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Which Eggs are Best?

Are some eggs more nutritious than others?

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
Episode #083

Which Eggs Are Best?

It used to be that the only decision you had to make when buying eggs was whether to buy large, extra large, or jumbo. Now, you also have your choice of free-range, cage-free, organic, and eggs with extra omega-3 fats.  What kind of eggs are best? It depends on what you’re after.

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What Do “Free Range” and “Cage Free” Mean?

First, let’s talk about the terms “free-range” and “cage-free.” When you see these words on egg cartons, you probably picture chickens pecking around a grassy farm-yard, with a picturesque red barn in the background and a friendly cow named Bessie looking over the fence. However, there are no standards for the use of these terms with regard to eggs. Chickens that produce so-called free-range and cage-free eggs may in fact never see the light of day much less a blade of grass. 

The focus of today’s discussion is really the nutritional aspect of the eggs and I don’t want to get too far off-topic. But if you’re concerned about the welfare and living conditions of the birds that lay your eggs, you can’t rely on packaging claims. You need to contact the producers and ask for specifics. Generally speaking, farmers who are raising their animals the way that you’d probably hope they are, are very eager to give you all the details.

How chickens live affects their health and welfare, of course, but it’s what they eat that has the biggest impact on the nutritional quality of their eggs. The two are not necessarily related.

Are Organic Eggs Better?

Organic eggs come from chickens that are given only organic feed which has not been treated with pesticides. They are also not treated with antibiotics. And chickens are never treated with hormones, as I discussed in this recent article. For the reasons that I outline in these articles, reducing the use of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones in agriculture is definitely good for animals, good for the environment, and ultimately good for humans. But, again, these factors don’t necessarily impact the nutritional quality of eggs.

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About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show. 

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