Eggs, What You Need to Know About Them

FLASH: Eggs are among the healthiest foods there are, but not all eggs are created equal, and sorting through the egg labels to identify the highest quality eggs can be confusing.

Health conscious consumers know to look for designations like “Organic,” “free-range,” “pastured” and “cage-free,” but while you may think many of these are interchangeable, they are not.

In some ways, these labels are little more than creative advertising.

The featured video, “Egg Crackdown,” a CBC Marketplace report by investigative reporter Asha Tomlinson, investigates the marketing of supermarket eggs 

Eggs are one of the healthiest foods around, loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals, including selenium, vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B5 (pantothenic acid), B7 (biotin) and B12, high-quality protein, iodine, vitamin D, zinc, omega-3 fats and more.

Eggs are also an important source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two antioxidants known to play a role in healthy vision and the prevention of cataracts and macular degeneration, and are one of the best sources of choline available, providing 430 milligrams of choline per 100 grams.

Choline helps keep our cell membranes functioning properly, plays a role in nerve communications and prevents the buildup of homocysteine in your blood, which is good because elevated levels are linked to heart disease.

Choline also helps reduce chronic inflammation and has been shown to lower your risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, in part due to its role in phosphatidyl choline and transporting fats out of the liver, and part due to the fact that it’s an important part of the mitochondrial membrane, and mitochondrial dysfunction is a central mechanism in the pathogenesis of NAFLD.

Choline deficiency is thought to play a major role in NAFLD because it disturbs mitochondrial bioenergetics and fatty acid oxidation. Choline also enables your body to make the brain chemical acetylcholine, which is involved in storing memories. In pregnant women, choline helps prevent birth defects such as spina bifida, while also playing a role in your baby’s brain development.

According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, only 8.03 to 0.56% of US adults are getting enough choline, including only 8.51 to 2.89% of pregnant women. Among egg consumers 57.3% meet the adequate intake levels for choline.

Based on the outcomes, the study authors concluded that “it is extremely difficult to achieve the adequate intake for choline without consuming eggs or taking a dietary supplement.”

Some of the symptoms associated with low choline levels include lethargy, memory problems and persistent brain fog. Because the body can only synthesize small amounts of this nutrient, you must get it from your diet on a regular basis.

In Summary

What we are looking for is eggs that are both certified Organic and true pasture-raised. Barring Organic certification, which is cost-prohibitive for many small farmers, you could just make sure the farmer raises his chickens according to Organic, free-range standards, allowing his flock to forage freely for their natural diet, and does not feed them antibiotics, corn or soy.

If you live in an urban area, visiting a local health food store is typically the quickest route to finding high-quality local egg sources.

Your local farmers market is another source for fresh Organic pasture-raised eggs, and is a 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 are buying. Better yet, visit the farm and ask for a tour.

Your egg farmer should be paying attention to proper nutrition, clean water, adequate housing space and good ventilation to reduce stress on the hens and support their immunity.

As a general rule, you can tell the eggs are 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 are getting eggs from caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.

An alternative: raise your own backyard chickens, both of my grandmother’s did!

Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively