Introduction

Eggs have been a staple in the human diet for thousands of years. From hunter-gatherers collecting eggs from the nests of wild birds, to the domestication of fowl for more reliable access to a supply of eggs, to today's genetically selected birds and modern production facilities, eggs have long been recognized as a source of high-quality protein and other important nutrients. Over the years, eggs have become an essential ingredient in many cuisines, owing to their many functional properties, such as water holding, emulsifying, and foaming.

An egg is a self-contained and self-sufficient embryonic development chamber. At adequate temperature, the developing embryo uses the extensive range of essential nutrients in the egg for its growth and development. The necessary proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and functional nutrients are all present in sufficient quantities for the transition from fertilized cell to newborn chick, and the nutrient needs of an avian species are similar enough to human needs to make eggs an ideal source of nutrients for us. (The one essential human nutrient that eggs do not contain is ascorbic acid (vitamin C), because non-passerine birds have active gulonolactone oxidase and synthesize ascorbic acid as needed.) This article summarizes the varied nutrient contributions eggs make to the human diet.

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