Top Twenty Healthiest Foods #18 Eggs

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fried-egg

Eggs are among the most nutritious foods you can eat, yet for some years the public were being advised to drastically reduce their consumption of eggs because egg yolk contains a high level of cholesterol and could therefore increase the risk of heart disease. More recently, this view has been dismissed by most medical authorities, since some cholesterol is vital for a healthy body and eggs are high in HDL or “good cholesterol”. NHS advice now is that there is no recommended limit to the number of eggs we should eat, although on occasions GP’s may advise a limit for an individual patient. Other medical sources caution some moderation, notably for diabetics.

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Along with the high levels of HDL, eggs are also a good quality source of protein, helping to maintain stronger teeth and bones and promote muscle health. They also contain vitamins A, B12 and D as well as choline, folate, iron, iodine and phosphorus, all of which provide a range of benefits for health. The healthiest eggs of all are those enriched with Omega 3 since these do even more to promote brain health.

As well as these benefits, eggs are also low in calories, filling and cheap – although price can vary according to how the egg was produced. In the UK eggs are stamped according to how the hens have been bred and reared: 0 for organic; 1 for free range; 2 for barn and 3 for cage. Tests have shown that hens allowed to live on grass and eat their natural diet produce a more nutritious egg. Nevertheless, it is more expensive to keep hens this way, which is reflected in the price of their eggs. In the 1990’s there was a scare that most eggs contained salmonella, but this risk receded now that many hens are vaccinated against it, although evidence supports the claims of organic egg farmers that the salmonella risk is linked to intensive cage farming so their hens may well not need vaccination. Even so, some risk is attached to eating dishes made with raw or partially cooked eggs (including soft-boiled) so they are best avoided by young children, pregnant women and the sick. Very fresh eggs carry least risk.

In cooking, eggs are an extremely versatile ingredient with a huge range of uses. They are an essential part of most cakes and many desserts as well as being a staple food in savoury dishes. Even more commonly, they are eaten by themselves for breakfast, lunch or dinner either boiled, fried, poached or scrambled.  No wonder the UK consumes more than 12,500,000,000 eggs per year – that’s roughly 192 per person.

Ideas for enjoying eggs

Eat them fried as part of a traditional “full English” breakfast – though poaching is a low-fat healthier option.

Serve poached or scrambled eggs on toast with mashed avocado or grilled tomatoes or spinach or chopped smoked salmon. A soft-boiled egg with bread and butter “soldiers” is another perennial breakfast favourite.

Beat two or three eggs together with a drop of milk and fry in a non-stick pan with a little oil to make an omelette. Turn the omelette half way through to cook the other side. It can be flavoured with whatever you fancy, perhaps something from this list: cheese, tomato, mushroom, herbs, ham, onion. Or you can make a thicker version using left over cooked vegetables and oven cook it. The Spanish potato tortilla version is delicious, or lovely recipes can be found under “frittata”.

Deliciously flavoured quiches can be made by pouring the omelette mixture and ingredients mentioned above onto a lightly baked pastry base.

Hard-boiled eggs team well with salad and can be easily sliced for sandwiches. Alternatively, they can be mashed in mayonnaise to make a sandwich filling. Or a boiled egg in its shell is an easily portable, filling and nutritious snack.

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At Easter make decorated boiled eggs part of your celebration so you cut down the chocolate a bit!

Beat with milk and plain flour to make sweet or savoury pancakes (traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday).

Use hard-boiled eggs with fish and rice in kedgeree recipes.

Mix beaten eggs with cottage cheese and chopped coriander then cook in ramekins for a starter or light lunch.

Use eggs in hollandaise sauce for variations on Eggs Benedict or serve it on asparagus or broccoli. Or make Bearnaise sauce to accompany steak

Make your own mayonnaise.

Mix eggs with crème fraiche and ingredients such as grated cheese, tuna, chopped tomato and herbs to make savoury muffins baked in the oven.

Combine eggs with milk or cream and a little sugar to make egg custard or crème brulee. For a more filling dessert, use the egg custard to make bread and butter pudding.

Use egg whites to make meringues or Pavlova. A meringue topping finishes off lemon meringue pie and Queen of puddings.

Make a mousse which can be flavoured with many different things: salmon for a savoury one and chocolate for a sweet might be favourites.

Curry eggs for a tasty vegetarian dish or use them to garnish Biryani dishes.

If you have the time and patience, prepare home-made pasta.

