Eggs are easily my favorite breakfast food. On a very rare occasion I will temporarily lose my taste for them for a week or so, but 9/10 I’m picking eggs for breakfast over something sweet. They leave me feeling full and satisfied all morning, and energized for my morning walk/workout and tasks. They are also incredibly versatile, going well with so many different types of sides or toppings.
Eggs got a bad rap for a while, mostly for their cholesterol content, but also their fat content. Everyone was all like, “don’t eat egg yolks, egg whites only, egg substitute only, just don’t.” Man, the 90’s were weird. Fat phobia became a very real thing in the the waif model era and the rise of fad diets. But fat, and even cholesterol have some serious positive effects on our body. Thankfully, many studies and reports these days applaud the things that good fats and cholesterol do for us, meaning many people have added it back to their diets. In addition to fat and cholesterol, eggs have a high profile list of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
So did eggs get wrongfully demonized for their nutritional value? I think so. But dare I say conventional eggs have been rightfully demonized for their production process? Yes.
By nature, chickens are foragers. While a roaming chicken does eat grass, it also eats small field animals and insects. By eating a variety of foods, the chickens are healthier, have a stronger microbiome, and pass on more nutrients to eggs. Why does this matter? Because with commercial farming, the chickens don’t get to forage, in fact they live a life thats the epitome of the opposite of foraging. They are kept in enclosed buildings, packed into small spaces, and forced to only eat a GMO feed, thus not absorbing vitamin D from the sun, not getting a variety of nutrients, and are given antibiotics to keep from getting sick.
For this reason, I suggest looking for eggs that have the Certified Humane label, free-range organic or, even better, that say they are pasture-raised. These chickens are allowed to forage and eat as they please and sometimes also fed a non-GMO feed. They roam in the grass and sunlight, and thus produce eggs with much higher levels of Vitamin A, E, omega-3 fatty acids, slightly less cholesterol and increased beta-carotene. Additionally, free-range or pastured hens with extended access to sunlight have 3-4 times the amount of Vitamin D in their eggs. You can actually observe the difference in conventional vs. free-range vs. pastured eggs by looking at the color of the yolk. The darker/orange-ier the yolk, the more nutrient dense it is. Conventional eggs tend to be a pale yellow, while pastured are a vibrant orange-yellow.
So what are the nutritional benefits of high quality eggs? For one, they possess every B vitamin (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 12, biotin, choline, and folic acid). Choline is especially important as many American’s don’t receive enough choline in their diet, a nutrient crucial to liver function, brain health and metabolic health. Eggs also have Vitamin D, which aids the absorption of Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium; all important to bone health. The omega 3 fatty acids in eggs are important for cardiovascular health and lowering inflammation. Eggs do also contain omega 6 fatty acids, which can be seen to increase inflammation, but a pasture raised egg has a markedly lower omega 6 content. Iodine and selenium are also found in eggs, and are two nutrients that many people struggle to get enough of. Selenium is an antioxidant, improves thyroid function, and helps to increase fertility. Eggs are also a complete protein, meaning they are a source of all of the essential amino acids.
The short of it: high quality eggs are pretty powerful, and provide so many important nutrients to our body. My three favorite ways to eat them?
- Over easy on toast with avocado or cream cheese and greens.
- Scrambled with a side of potatoes and organic bacon
- Hardboiled with a pinch of sea salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper.
Now I know that buying high quality eggs can definitely be more expensive and a privilege that’s unfortunately not afforded to all. But if you can afford or have access to pastured eggs, its important on a personal health and global health level to support the better practices. It’s also a lot harder for farmers to raise pastured eggs than commercial eggs, but it does matter and its important to support these farmers. One cheaper way to get high quality eggs, just as getting higher quality produce, is to find a local farmer who raises his/her chickens well. Often you can find pastured eggs for a small price higher than commercial if you look for these small family owned farms. Again, I know that urban dwellers may not have this option. If pasture raised are out of the question, then look for organic or at least free-range. As with produce, even slightly improving the quality of the food you consume is better than not at all.
As a health coach in training, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to go about suggesting organic or humanely raised foods, because again, I know that it’s a privilege to be able to even think about the nutritional differences let alone buy the higher quality items. But at the end of the day, I’m trying to create a ripple effect on not just a personal health level, but also on a global health and sustainability level. While I want and plan to help all people, I’m also very passionate about improving the standards of our food supply, and thus will try to find ways for higher quality foods to fit most budgets, if it means sacrificing organic in other areas, or buying frozen produce over fresh.
Let’s keep this discussion going, email/message me if you have any advice or tips for how you work your grocery budget to fit higher quality or organic foods.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read, friends!