(ARA) - Egg consumption is on the rise, and not just at Easter. According to the American Egg Board, each American eats about 250 eggs annually - 20 eggs more per person every year than people were eating two decades ago. And there are many ways to enjoy eggs of all kinds of varieties, from colors to sizes to omega-3 fortified eggs.

"Eggs can be part of a healthy, low-fat diet and are a great source of protein," says registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer, author of "Eat Your Way to Happiness." "You can eat up to six eggs per week."

Eggs on the brain
Years ago Americans used to eat plenty of omega-3s. Today, given our diet of highly processed foods, we don't. Studies suggest that's a cause for concern. Omega-3s have a remarkable impact on the body, especially as it relates to boosting brain health.

Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for overall health but must be consumed from the foods, beverages or supplements we take, as our bodies cannot produce them. There are three key omega-3s: DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid). DHA offers the broadest array of health benefits, including brain, eye and heart health. EPA has been shown to support heart health, and may also be beneficial for some autoimmune and inflammatory disorders while ALA has been shown to help lower the risk for heart disease.

Many egg producers are now offering omega-3 fortified eggs because the typical American consumes only 80 milligrams of DHA daily, far less than the daily recommendation of 200 milligrams of DHA omega-3. Some populations have even higher DHA recommendations - for example, at least 300 milligrams per day of DHA is recommended for pregnant and nursing women.

"Of the three key omega-3s, DHA and EPA are the big guns; even then, DHA is by far the most powerful because DHA can be converted to EPA in our bodies. DHA-fortified eggs are a great source for getting the DHA omega-3 our bodies need," says Somer.

Some omega-3s naturally occur in eggs, but to achieve higher levels, egg producers fortify the hen's diet with omega-3s. Two common sources used are chia and flaxseed, which are rich sources of the plant-based omega-3 ALA.

To increase DHA levels in eggs, a sustainable, vegetarian source of DHA omega-3 from algae called life'sDHA is now being used. Three egg producers offering algal DHA-fortified eggs are Oakdell Egg Farms, Gold Circle Farms and ISE America. These brands contain more than 100 milligrams of DHA per egg - two eggs would meet the suggested daily allowance for DHA.

Eggs of every color
Many supermarkets are now carrying brown eggs. According to the Egg Nutrition Center, the color difference is due to the specific breed of hen. Eggs may also come in speckled, even blue finishes, but there is no nutritional difference among the hues.

Recipes
Most recipes call for large eggs. If only small eggs are available, add an extra egg for every egg the recipe calls for beginning with two. Add two extra eggs for recipes calling for five or more. For jumbo eggs, use one fewer egg with recipes calling for three or more eggs.

Hard-cooked eggs in three easy steps

Hard-cooked eggs are an inexpensive and portable snack. Despite the more common name of "hard-boiled eggs," it is better to hard cook them to ensure the yolks don't turn green, which is harmless.

1. Use eggs that are a week to 10 days old as they are easier to peel than fresh eggs. Add enough eggs to line a small sauce pan so eggs are not prone to roll into one another and crack. Cover eggs with water. Heat on high until water is just to a boil and remove from burner. Cover pan.
2. Let eggs stand for 12 to 15 minutes.
3. Drain immediately to serve warm or cool in a bowl of ice water.

The American Egg Board recommends that eggs with shells on can be refrigerated for up to one week and to store them in their original carton to prevent odor absorption. Eggs should be consumed the same day they are peeled.

Recipes reprinted with permission from "Eat Your Way to Happiness" (Harlequin, 2009) by Elizabeth Somer.

Breakfast "Burritoville":

Ingredients:
1 Mission Life Balance DHA-fortified whole-wheat tortilla
1 whole DHA-fortified egg
1 egg white
1 ounce reduced-fat cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons salsa
3 tablespoons chopped tomato
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:
Warm tortilla and fill with: one whole egg and one egg white, scrambled, cheddar cheese, salsa, tomato and cilantro.

Total DHA tally: 116 mg omega-3 DHA

Veggie Omelet:
Ingredients:
1 tablespoon Pompeian OlivExtra Plus with Omega-3 DHA
1/2 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup broccoli pieces
2 tablespoons sliced yellow onion
2 medium whole DHA-fortified eggs
1 ounce grated cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Add the oil to a medium skillet and saute the carrot, broccoli and yellow onion over medium heat until heated through but still firm. Whip together eggs and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over vegetable mixture, top with cheddar cheese, cover, reduce heat to medium low, and cook until firm (about 15 minutes).

Total DHA tally: 232 mg omega-3 DHA.Go ahead, be an egghead: fortified eggs benefit the brain
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