Egg prices are on the rise due to an ongoing bird flu epidemic limiting supply, and although they are still safe to eat, many people are looking for alternatives to reduce costsas experts say, it may take months for prices to fully normalize.
Customers aren’t just looking for swaps for their morning omelets, they’re also looking for alternatives to include in cake batters and other baked goods, as well as egg substitutes like ground flax seeds and water. , tofu, or plant-based liquid eggs. substitutes.
But while they can mimic the texture and feel of an egg, these substitutes aren’t a one-for-one nutritional swap, nutritionists say.
“For years, there have been staple foods that we as dieticians and health professionals have recommended to people, such as eggs,” Brooklyn-based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Maya Feller told ABC News. “All of a sudden, we’re talking about a luxury food.”
While Feller says she believes egg substitutes are a great option for people who don’t want or can’t eat eggs, because eggs are a nutritious “powerhouse,” their substitutes may not nutritionally unmatched.
Eggs provide complete protein with all of the essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein in our bodies that we can’t produce on our own and must get from food, Feller said. Eggs are also rich in key micronutrients like vitamin A and various B vitamins, including riboflavin, she says.
Eggs also contain choline, which is important for various vital bodily functions, such as liver function and metabolism. Other antioxidants in eggs are linked to decreased inflammation and a lower risk of health problems, including certain eye diseases.
Many nutrients in eggs are concentrated in the yolk. The yolk also contains cholesterol, but the idea that the cholesterol in eggs is harmful is somewhat outdated – although it’s important to think about this in the context of your wider diet and lifestyle. , explained Feller. The American Heart Association recommends one egg a day.
Nevertheless, some egg alternatives may provide nutritional benefits.
Some substitutes are more useful exchanges for cooking. Alternatives suggested by cooks include flax seeds and water, chickpea flour, mashed bananas and tofu. Each of them comes from different food groups and offers distinct nutritional benefits.
Flaxseeds, according to United States Department of Agricultureare a rich source of omega-3 fats, an unsaturated “good fat” that has protective effects against heart disease and stroke, among other health problems. It is also a good source of fiber. The amount of protein per daily recommended serving of one to two tablespoons of flaxseed is less than that of an egg.
Tofu, on the other hand, which is made from soybeans, is an excellent source of complete protein. Similar to eggs, the protein that makes up tofu contains all the essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own. It is also an excellent source of calcium, vitamin B and iron, according to USDA.
Some companies, like Just Egg, also make plant-based egg substitutes that may look like omelets or scrambles. These plant-based alternatives are typically made from protein isolates from various legumes and contain about the same amount of protein per serving as a standard-sized egg.
But many of the nutrients found in eggs, such as vitamin A, calcium and iron, are not found in these products.
“It’s not one-to-one,” Feller said, adding that they can be a good substitute “as long as you get those minerals from another source.”
For plant-based consumers replacing eggs as part of a vegetarian or vegan diet, it can sometimes be difficult to get these micronutrients. Feller said a multivitamin supplement is a good solution.
Despite the high prices, eating eggs is also still an option. The risk of contracting avian influenza from purchased poultry or eggs is very low, given the measures in place to cull birds when the virus is suspected and the national regulatory processes in place to ensure that the products arriving in your grocery stores are safe.
The Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention and USDA recommend proper handling and processing of poultry and uncooked eggs when cooking to protect against not only bird flu, but all possible viruses and bacteria. This includes washing hands before and after handling raw ingredients, sanitizing counters and cutlery, and thoroughly cooking raw foods (which means reaching 165 F for poultry).
To better incorporate eggs into your diet amid rising prices, think of creative ways to get the most out of them, Feller recommended.
Try stretching your egg by incorporating it into a dish or adding other healthy ingredients like vegetables, potatoes or a sprinkle of low-fat cheese. The fat from eggs can help your body absorb certain vitamins found in vegetables, making it a great pairing, Feller said.
These additions are ways to get more “for your nutrition money,” she added.
Eden David studied neuroscience at Columbia University and is currently a third-year medical student and a member of ABC News’ medical unit.