The U.S. 2015 Dietary Advisory Committee is set to drop its recommendation that eggs should be restricted from the diet. Finally. For many in the alternative medicine community this revelation that eggs are not harmful is not new news.
Eggs concerns revolved around the pro-inflammatory fats and cholesterol content in eggs yet at least one review as late as 2013 found no correlation between egg consumption and coronary heart disease or stroke. Authors surmised that weak associations have been found between dietary cholesterol influences on serum cholesterol and weak or little association between dietary cholesterol intake and cardiovascular disease risk.It seems that everyone's response to dietary cholesterol is different. Moreover several studies have shown that egg consumption favors the formation of larger LDL and HDL particles which might enhance protection against atherosclerosis.
Eggs actually provide great nutrition when both the yolk and the white are consumed. In fact you'll miss out on some critical nutrients if you throw that wonderful yolk out. Not only do eggs provide 6 grams of protein but also all 9 essential amino acids leucine tryptophan lysine methionine phenylalanine histidine isoleucine and threonine. A majority of this protein is housed in the egg white along with modest amounts of potassium sodium and magnesium. However the yolk provides an abundance of other water-soluble vitamins and minerals alongside the well-known fats. Egg yolks are particularly rich in choline an essential nutrient for brain and cell membrane health. Choline is the precursor to acetylcholine a neurotransmitter involved in memory tasks attention and mood. It is also a primary compound of phospholipids maintaining the integrity of cell membranes. An average adult should consume approximately 400 to 500 milligrams of choline each day and one large egg provides approximately 126 milligrams. Other notable water-soluble nutrients found within the egg yolk include vitamin B12 folate selenium phosphorus iron zinc and calcium.
Perhaps the most notorious nutritional element of the egg yolk is its rich fat content. Let us not forget that this brain-empowering fat also provides the optimal vehicle for carrying fat-soluble vitamins as well. Yes egg yolks house an abundance of cholesterol but it is because of this fatty environment that eggs can provide absorbable forms of fat-soluble vitamins A D and E. However the levels of these nutrients are highly dependent on the diet and lifestyle of the chicken giving rise to the interest in pasture-raised organic eggs. With the increasing knowledge of the importance of cholesterol omega-3 fatty acids and fat-soluble nutrients in brain immune and cell health chicken growers have experimented with supplementing chicken feed with nutrients that would boost omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D in egg yolk. The USDA tested numerous eggs in 2010 and found they were 64% higher in vitamin D than eggs tested in 2002 as a result of supplementation. Supplementation although easier and albeit more convenient for producers is not the only answer for obtaining rich fat-soluble nutrients in egg yolks. When chickens are allowed to roam and forage in green pasture the various grasses encountered can boost the levels of fat-soluble vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids naturally. Researchers at Penn State University discovered that eggs from pastured hens contained double the amount of total omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E compared to commercial eggs. Additionally vitamin A concentrations were 38 percent higher. Vitamin A and its derivative beta-carotene produce a characteristic yellow-orange color which explains why egg yolks from pastured eggs often have a richer colored yolk.
For the average consumer attempting to gain the best nutrition from their food choices something as simple as purchasing a carton of eggs can turn into a whirlwind of confusion and questions. Countless labels and ambiguous definitions can frustrate even the most experienced shopper. Cage-free is becoming a frequently encountered label and just means the chickens are free to roam in an enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water. Free-range on the other hand implies the same conditions and access to the outdoors. Access can be a small barn hatch and the outdoor area may or may not be fenced or netted. Natural means minimally processed with no artificial ingredients but this label and that of no added hormones is a misnomer because in the poultry industry these ingredients are not permitted due to federal regulations. 100 percent vegetarian fed implies the chickens have not been fed animal byproducts a common practice in the commercial poultry industry. Pasture-raised and humanely raised are not regulated so these claims could vary widely. Finally organic eggs are from hens that eat a vegetarian diet free of synthetic pesticides chemicals antibiotics and genetically modified ingredients. Access to the outdoors is also mandated for the organic certification; however the amount of time outdoors and the size of the roaming area are not specified.
For those purchasing eggs from the grocery store a quick education of these various labels is necessary; however the best way to ensure the purchase of fresh nutrient-rich eggs would be to purchase them from the local farmer. It is still pertinent to ask questions regarding feed and housing but most farmers will readily provide that information and perhaps even give you a personal tour so you can meet the chickens and feel good about the eggs you are eating.