I think it’s safe to say that eggs are having a moment in the food world right now. With popular diets like Paleo and Whole 30 pushing high protein, grain-free foods, eggs fit the bill perfectly. But is it possible to eat too many? And what is the best kind to buy?
At about 70 calories each, eggs pack a great nutritional punch. They are filled with protein, iron, vitamin D and B vitamins. Although, egg yolks are high in cholesterol. One large yolk contains approximately 200 mg of cholesterol. It was previously recommended to limit dietary cholesterol to 300 mg per day. However, research has failed to show a strong link between dietary cholesterol (what you consume in food) and blood cholesterol levels. A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating one egg a day was not associated with an increase in blood cholesterol or heart disease. This means that you definitely have the green light for consuming 1 whole egg per day. If you are a 2-3 egg per day kind of person its possible that this amount is safe for you, but I would recommend getting your cholesterol levels checked. Another option would be making a scramble with one whole egg and two whites. I don’t recommend tossing the yolks completely because many of the healthy nutrients including vitamin D and iron are found in the yolk.
Now that you know you can safely eat eggs daily, let’s discuss the best kind to buy. Brown or white? Organic or Cage Free? Some of these labels are meaningful and others are much more of a marketing scam. Let me break it down for you.
Cage Free. What comes to your mind when you hear the words “cage free?” I think about happy chickens roaming free in their outdoor chicken coup. That’s a pleasant thought, but it’s likely not true. Cage free simply means the chickens are not kept in a small cage. These chickens typically live in a large crowded warehouse and do not have access to the outdoors. Debeaking is a commonly used practice so the chickens do not peck each other to death.
Free Range. Free range is slightly better than cage free. These chickens must have access to the outdoors. Meaning they live in a warehouse, but they do have access to the outdoors for an unspecified amount of time.
Organic. I don’t think it is necessary to eat all organic food, but if you are concerned about animal welfare, organic eggs are a better choice. For eggs to be certified organic they have to meet requirements that are regulated by the USDA. They can’t be caged, must have access to the outdoors, are fed an organic vegetarian diet and not given growth hormones or antibiotics. Unfortunately, practices such as beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted.
Certified Humane. This is actually the best choice for eggs, but it is not readily available in all grocery stores. Certified Humane eggs meet all the standards of organic plus strict regulations such as the amount of space each animal gets, proper ventilation and food, and forced molting is not permitted.
Brown Eggs vs White Eggs. Same nutrients, different hens. Brown eggs are not healthier than white.
Omega-3 Eggs. This is the one type of egg that is nutritionally different. The chicken feed is supplemented with a source of omega-3’s, usually flax seed or oil. Therefore you get some omega-3’s in your chicken egg. Unless organic or otherwise specified they are raised the same way as conventional chickens.
Nutritionally, organic eggs have not been found to be superior to conventional ones. So it’s more of a personal choice which type of egg you choose to buy. If you are on a tight food budget than buying the cheapest eggs in the store might be the best option for you. If you are concerned about animal welfare then I would encourage you to buy Organic or Certified Humane.
Heather Mason is a Registered Dietitian who holds a Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science. She has a passion for debunking nutrition myths and helping people discover delicious and healthy food. You can read more posts from her on her blog, Nutty Nutrition.