A guide to eating healthy eggs

Eggs can become a confusing subject. Should we eat them? Some studies have shown that there is no evidence of any association between egg consumption (up to two a day) and the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke in healthy men or women. Then there are other studies which claim that eating even an egg a week increases your chances of having a heart attack.

I think that it all boils down to the quality of eggs that we eat and of course in moderation, about 4 a week. So here goes… what really matters when it comes to buying healthy, nutritious eggs? They do say that first came the grass, then the chicken and then the egg.

When it comes to eggs, it turns out that the grass holds significant importance as it has more to do with both the health of the chicken which lays the eggs and the nutrients we receive from those eggs.

In order to help you make more informed choices when it comes to buying eggs, here’s some information that explains the differences between “organic,” “free-range,” or “cage-free,” and “pastured eggs” in hopes of clearing up any confusion you might have when looking at labels.

In Cyprus we don’t get “pastured eggs” unless you have access to someone who lives in a village and has hens running around their plot of land or you have your own hens.

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CONVENTIONAL EGGS

Conventionally produced eggs are usually from hens in cages or in large houses.

The caged layer houses are highly mechanized, and the eggs gently roll out of the cages and are carried by conveyor belts to a central area where they are washed, graded, candled and packaged. Many people are concerned about the crowding of the hens in this type system as well as waste management.

FREE-RANGE OR CAGE-FREE EGGS

Hens that are considered “free-range” are generally raised in a permanent shelter where they sleep at night and lay their eggs, but are allowed to freely go in and out at will.

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USDA definitions allow ‘free range’ hens to be raised in large houses, with access to a small (20×20) concrete outdoor area. These free-range hens do not have access to grass and only a few actually use this outdoor area due to their social restrictions.

ORGANIC EGGS

Organic eggs are from hens fed a diet of organic grains. However, they may or may not be cage-free or pastured, so read labels carefully.

PASTURED EGGS

Pastured eggs are those eggs from hens raised out on green pasture. Eggs from pastured hens have been shown to be two to 10 times more nutritious than the eggs from caged layers.

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In a study published by Mother Earth News in November 2007 that showed that pastured eggs contain the following when compared to conventional eggs:

• 1/3 less cholesterol

• 1/4 less saturated fat

• 2/3 more vitamin A

• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids

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• 3 times more vitamin E

• 7 times more beta carotene

 

Do you eat eggs often? What type do you usually buy? What is the most important factor in your egg purchase?