The nutritional content of eggs varies. It all depends on how the chicken is raised. When you’re at the store it’s difficult through the marketing campaigns to decipher which one is going to be the healthiest for you. There’s also been so much controversy over the last few years about whether or not eggs are a healthy addition to our diet. So let’s look at eggs closely.
First of all, a local farmer’s market is going to be your best bet in getting the healthiest eggs unless you are raising your own chickens!
When you go to the farmer’s market, ask the farmer how the chickens are raised: Are they in a grassy pasture? Are they fed organic feed? Is their diet vegetarian — which means they are NOT fed hormone filled animal by-products? Does the farmer use antibiotics in the raising of the chickens? If you get “yes” “yes” “yes” and “no” to those questions, then buy that farmer’s eggs.
Here’s a graph (from the 100 Days of Real Food website – giving credit where credit is due!) that gives explanations to some of the wording you’ll see on eggs packaging.
|Certified Organic||The birds are kept uncaged inside barns or warehouses, and are required to have outdoor access, but the amount, duration, and quality of outdoor access is not at all regulated (therefore it could be minimal and low quality). They are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides, as required by the USDA’s National Organic Program.|
|Free Range, Free Roaming||This indicates that shelter was provided with unlimited access to food, fresh water, and the outdoors (which may be fenced and/or covered). This label is regulated by the USDA, but there are no specific requirements around the duration or quality of outdoor access. So let’s face it – this could simply mean there is an opening to a small, crowded dirt yard.|
|Cage Free||This label indicates that the chickens were able to freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water. Note: No outside time provided or specific requirements around how many chicken per square foot.|
|Vegetarian Fed||These birds are not fed animal byproducts, but this label does not indicate anything about the animals’ living conditions (i.e. caged vs. outside time) or what else they are fed.|
|Pasture Raised, Pastured||Due to the number of variables involved, the USDA has not developed a federal definition for pasture-raised products. Generally speaking though, “pastured” means the animals had access to a green field (not just any field) and in turn likely provide high-quality nutritious products. But since this term is not currently regulated there is no way to know for sure unless you directly ask the farmer (at the market).|
|Natural||“As required by USDA, meat, poultry, and egg products labeled as ‘natural’ must be minimally processed and contain no artificial ingredients.” However, the natural label does not include any standards regarding farm practices – i.e. how a chicken is housed and fed – and only applies to processing of meat and egg products.|
Some people are eating only the egg white. However, if that’s all you’re eating, then you’re missing out on the healthy Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamins A, D, E, K, B, and other minerals like Calcium and Iron. So don’t skip the yolk in your eggs. Please eat them!
|Nutrient||Egg White||Egg Yolk|
|Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium||10-25%|
|Vitamins A, D, E, K||0%||100%|
|Vitamins B5, B6, B12, Folate, Choline||10% or less||90% or more|
|Calcium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper, Iron||10% or less||90% or more|
Graph from whfoods.org http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=92
Eggs are a low glycemic index food which is good but they are also low in fiber. So, when eating an egg, instead of pairing it with ham or bacon, pair it with higher fiber foods like spinach, bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms. An omelet with these ingredients would make a EGGSellently balanced breakfast!