Use eggs as a key ingredient in cake-making, notably a deliciously light Victoria sponge, cupcakes or muffins. Fat-free sponges are another possibility.

If you have other tasty ideas for egg recipes, please comment below.

You can read about the other Top 20 Healthiest Foods here.

Carrots     Broccoli     Yoghurt     Pineapple     Oily fish

 

How to Overcome Fear of Flying (aviophobia)

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Planes at Logan Airport - Constitution Beach - East Boston - 2014-06-01

I know what it’s like to dread flying: to book yourself onto a holiday then spend weeks of sleepless nights imagining all the dreadful things that might happen; to feel fear that you’re going to embarrass yourself and your family by throwing some kind of loud, wild panic attack at the airport; to sit on the plane in a state of rigid tension responding to every slight noise the plane makes, every tiny grimace on the face of the steward, every message that the pilot does or doesn’t give out.

I existed in this state for about 30 years, but I’m pleased to say that I have now overcome this fear without hypnosis, drugs, therapy or the expense of attending a fear of flying course (although of course I realise that all these things can and do help many people.) It’s been a gradual process, but I’ve got there in the end. I recognise that some people’s fear of flying takes a more serious form and causes them more distress than mine did, but nevertheless I’d like to share my approach, in case it can help someone else – one of the estimated 10% of the western world who suffer from aviophobia – even a little.
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How to Improve your Memory

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memories

How to Improve your memory

When I was a child I found it easy to remember things: faces, names, tiny details of insignificant events, many of which I can still recall fifty years later. Learning French and German vocabulary at school came quite naturally – often I only needed to see the word once for it to stick in my memory.

But how very different things are now! It’s a struggle to remember faces and places and there’s absolutely no chance of remembering a name, date or appointment details. As for foreign languages (which I still enjoy studying): I have to work so hard to remember any new vocabulary that I find it quite discouraging to even try.

I’ve read that the human brain is limitless, that its capacity to store data is huge, and that our brains don’t necessarily perform worse as we get older, but they may be better at some things and worse at others. For instance, although it becomes harder to store new information, our long-term memory actually improves as the years go by. Maybe we just need to try new ways of remembering new things. So I’ve done some research, asked around and come up with a list of methods that can be used to improve memory recall.
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Making precious memories: Thomas Hardy’s poems

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violin

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Thomas Hardy  has always tended to be better known for his novels than for his poems, but among the hundreds of poems he wrote on a wide range of subjects, there are some very memorable ones. This has always been one of my favourites:

The Self-Unseeing

Here is the ancient floor,

Footworn and hollowed and thin,

Here was the former door

Where the dead feet walked in.

 

She sat here in her chair,

Smiling into the fire;

He who played stood there,

Bowing it higher and higher.

 

Childlike, I danced in a dream;

Blessings emblazoned that day;

Everything glowed with a gleam;

Yet we were looking away!

Hardy here is describing a scene from his childhood: it’s a family occasion with his father playing his violin as the young Thomas dances and twirls and his mother looks on smiling. The last two lines are the most poignant since they carry the message that this family time was a very precious moment  but, sadly, they had not appreciated this at the time. Continue reading

What’s changed in the last 20 years?

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Technology

Last week it was the twentieth anniversary of the day my dad died: inevitably a time for looking back, but also for pondering on what’s happened between then and now. So much has gone on in the family – the kids have grown up and married; a grandchild has been born – but it also struck me just how much in my daily life involves things Dad would know nothing about. Here are just a few:

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Top Twenty Healthiest Foods #3 Pineapple

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pineapple

Of all the fruits, pineapple has to be the most refreshing, sweet and delicious. In my childhood it was usually only available in tins, but now whole pineapples can be bought quite cheaply in supermarkets almost all year round.

It’s great that we can now have fresh juicy pineapple whenever we fancy it, but even more wonderful that this most succulent of fruit has a whole range of health benefits.

How unusual that something which tastes so sumptuous is so good for you!
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What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?

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Now the better weather’s here, there should hopefully be some time for at least most of us to take a break and relax a little. As spring is gathering momentum, it’s a good time to get outdoors and – well – do nothing. Just have a look and enjoy  the natural world around you.

Technically, this poem by  W.H. Davies may not be the greatest, but I’ve always appreciated the sentiment expressed in it and the poem is certainly eminently memorable and quotable. Over the years, the opening two lines have often popped into my head at times when I know I need to slow down and get some perspective in my busy life.

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