken a try. I actually gag at the thought of how many eggs my grandfather used to eat for breakfast nearly every day. I like eggs, but that man could flat wear out a laying hen. And he ultimately died of a heart attack. But he was in his eighties and had been healthy as a horse up until shortly before his death. I suppose junk science would have allotted him a lifespan on a par with Methuselah's if he had just laid off the eggs.

The “experts” who are now being forced to eat their words about eggs are the same “experts” who spent years screaming about the carcinogenic properties of saccharin. They fed egregious amounts of the stuff to lab rats, who ultimately developed bladder cancer. Mind you, nobody could ever directly link the saccharin to the cancer, but that didn't stop the junk scientists from claiming that anybody who drank a saccharin-sweetened soft drink was gonna just turn up toes and die from bladder cancer. Of course, not wanting to see anybody die from cancer caused by something they voluntarily ingested, the Good Food Fairies in Washington waved their magic wands and made saccharin go away.

I had an aunt in those days who absolutely lived on “Tab,” a saccharin-sweetened soft drink. I'll bet the woman drank a gallon of it a day for most of the 1960s. And, sure enough, she died of cancer. Oh, her bladder was fine. You see, she also smoked two packs of cigarettes every day and it was her lungs that did her in. Funny about that big blind spot in the vision of those government officials in charge of banning things that are hazardous to our health.

Anyway, eggs are back! Let the people rejoice! And not only are they back, but they're actually good for you! What's the rationale behind this miraculous restoration? To what do the “scientists” and “researchers” attribute this marvelous recovery?

Duhhhh, we dunno.”

Wait a minute! You were so sure for so long that eggs were going to kill us all, and now you tell us that they're going to un-kill us based on nothing more than, “Ooops! Sorry about that!?”

That's about the size of it. The government's new dietary guidelines, which they change more regularly than they change their collective underwear, now recommend eating eggs because they are lower in cholesterol than previously believed and higher in vitamin D. So, backpedaling vigorously away from the “more than one or two a week will kill you” stance, the Federal Food Folks now say that an egg a day is A-okay!

Seems the guys in the lab coats recently went out to a dozen farms around the country and tickled a bunch of chickens. Then they sent the eggs off to be analyzed. Lo and behold! They found out that a large egg only contains about 185 milligrams of cholesterol, down considerably from the 215 milligrams in the eggs they tested ten years ago. And vitamin D levels in those eggs rose significantly from 25 IU (International Units) to 41 IU.

So here comes the USDA doing the “Church Lady” sketch from Saturday Night Live: “Never mind.” Eggs are evil? “Never mind.” An omelet will be your undoing? “Never mind.” Throw away the yolk and only eat the egg white? “Never mind.” One or two eggs a week? “Never mind.”

You mean now it's okay for me to eat the part of the egg that actually contains all the nutrients? The part the “experts” have been telling me to avoid?

Duhh, yep. That's right. Sorry about the misunderstanding.”

See, the egg people have been telling us for years that the egg is nature's perfect food. Remember “the Incredible Edible Egg?” They've been trying to talk us all down from the ledge to which the panic mongers drove us by reminding us that, yes, eggs contain cholesterol, but the body requires certain levels of dietary cholesterol in order to function. You can't just eliminate cholesterol from your diet and still be healthy. But that's not what the fanatic fringe wanted to hear, so they just kept on beating the egg, so to speak.

The “experts” formerly on the anti-egg side are at a loss to explain their new findings, saying that maybe there is something fundamentally different about the way chickens are fed or bred or something. They literally do not know. But at least they've owned up to their mistake.

"Evidence suggests that one egg per day does not result in increased blood cholesterol levels, nor does it increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy people." Thus sayeth the current Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

A large egg contains 70 calories, 185 mg of cholesterol, 6 g of protein, 4.7 g of total fat, 1.6 g of saturated fat, 71 mg of sodium, and 41 IU of vitamin D. That last part is particularly important since there are very few food sources that contain measurable amounts of vitamin D.

Among the other things people have been frightened into giving up all these years is choline, an essential nutrient that contributes to fetal brain development and helps prevent birth defects. Choline also aids brain function in adults by maintaining the structure of brain cell membranes, and it is a key component of the neuro-transmitter that helps relay messages from the brain through nerves to the muscles. Muscles which, by the way, are aided in their development by the protein contained in eggs. And eggs contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which help prevent macular degeneration. Eggs also contain B vitamins, vitamin E, vitamin A, potassium, folate, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, iron, and zinc.

And guess what? Most of those goodies are contained in the yolk, the part the “experts” have been telling us to throw away. The only thing the white is really good for is protein, which it splits pretty much evenly with the yolk. (3.6 g in the white vs 2.7 in the yolk.)

I don't know what all this means for the panic peddlers or for the makers of egg substitutes and I don't really care since I never bought into the hoopla to begin with and I've never used an egg substitute in my life. I keep going back to the logical part of my mind, which, as I said at the outset, has always told me that people have been eating eggs for millenia. And yet we have survived as a species, so how bad can they be?

Does all this mean that I will now go out and eat eggs six at a time like my grandfather did? No. I'll stick to having two scrambled eggs for Sunday brunch and maybe an occasional poached egg during the week. And I'll continue to use whole eggs in cooking and baking, just as I always have. Only now I get to stick my tongue out and go, “nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah” while I do it.

I eagerly await the day when the Federal Food Fools figure out that man has been consuming the smoked flesh of pigs since before recorded history began. Maybe then they'll stop bitching about nitrates and nitrites and I'll be able to enjoy my bacon along with my newly approved eggs.

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