To eat eggs or not to eat eggs, that is the question. Or is it? Instead of grouping all eggs into one basket, should we focus on what type of eggs we eat? Now THAT is the question. I’m not here to advocate for or against eggs. What I am advocating for is the quality of eggs we eat, if you choose to do so.
Let me start by saying I love eggs. There’s nothing better than a nice over medium egg with a small glass of fresh squeezed OJ on a Sunday morning . The white cooked to a nice firm consistency, while leaving the yolk slightly runny. Oh and a couple slices of sprouted whole grain toast for dipping. YUM! As with most things, eggs can be part of a healthy diet as long as they are eaten in moderation, example, I eat them about once a week. But as I’ve said in the past, I’m not a doctor and you should do you.
The truth of the matter is, all eggs are not created equal.
The most common color varieties of eggs we see at the grocery store are white and brown. But did you know chicken eggs come in a variety of other shades as well? Hundreds of chicken breeds have been developed to lay eggs in a rainbow of colors including pink, blue, green and purple. So what causes different breeds of chicken to lay different colored eggs? According to Michigan State University, egg color is determined by the genetics of the hen. All eggs actually start out white, however as they travel through the hen’s oviduct pigments are deposited giving them their unique shades.
What’s the difference between white and brown eggs nutritionally? Not much. Other than appearance, there isn’t a direct correlation between shell color and nutrition content. Some people claim brown eggs taste better than white, but it’s really a matter of preference and probably depends more on what the hen is fed as opposed to the shell color.
Types of Eggs
Standing in the egg aisle at the grocery store can be overwhelming. Cage free, organic, free-range, what does it all mean and which one’s should we eat?
Regular, or conventional eggs, are the standard eggs found at grocery stores and supermarkets. These chickens are typically confined to cages, rarely, if ever, see the light of day, often live in inhuman conditions, and are fed a diet consisting of corn, soy and/or grains. This group of chicken is also frequently treated with antibiotics and hormones. Nutritionally, a lot of red flags here.
Organic eggs simply mean the chickens received organic feed. Their diet still may consist of corn, soy and grains and this designation doesn’t specify the living conditions or the amount of outdoor access granted.
Farm-fresh eggs aren’t as appealing as they might sound, unless you are purchasing them at the farmer’s market directly from the farmer and you know the method in which the chickens were raised. Farm-fresh simply means the eggs came from a farm, but the chickens can still be confined to cages and treated the same as conventional chickens.
Cage-free means the chickens are not restricted to cages, however they still may be confined to a hen-house or barn. While quality of life is typically better than that of conventional hens, they don’t necessarily have access to the outdoors or sunlight and conditions can still be pretty poor. Cage-free chickens are also still fed a diet mainly consisting of corn, soy and/or grains.
Free-range chickens are a step up from cage-free chickens in that they are not confined to cages and they have access to the outdoors. However, how large that outdoor space is and how much time the chickens are allowed to spend in it can vary. While free-range chickens do have the ability to snack on plants and insects during their outdoor time, their diet may still include corn, soy or grain.
Pasture-raised eggs are the cream of the crop and the most nutritionally sound egg-type. This is the variety that I myself purchase. Pasture-raised eggs come from chickens who are allowed roam free, spending the majority of their time outdoors and feeding on a natural diet of plants and insects.
I task you with a homework assignment – next time you go to the grocery store, purchase a carton of conventional eggs and a carton of pasture-raised eggs. When you get home, prepare a skillet and crack one of each egg into it. You will immediately see the difference. The yolk of the pasture-raised egg is a deep, beautiful yellow and doesn’t break as easily as the standard egg yolk. This variety contains more healthy omega-3’s, vitamin D and E and beta-carotene than conventional eggs. Not only are pasture-raised eggs better for us, they are better for the environment and better from an agricultural standpoint.
Studies Conducted on Eggs
Ah, the great egg debate. One year eggs are good for us the next they’re not. So…which is it? The answer, I don’t think we don’t really know. As I’ve mentioned I’m not here to debate that topic. I would however, like to call out one of the reasons for the constant back and forth. The more we know the better equipped we are to decide what is best for us.
Often times we see studies come out that heavily sway one way or the other on a designated, often controversial, topic. It’s important to be aware of who conducted the study, as the results often times are used to further that specific group’s agenda. For example, if a study on the nutritional effects of eggs is funded by the American Egg Board, you can bet the results of that study will probably reflect that eggs have a positive benefit on our health. On the other hand, if the study is sponsored by Vegans of America, the opposite results are likely to be found.
I encourage you to do your own research, on the topic of eggs or any other topic meaningful to your life, gather your own facts and form your own opinion. You do what’s best for you.
As a reminder, I am not a doctor. If you would like to discuss your specific dietary needs please contact your physician.