Heart Healthy Eggs
Eggs are on my list of perfect foods. They are packed with protein and nutrients, quick to cook and delicious. Purchasing high quality eggs is essential for getting the most nutrition possible. Labels can be confusing, but it simply comes down to understanding the life of the hen. In short, you want to purchase "pastured" eggs. I'll explain...
Until fairly recently, you could only find conventional eggs in the grocery store and you had to visit a farmer's market to find pastured eggs (and pay triple the price). Conventional eggs come from chickens who live their entire lives in warehouses lined with rows of tiny, overcrowded cages where each hen is allotted 67-86 square inches, less than a sheet of standard paper. These hens never see the light of day or extend their wings and can hardly move. They are fed low quality grain-based feed and at times are completely deprived of food for 1-2 weeks to force additional egg production, known as force moulting. Conventional eggs are considered one of the most inhumane food products we consume. Since their feed is void of anything fresh or green, their eggs are lacking vital nutrients.
On the contrary, pastured and certified humane eggs are from hens who live outdoors, free to roam and eat their natural diet of greens, clover, and bugs. To receive "pastured and certified humane" labeling each hen must have 108 square feet of outdoor space! Because of their natural diet, they produce eggs which are higher in omega-3, vitamin E, vitamin A, and beta carotene. The yolks of pastured eggs are bright orange and a rich source of nutrients, such as vitamins A, D, E, K, and B12. The high nutrient and omega-3 content of these eggs make them a heart healthy source of protein. As for cholesterol, the DGA (Federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans) officially removed limitations for dietary cholesterol in 2015 stating, "Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption." Today pastured eggs can be found in popular health food stores and the price has come down significantly.
Be wary of other misleading egg labels such as omega-3, cage-free, and free-range. The only real difference between conventional and omega-3 eggs is the hens are fed a diet high in omega-3, typically supplemented with flax seed. Cage-free means the hens are given at least 1.5 square feet of space each and they are not caged. These hens live in crowded warehouses without access to the outdoors. Free-range eggs are from hens given at least 2 square feet per bird and allowed access to the outdoors, although there is no guarantee they actually go outside. Under none of these circumstances do the hens eat a natural diet of greens and bugs. Again, look for "pastured."
What others have to say about eggs…
Gary Taubes, author of Good Calories Bad Calories, says “Dietary cholesterol… has an insignificant effect on blood cholesterol. It might elevate cholesterol levels in a small percentage of highly sensitive individuals, but for most of us, it’s clinically meaningless.” (19)
Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, describes eggs as “…perfectly nutritious: loaded with protein, vitamins, minerals, and the lecithin that helps us digest fat easily. The yolks contain as much protein as the whites and much more additional nutrition.” (145)
Rebecca Katz, author of numerous health-minded cook books points out a “huge study of 121,000 women [which] suggested that eating three eggs a week during adolescence dropped the risk of breast cancer by 18 percent. Other components of eggs, such as choline and lecithin, improve brain and gallbladder function.” (35)
Susan Allport, author of The Queen of Fats, brings our attention to “…the work of William Connor at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland and [other] studies that have found no association between egg consumption and either heart disease or serum cholesterol levels.” (141)
Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, emphasizes the importance of buying eggs from farms that allow their chickens “to eat bugs and graze on green pasture” as well as the benefits of these nutrient-rich eggs for the development of brain, nervous system, and visual function in babies and children. (605)