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Eggs are a staple of many spring celebrations. Here's the right way to boil them

Updated April 15, 2022 at 1:09 PM ET

Celebrations of spring — both religious and secular — almost always include eggs. These symbols of creation, fertility and rebirth are also extraordinary little nutrition packages, and are present in many of the things we eat.

The average large chicken egg provides 75 calories and 6.3 grams of protein in addition to calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus and zinc. An egg also has about 5 grams of fat and 200 milligrams of cholesterol.

Is that too much cholesterol — the source of the egg's unhealthy rep? Probably not. Most cholesterol is produced in our own bodies, and although there is a correlation between high cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart attack, there's no direct causative link between cholesterol from outside sources and heart disease. Eating six eggs for breakfast every day is probably excessive, but eating a couple of eggs on occasion won't hurt.

With the exception of protein, most of an egg's nutrition is contained in the yolk, which contains three quarters of the calories and most of the nutrients. The white, on the other hand, is mostly water (one of its purposes is to provide water to the growing embryo) and proteins. The white also serves as a cushion protecting the yolk/embryo and has both antibacterial and antiviral characteristics. In fact, an egg that hasn't been contaminated before the shell forms will keep safely for two or three days without refrigeration and as long as a month if refrigerated.

Eggs are one of the few foods in Western cuisine that play an equal role in both sweet and savory dishes. Custards in the form of a quiche are typically savory, but custards are also sweetened to make pots de creme or flans. Souffles, too, may be sweet or savory. Eggs also add richness and texture to sweet (lemon curd) and savory (hollandaise) sauces.

Despite assertions to the contrary, the color of an egg's shell indicates nothing about its content and is determined by the hen's breed. Whether brown, white or blue-green on the outside, eggs are nutritionally the same, and flavor is primarily a function of freshness and the hen's diet. However, it is true that old eggs will float while fresh eggs will sink in fresh water. It's also true that older eggs are easier to peel when hard-boiled than fresh eggs.

There is a lot of lore associated with the egg, in addition to its role as a symbol of spring. In Chinese mythology, the universe began as an egg containing the god Pangu; and in Finnish myths, the world was created from fragments of duck egg. Eggs also feature in the creation stories of other cultures around the world from Africa to Polynesia.

And if you've ever wondered which came first, eggs existed long before chickens evolved. In fact, novelist Samuel Butler noted that "chickens are an egg's way of making more eggs."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kevin D. Weeks