The egg hunt, Stone Age style

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

March 2007

It must have been fun for kids in the Stone Age to go egg-hunting. Just think of the variety when you're so close to nature. At Easter time a modern, creative 4-year old can come up with unusual colors and patterns after impatiently dipping his specimen into each color at least twice. Even so, it's nothing like the spots, speckles and whorls as well as the variety of colors that decorated the eggs of scores of bird species that flitted and flew around ancient hunter-gatherers.

One of the healthiest characteristics of the Stone Age diet was its variety and eggs are the perfect example. A prehistoric egg-lover might find herself climbing along an ocean cliff in search of sea birds' nests whose eggs are sharply pointed so that they won't tumble off the rocky ledge. Or she might creep slowly over a gravely path to pick out plover eggs that are almost indistinguishable from the pebbly soil on which they were laid. These eggs were fertile, of course, and perhaps somewhat chewy if the hatching date was approaching.

Supermarket eggs are pretty dull by comparison. Even the newer designer eggs with their lower cholesterol and higher omega-3 fat content are a distant second to nature's inventory. I'm willing to bet that there's a vast flavor difference among eggs of quail, duck, seagull, ostrich and crow. (I'll pass on the last one.)

In spite of these reminiscences, the modern standard egg is still a nutritional bargain. The white portion is almost pure protein and a complete one at that, which means that it contains all of the amino acids that the human body requires but cannot manufacture. Only 4 or 5 eggs will provide the average-sized person with at least the daily minimum of protein needed for maintaining important structures.

The yolk consists mostly of fat, including the infamous cholesterol. The truth is that eating a couple of eggs 3 or 4 times a week won't bump up your blood cholesterol level nearly as much as the accompanying bacon, sausage, ham and butter will. A couple of eggs will contribute only about 120 mg. of sodium, or 5 percent of the recommended daily limit.

An egg is not exactly a vitamin storehouse but it's a pretty good source of vitamins A, D, E, B1, B12 and folic acid.

What about organic eggs? The government's National Organic Program rules require that birds must eat an organic, all-vegetarian diet that is free of antibiotics and pesticides. Organic hens are not caged and must have access to the outdoors.

Considering how they come into the world eggs are pretty safe foods, although it has taken a great deal of effort on the part of the industry to make that so. More than a decade ago eggs were a major source of illnesses due to Salmonella bacteria, germs that were particularly dangerous to the very young and the very old. Better monitoring and cleaning methods have reduced the risk but no one should eat raw eggs unless they have been pasteurized.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him at drphil@stoneagedoc.com.