Winter makes me nostalgic for my Edgartown childhood, for sledding at Sweetened Water Farm and ice skating on Jernegan Pond, for pink cheeks and frozen toes that didn’t bother us because we were having so much fun. It seems like when I was a kid there was significantly more snow, and more opportunity for ice skating on ponds, but probably every generation says that.

It is interesting how we remember things. As a nutritionist, my nostalgic thoughts often turn to food. Was food and nutrition simpler back then, I wonder. My family’s farm was certainly simpler than it is now — just an open roadside stand across the much less busy West Tisbury Road in Ed Tyra’s old lot. At that point we also still sold raw milk from our three Jersey and Guernsey cows, and fresh eggs from our 25 farmyard chickens out of the back door of our house.

Customers would come by for their eggs and milk in those days, leaving money in the little clay chicken holder if we weren’t home, or stop in to say hello if we were. My brothers and I knew our customers well and never thought twice about the ones we didn’t know who came into our home.

As a family, we also ate a lot of eggs and drank cream-on-top raw milk. It felt so simple, following our own rules and being self-sustainable. Eggs got a bad image back in the early 1970s (clearly my family didn’t get the memo) when the American Heart Association condemned them, specifically egg yolks, for their cholesterol content. Since then the heart association and other organizations have slowed down on discouraging the consumption of eggs, and there has been increasing evidence and research, some which came out just last week, to support what many of us have believed for many years now — that eggs do not significantly raise blood cholesterol. When taken as part of a healthy diet, the newest research suggests that dietary cholesterol has little impact on blood cholesterol.

Eggs are packed with good nutrition, and they are also relatively inexpensive, convenient, easy to buy and easy to cook. Luckily for us, on the Island we can choose from a variety of farm fresh eggs. Currently, there are 10 different farms listed on Island Grown Initiative’s website that sell eggs. These local eggs do cost slightly more than conventional, but the switch is highly worth it. Just like a fresh tomato, local eggs simply taste better. One reason is that local eggs are much fresher, usually by weeks, sometimes even months when compared to supermarket eggs.

Another reason to buy locally, not surprisingly, is nutrition. Local, humanely raised, free-range and well-fed hens naturally produce a better egg than cramped factory farms. Two small studies indicate there may even be some difference in cholesterol content (up to 70 mg less) of the eggs from pasture-raised hens. But other, larger and more credible studies, report that variance of cholesterol depends more on the breed and age of the bird than nutrition or freshness. Vitamin and mineral content, however, is more likely to be enhanced by small farming and local practices. It is thought that hens exposed to sunlight (versus factory cages) may produce eggs higher in vitamin D, and hens raised on feed that is high in omega-3 fatty acids produce eggs richer in the brain-boosting fatty acid DHA. Pastured hens may also lay eggs richer in beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin E.

So maybe, at least for eggs, we can make it simple. Enjoy them! Eat them in balance with a plant-rich diet, get creative, buy locally, and feel good about it again.

Prudence Athearn Levy is a registered and licensed dietitian living and working in Edgartown. She is co-owner of Vineyard Nutrition (