Are eggs what they’re cracked up to be? Brown eggs or white eggs, Omega 3 eggs, Free run eggs, Free range eggs, Organic eggs, eggs and cholesterol, eggs and heart disease
All eggs are not created equal. I was in the grocery store trying to decide which eggs to buy. Do I buy free range eggs, organic eggs, free run eggs, omega 3 eggs, omega 3 plus eggs? Should I just get the regular eggs? If I get regular eggs, then should I buy white or brown? I had a lot of questions but no clear cut answer…or is there?
Brown or White
First of all, there is no nutritional difference between eggs that are white or brown. They are white or brown due to genetic differences in the hen that lays them–that’s all. So regular brown eggs are not superior to regular white eggs. Oh and by the way, regular caged hens are crowded and in cages, so they need to have hormones and antibiotics in the feed to prevent infection.
Omega 3 eggs
Omega 3 eggs are laid by hens that are in cage but given feed high in omega 3 fatty acids. So the omega 3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) that they feed on are also present in the eggs at higher levels. Numerous research has demonstrated that eating DHA from fish oil helps lower triglycerides, a blood fat linked to heart disease. Omega 3 “plus” eggs sometimes have added beneficial carotenoids in the feed such as lutein and zeanxanthin.
Free run and free range eggs
Free run and free range eggss are essentially the same; free run hens are allowed to roam in the barn and feed on nesting perches whereas free range hens are allowed to roam outside as well. These free range eggs laid by hens that are allowed to roam free in an open environment for a specified time should be better. What makes them better? Well let’s see…they have less cholesterol, more vitamin A and E, less than half the saturated fat content, and much more beta carotene(carotenoids) as long as the nutrients in the feed are better.(1) These carotenoids give an enhanced deep yellow color to the yolk. Remember that carotenoids are antioxidants also found in carrots, yams, and cantaloupe. These nutrients offer a protective role against early atherosclerosis.(2) But unfortunately since the feed is not certified organic, farmers are not required to avoid non-organic feed, antibiotics and hormones. Still, I would think fewer antibiotics (or maybe none) would be required since they are allowed to roam free compared to regular caged hens. The colour of the yolk is more appealing but hopefully it is not from artificial colour added to the feed.
Organic eggs are laid by hens that have organic feed and are allowed to roam free as well. So you have the benefits of organic feed and the the benefits of the hens being free range. Well, you probably could have guessed that I chose organic eggs.
The Cholesterol Question
We hear that eggs have cholesterol so they have to be avoided. But just because they contain cholesterol doesn’t mean they will increase you blood cholesterol levels. Your body makes most of the cholesterol in your blood, not from the diet. Egg have 18 essential vitamins and mineral, is a high quality protein and not excessively high in saturated fat. Each egg contains about 200mg of cholesterol. 300mg of cholesterol daily is allowed in according to heart and stroke foundations. One egg per day doesn’t increase the heart attack and stroke risk in healthy men but a study notes that diabetic men perhaps shouldn’t have too many eggs.(Less than on egg per day).
In this study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers followed 21,327 male physicians for 20 years and found that consuming eggs – up to six a week – was not linked with a greater risk of heart attack, stroke or death from all causes. But, the results were different for men with diabetes. Those who ate seven or more eggs a week compared with less than one had double the risk for all-cause mortality, presumably from heart disease.(3) Interestingly, that study also reported a relationship between egg consumption and risk of heart disease in people with diabetes. Among those with diabetes, egg-a-day eaters were a bit more likely to develop heart disease than those who rarely ate eggs.
This isn’t the first study to find no connection between egg intake and heart disease in healthy people. A previous study by Harvard’s public health determined that eating one egg a day had no overall impact on the risk of heart disease or stroke in men and women.(4)
Evidence that eating eggs increases heart disease risk is weak, there is plenty of scientific support for making other dietary modifications. Numerous studies have shown that reducing saturated and trans fats, limiting sodium intake and increasing consumption of fish, whole grains and fiber guard against heart disease.