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Are eggs vegetarian?

Structure of an Egg

Chickens came with Columbus to the “New World” in 1493 and have been a food of controversy for almost as long.  Eggs are not part of all vegetarian diets.  Some vegetarians, lacto-ovo and ovo-vegetarians do consume eggs and products with egg in them.  It is generally accepted that a non-fertilized egg (the kind you can buy in supermarkets) has no life in it.  

But eggs are not plant protein.  Fertile eggs do turn into baby chicks if left to hatch and so are not necessarily violence-free.  But, in theory, eggs are not the by-product of a slaughtered animal and so vegetarians continue to seek them out as a viable, healthy protein source.  Vegans, however, do not eat eggs or products containing eggs including baked goods.  

One large egg is actually a powerhouse of nutrition.  Containing about 70 calories they are an excellent source of protein and selenium and a very good source of riboflavin, B12, phosphorous and 10 other vitamins and minerals, mostly found in the yolk.  Egg yolks are one of the few foods that naturally contain an amount of Vitamin D.  

At present the American Heart Association has amended its previous egg consumption recommendations to state there is no limit to the number of eggs individuals should consume in a week.  Fresh shell eggs can be stored in their cartons in the refrigerator for four to five weeks beyond the carton’s date with minor loss of quality. Once an egg begins to age, it loses moisture through its porous shell and begins to dry. The membranes that hold the egg structure begin to loosen and the yolk may not be anchored in the center of the white once the egg is broken. An older egg would be most appropriate for a mixed dish, a batter or a hard cooked egg which should be easier to peel than a freshly laid egg.  

Eggs can be used in a variety of vegetarian recipes.  These include omelets, scrambled eggs and quiches (with limitless kinds of fillings: peppers, salsa, cheese, herbs, spinach, onion, asparagus, and more!), egg salad, poached eggs, deviled eggs, french toast, flan, pastry crème and ice cream, and homemade mayonnaise.

Finally, as a vegetarian you can make the decision to eat or not to eat eggs.  They are affordable, excellent sources of protein that can be used in a variety of ways.    

Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe (better than any kind from a jar!)
    * 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
    * 1/8 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
    * 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus more to taste
    * 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    * 3/4 cup good olive oil

   1. Place the egg yolk and salt in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add the lemon juice and mustard; blend well. With the motor running, add the oil, drop by drop. This will take a few minutes. Don't rush it or the mayonnaise may "break," meaning the oil will separate from the egg. (Note: If your food processor has a small hole in the feed-tube pusher, pour the oil in there and let it drip through.)
   2. Once you've added the oil, sample the mayo and add more salt or lemon juice to taste. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Stir before spreading.


  • Rachael-Buffalo Frugal Living Examiner 5 years ago

    Niki - thank you for a such an informative article. I've added a link to your column to my yahoogroup.

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