Are All Eggs Created Equal?
As discerning consumers, the majority of us know that buying organic free range pastured eggs are safer and healthier for us than consuming non-organic, barn laid or worse still, cage-laid eggs. We know organic eggs are superior in nutrient content and they typically contain:
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- two times more omega-3 fatty acids
- three times more vitamin E
- seven times more beta carotenethan conventionally produced eggs.
The myth, eggs as a source of saturated fat, causes increased cholesterol levels and promotes heart disease is finally being debunked, along with a number of other claims that vindicate animal sources of saturated fats as “the enemy”.
Back in 2014 Heart of the Matter, on the ABC’s TV program Catalyst, confronted many decades of misleading and biased research surrounding this controversial topic. I highly recommend viewing this two-part special.
One of the major concerns with conventionally produced eggs is the marked increase of omega-6 fatty acids. For example – organic eggs from hens allowed to feed on insects, worms and green plants can contain omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in the beneficial ratio that Mother Nature intended – approximately one-to-one.
But commercial eggs from supermarkets can contain as much as nineteen times more omega-6 than omega-3. This is concerning because increased levels of omega-6 can contribute to inflammation in the body. This is due to their pro-inflammatory properties – whereas omega-3 fatty acids are rich in anti-inflammatory properties
Are all organic eggs created equal?
An even more pressing question is whether some organic eggs are healthier and safer for us than others.
The answer is yes – depending on what the hens are fed. The nutrient content of certified organic hens – fed on certified organic grain – is not going to be as superior as certified organic hens that are allowed to feed only on open pastures – consuming natural worms, insects and plant life. Remember hens, like cows, were not designed to eat grains – they are designed to eat and graze on natural living organisms.
So while a certified organic hen is free from GM (genetically modified) feed, and the use of antibiotics and hormones, they may still be exposed to organic grain, such as corn and wheat. This type of feed is exactly what disrupts the omega-3 to omega-6 ratios and alters the nutrient profile of the egg.
The same consideration needs to be taken when sourcing meats, simply choosing “certified organic” isn’t enough if the cattle are fed on organic grains. Whilst we minimise our exposure to harmful fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides, we are still taking in a saturated fat with increased ratios of omega-6 from grain-based feeds. It is this altered composition in the animal fat that poses a threat on our health, not the “fat” itself.
With this new found knowledge we can appreciate just how important it is to go beyond the discernment of just purchasing “organic”, and really question where our food comes from and what processes it has been through to reach us.
How to eat your eggs for maximum nutrients
Ideally you want to consume eggs raw but only if they’re pastured organic, as conventionally raised eggs are more prone to contamination with disease-causing bacteria such as salmonella.
Cooking destroys many nutrients. Scrambling eggs is one of the worst ways to eat eggs as it actually oxidizes the cholesterol in the egg yolk. If you’re not comfortable eating eggs raw – then soft-boiled or soft poached is the next best option.
Separating the egg whites from the eggs and consuming only the egg white isn’t the healthier option. Not only do we need the fat contained in the yolk to metabolise the protein of the egg white but a controlled diet of only raw egg whites can lead to severe biotin deficiency. Why? Because when you consume raw egg white alone, without the yolk, a component in them called avidin binds to the B-vitamin biotin, potentially creating a deficiency in your body.
Despite what you’ve heard, eggs which are fresh and have an intact cuticle do not need to be refrigerated as long as you are going to consume them within a relatively short period of time.
Ways to check eggs for freshness and quality
Regardless of where you get your eggs from, there are several guidelines to ensure that you’re buying and consuming fresh, high-quality eggs:
Always check the freshness of the egg right before you consume the yolk. If you are at all uncertain about the freshness of an egg, don’t eat it. If there is a crack in the shell, don’t eat it. This is one of the best safeguards against salmonella infection.
You can easily check for this by immersing the egg in a pan of cool, salted water. If the egg emits a tiny stream of bubbles, don’t consume it, as the shell is porous/contains a hole.
Eggs that are stored in the fridge and opened immediately after taking them out will seem fresher than they actually are. At the very least, eggs should be kept outside the fridge for at least an hour prior to checking them for freshness or opening them.
To check for freshness, first roll the egg across a flat surface. Only consume it if it rolls wobbly. Alternatively place the egg in a bowl of water if the egg sinks to the bottom – it is fresh. But, if the egg sinks to the bottom and stands on its point, it is still good but needs to be used soon. If the egg floats to the top, do not use it.
Finally – crack open
Open the egg and see if it is good to use.
If the egg white is watery instead of gel-like, don’t consume the egg. If the egg yolk is not convex and firm, don’t consume the egg. If the egg yolk easily bursts, don’t consume the egg.