Friday, August 17, 2012

Eggs...To Eat or Not to Eat, and What Kind?

About 13 years ago I was sitting at a small table in a kitchen in Romania.  My husband and I were helping out at an orphanage for a week or two, and enjoying the breakfast that had been made for us.  I will never forget the taste of those eggs, and briefly wondering why all eggs didn't taste like this.  Apparently what I had been buying didn't come close to the amazing fresh taste from those eggs.

Eggs have been in a battle for the last few years.  At first eggs were healthy, then they were too high in cholesterol, and now are they are healthy again?  A bit confusing to say the least!  So in an attempt to clear up some questions here we go...

As far as I have researched it does seem that eggs are in fact good for you.  However, just as with meat, the amount of health benefits that you will get from an egg depends largely on how the chickens that laid them were raised and what they were fed.



eggs - 2
(Photo from stock.xchng)

Calories and Macronutrients

Two large eggs contain 150 calories, including 12 grams of protein, 2 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of fat. Three of those fat grams are saturated fat. Two eggs also contain 426 milligrams of cholesterol.  (source)


 What makes eggs so good for you is that they are a complete source of protein (click here to read more on complete protein, why we have to have it, and what else we can eat that has it), they are a natural source of vitamins, and a natural source for vital minerals for our bodies.  Also eating an egg or two for breakfast will help you to feel full longer than just eating a carb loaded breakfast.

Back to the chickens that laid them.  The eggs can only have whatever nutrients are provided to them from the chicken.  The ideal nutrients for a chicken come from them eating grass, grains, flax and bugs.  The omega-3 in their diet goes into the eggs making them a natural source of omega-3's (typically ALA).  Omega-3 can help reduce the risk of heart disease, perhaps balancing out some of the cholesterol naturally.  That makes for a nutrient loaded egg.

Two are Eggland's Best the rest are Free-Range
If a chicken is feed only soy, corn, or even worse some left over animal parts, then they aren't going to be able to provide the same level of nutrients into the eggs.  These eggs are often lacking in Omega-3 unless added artificially, which often makes them taste slightly fishy (Eggland's Best).

An easy way to spot a more nutrient filled egg is by checking the color of the yolk.  If the yolk is a nice dark yellow your egg should be pretty nutritious.  However, if the yolk looks pale yellow then it probably isn't as nutritious as some other brands.

I did an egg study of sorts.  I bought several different kinds of eggs over a couple weeks, then examined their yolks.  From best to worst in quality and price here they are:

Best:  Trader Joe's Organic Cage-Free Eggs  $4.59/ dozen
These eggs are fed non-gmo food which also has no chemicals on it.  They are cage free which means they get to roam around getting at least some of their nutrients naturally, which adds to their Omega-3 value.  From chickens that are never given hormones, anti-biotics, and are only vegetarian fed.  Nice dark colored yolks.  Very tasty.

For a more budget friendly purchase, skip the organic and go with Trader Joe's cage-free brand for about $2.79/dozen.  From chickens that are never given, hormones, anti-biotics and are only vegetarian fed.  Still nice dark yolks from cage-free birds.  Very tasty.

Ok:  Eggland's Best   about $2.79/ dozen
These eggs had a nice dark color, however it was probably added in a sense, as they somehow add fish oil into the eggs.  This does allow the eggs to have the nutrients of Omega-3's, but leaves the eggs not quite as tasty as it being there naturally.

Preferably Not:  Bargain Brand Eggs  ($ cheap at the check out, but more cost to your health)
These are the eggs that are light in color and are also light on having any real taste.  They are also likely to have been fed rather poorly and have a lower amount of Omega-3's to offer.  Having a diet high in cholesterol, and low in omega-3's, could put a person in danger of heart disease.

I haven't mentioned free-range chickens because I wasn't impressed with those eggs.  I am sure they come from a variety a sources, but the ones I tried were left lacking.  Out of 8 yolks only 2 were darker and the others were all light in color.  Not worth the extra money in my opinion.  Apparently there are very loose definitions as to what "free-range" means.  It means that the birds have to have access to the outside, however that can be as broadly defined as the chickens being in a screened in porch area, according to my research.

People often wonder if a brown egg is healthier than a white egg, they are in fact nutritionally identical.  Here's a fun bit of information to know:
The color of chicken eggs is determined by materials which are deposited while the eggs develop inside the hen's oviduct. Some chickens deposit white pigments, while others deposit brown pigments, and some chicken breeds like the Aracauna and Americauna lay blue to green eggs, just to add to the color spectrum. The original predecessor of the chicken, the Red Junglefowl, lays cream-colored eggs. Different egg colors appear to have developed over the course of centuries of breeding. (source)
My preference are the Trader Joe's cage-free *, however in a pinch I would buy the Target cage-free ones, they just don't come with the same guarantee of no hormones, antibiotics and vegetarian fed that the Trader Joe ones do.  Or I would buy Eggland's Best.  The Trader Joe and Target one's are a reasonable price, and they are pretty tasty!

As far as how many eggs you should be eating that really varies from person to person.  If you have high cholesterol or other health conditions you should probably check with your doctor about amounts.  Each egg has a days worth of cholesterol in it.  So maybe one a day or two every other day.  Do what works best for you, your health, and your palate.

To keep you from getting bored with eggs here are a few recipe ideas!




Picture from www.livestrong.com



*I have ammended the above post concerning Target's Cage-Free eggs.  Each retailer gets their eggs from a variety of sources, however there should be some degree of consistency.  This morning I used a large number of the cage-free Target eggs.  The yolks were so pale I really don't think I've ever seen any that have been paler than these, and therefore in my opinion they're not worth spending the extra money on.

















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