What's in Your Easter Basket? - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

What's in Your Easter Basket?

The Saxon goddess of fertility, Eastre or Ostara, gave birth to the name Easter.  © istockphoto.com The Saxon goddess of fertility, Eastre or Ostara, gave birth to the name Easter. © istockphoto.com

By Lauren Brown
Provided by WorldNow

Easter is almost here, and there will most likely be one undisputed star of the show:  the egg.  Whether your dye your own Easter eggs, fill plastic eggs with candy, bake with eggs, or consume chocolate eggs and other egg-shaped confectionary treats, eggs are nearly impossible to avoid during this time of the year.  While you get ready to prepare your Easter feast, take a few minutes to learn about this delicious food item that has been part of the human diet for millennia.

The first records of people consuming eggs started appearing in 1400 B.C. in ancient Egypt and China.  In India, there are records dating back to 3200 B.C. that depict eggs consumed from wild fowl that had been domesticated.   It is also thought that on Columbus' second trip to the New World, he brought eggs from China from early chickens related to today's main egg producers.  Eggs were particularly popular once it was discovered they could serve as a binding agent in baking.  

Eggs have persisted as a symbol of fertility and new life.   The Saxon goddess of fertility, Eastre or Ostara, gave birth to the name Easter.  A number of creation myths centered around the belief that the world originated from inside of an egg.  One of these includes the Chinese myth of Pangu, which believed that the universe began with a cosmic egg.  After 18,000 years the egg hatched and Pangu died, yet the elements of the Earth were derived from parts of his body.

Because eggs were traditionally banned during Lent due to their richness-people looked forward to enjoying them finally once Easter arrived.  The tradition of decorating eggs during Easter also began centuries ago.  Dyes were created from vegetables, edible flowers, fruit, coffee tea and bark.  Their symbolism persists throughout different cultures.  In Chinese culture, red eggs are given to announce the birth of a male child.  Green Eggs are given in Germany on Holy Thursday.  In 19th century Russia, the Czar's court jeweler Carl Faberge made eggs out of gold, porcelain and crystal.  In the United States, dying of Easter eggs and the Easter egg hunt have become secular activities enjoyed by many. 

Today chicken eggs are the most widely consumed; however, you can find eggs from an ostrich, duck, goose or quail to use as a gourmet ingredient.  The egg white, or albumen, is an excellent source of protein.  The yolk contains polyunsaturated fat, which is a type of fat deemed to be an important part of a balanced diet.  There has been some debate over the risk that egg yolks pose to an increase in dietary cholesterol.  However, recent thought purports that dietary cholesterol is not directly related to blood cholesterol levels and eggs actually increase HDL or "good cholesterol," which is important in removing LDL or "bad" cholesterol" from the blood.   Studies presented at the Experimental Biology 2007 symposium  supports that eating eggs for breakfast helps promote weight loss.  

So this Easter, keep a few safety tips from the American Egg Board in mind when consuming and dying your eggs:

1)  Be sure to wash your hands throughout all stages of dying your eggs in order to avoid bacterial contamination of Salmonella

2)  Only use uncracked eggs

3) Use food-safe dye if you plan to eat your hard-boiled eggs

4)  Don't eat eggs that have been sitting out in an Easter egg hunt for more than a few hours. 

Whether you bake or boil, decorate or admire, enjoy your eggs on Easter and all year long!

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