How To Choose And Eat Eggs For Their Optimum Nutrients
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Why Eat Eggs? They’re Great for Your Heart Health
There is a major misconception that you must avoid foods like eggs, which are high in saturated fat, to protect your heart. But I believe eggs are a nearly ideal fuel source for most of us. The evidence clearly shows that eggs are one of the healthiest foods you can eat, and can actually help prevent disease, including heart disease.
Previous studies have found that:
- Consumption of more than six eggs per week does not increase the risk of stroke and ischemic stroke5
- Eating two eggs a day does not adversely affect endothelial function (an aggregate measure of cardiac risk) in healthy adults, supporting the view that dietary cholesterol may be less detrimental to cardiovascular health than previously thought6
- Proteins in cooked eggs are converted by gastrointestinal enzymes, producing peptides that act as ACE inhibitors (common prescription medications for lowering blood pressure)7
- A survey of South Carolina adults found no correlation of blood cholesterol levels with “bad” dietary habits, such as use of red meat, animal fats, fried foods, butter, eggs, whole milk, bacon, sausage, and cheese8
As for how to eat your eggs for optimal health, ideally, the yolks should be consumed raw, as the heat will damage many of the highly perishable nutrients in the yolk. Two raw egg yolks have antioxidant properties equivalent to half a serving of cranberries (25 grams) and almost twice as many as an apple. But the antioxidant properties are reduced by about 50 percent when the eggs are fried or boiled, and reduced even more if they’re microwaved.9
Additionally, the cholesterol in the yolk can be oxidized with high temperatures, especially when it is in contact with the iron present in the whites and cooked, as in scrambled eggs, and such oxidation contributes to chronic inflammation in your body. For this reason, scrambled eggs are one of the worst ways to prepare eggs if you want them to be healthy.
Quality Matters: How to Choose High-Quality Eggs
Free-range or “pastured” organic eggs are far superior when it comes to nutrient content, while conventionally raised eggs are far more likely to be contaminated with disease-causing bacteria such as salmonella. This is why, if you’re eating raw eggs, they MUST be organic pastured eggs.
An egg is considered organic if the chicken was only fed organic food, which means it will not have accumulated high levels of pesticides from the grains (mostly GM corn) fed to typical chickens. Ideally, the chicken should have access to the outdoors where it can consume its natural diet.
Testing has confirmed that true free-range eggs are far more nutritious than commercially raised eggs. In one egg-testing project, Mother Earth News compared the official US Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs with eggs from hens raised on pasture and found that the latter typically contains:10
- 2/3 times more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta-carotene
The dramatically superior nutrient levels are most likely the result of the differences in diet between free-ranging, pastured hens and commercially farmed hens. If you’re purchasing your eggs from a supermarket, be aware that labels can be very deceptive. The definitions of “free-range” are such that the commercial egg industry can run industrial farm egg-laying facilities and still call them “free-range” eggs, despite the fact that the birds’ foraging conditions are far from what you’d call natural.
For example, regulations on the use of the term “free-range” do not specify the amount of time the hens must spend outdoors or the amount of outdoor space each hen must have access to. Nor do they indicate that the hen must have access to a pasture diet. True free-range eggs, now increasingly referred to as “pasture-raised,” are from hens that roam freely outdoors on a pasture where they can forage for their natural diet, which includes seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.
Large commercial egg facilities typically house tens of thousands of hens and can even go up to hundreds of thousands of hens. Obviously, they cannot allow all of them to forage freely. They can still be called “cage-free” or “free-range” though, if they’re not confined to an individual cage. But these labels say nothing about the conditions they ARE raised in, which are still deplorable.
Try Buying Your Eggs Locally
The key to finding truly free-range, pastured eggs is to buy your eggs locally. This is typically even preferable to organic eggs from the grocery store. About the only time I purchase eggs from the store is when I am travelling or for some reason I miss my local egg pickup.
Finding high-quality organic eggs locally is getting easier, as virtually every rural area has individuals with chickens. If you live in an urban area, visiting the local health food stores is typically the quickest route to finding the high-quality local egg sources.
Farmers markets and food co-ops are another great way to meet the people who produce your food. With face-to-face contact, you can get your questions answered and know exactly what you’re buying. Better yet, visit the farm—ask for a tour. If they have nothing to hide, they should be eager to show you their operation.
Dark Orange Yolks Are a Sure Sign of Quality
You can tell your eggs are free range or pastured by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you’re getting eggs from caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.
Cornucopia.org offers a helpful organic egg scorecard that rates egg manufacturers based on 22 criteria that are important for organic consumers.11 According to Cornucopia, their report “showcases ethical family farms, and their brands, and exposes factory farm producers and brands in grocery store coolers that threaten to take over organic livestock agriculture.”
Two years ago, I visited Joel Salatin at his Polyface farm in Virginia. He’s truly one of the pioneers in sustainable agriculture. Also, contrary to popular belief, fresh pastured eggs that have an intact cuticle do not require refrigeration, as long as you are going to consume them within a relatively short period of time. This is well known in many other countries, including parts of Europe, and many organic farmers will not refrigerate their eggs.
One final caveat: I would strongly encourage you to avoid all omega-3 eggs, as they typically come from chickens that are fed poor-quality sources of omega-3 fats that are already oxidized. Omega-3 eggs are also more likely to perish faster than non-omega-3 eggs.
Article was originally published at DrMercola.com. Republished here with permission.
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