Thursday, 16 December 2010

Eggs With 22x More Healthy Omega-3's?

I'm always amazed how many people overlook the importance of what an animal was fed and how that relates to the nutritional benefits of that product.

Eggs are a perfect example.

As you probably know, our egg supply in the US comes mostly from factory farm chickens that not only live in horrendously unhealthy conditions for the chicken, but also fed an unnatural diet of grains that SEVERELY affects the nutritional qualities of the eggs for your health.

I've been digging around on this topic for a long time, and here are some interesting things I've found:

In general, the regular eggs you get at the supermarket (that are fed grains and are from factory farms) contain anywhere from 30mg to 80mg omega-3 fatty acids per egg (depending on egg size, variety of hens, exact ratio of feed, etc)

However, hens allowed to roam freely outdoors and/or fed a diverse feed of greens, mixed vegetables, bugs, grubs, worms, etc can contain anywhere from 300mg to 700mg of omega-3's per egg.

One such study came from a Dr. Simopoulos who analyzed the omega-3 vs omega-6 content of eggs from a farm in Greece where the chickens roamed freely and ate a variety of natural foods such as greens and bugs/worms.  These eggs were compared against analysis of "supermarket eggs" fed a typical grain diet in the US.

The eggs from the free roaming chickens in Greece had an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 1.3 to 1 while the "supermarket eggs" had a horrendous omega-6/omega3 ratio of 19.4 to 1.

As for total omega-3 content per egg in Simopoulos' report, the eggs from the free-roaming hens in Greece had 300 mg of omega-3's per egg, while the "supermarket egg" had a lowly 30mg of omega-3's per egg.

I've also been reading the inside of egg cartons at grocery stores lately and comparing notes on their label claims of omega-3 fatty acids.

The egg producers recently have been catching on to the public's knowledge of the reduced omega-3 content in mass produced eggs... so certain brands have now been "fortifying" the hens diet with feed additions higher in omega-3's to help balance out the excess omega-6's found in eggs from grain-fed hens.

Usually, this fortification occurs by adding either flax seed or an algae meal (or fish meal) to the hens feed. The hens eat more omega-3's and that produces a higher omega-3 content in the eggs.

Some of these so-called "omega-3 eggs" have label claims anywhere from 100mg omega-3's to 250mg omega-3's...  Definitely better than the 30mg omega-3's found in the typical "supermarket eggs".

I also stumbled onto a specific brand of eggs recently that touted that it's hens are fed a patented feed mixture of 20 different vegetables, grains, and minerals. Because of the diverse diet that these hens are fed, their measured omega-3 content is listed as 660mg omega-3's per egg, as well as a perfect 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3.

This is 22x the omega-3 content of the grain-fed "supermarket egg" that contained only 30mg omega-3's in Dr. Simopoulos' report.

That just shows how powerful of a difference in the nutrition composition that occurs simply by feeding the hens a proper diverse diet. And we haven't even touched on the nutritional content of vitamins, minerals, caratenoids, etc that will obviously be higher in a healthy hen fed a diverse diet as opposed to a factory farmed hen.

However, that's only a small step in the right direction. Even these egg companies with new label claims of increased omega-3 content still doesn't guarantee that the hens were raised in an outdoor environment, and allowed to roam freely instead of being confined in cages and kept indoors in filthy conditions their entire lives.

Keep in mind that "cage-free" doesn't always mean that the hens actually go outside... according to some reports, it only means that there is a small door somewhere that the hens COULD go outside if they found the small door and were smart enough to venture through it. This could vary vastly from company to company.

This is supposedly a loophole in the whole cage-free labeling system. I'm not sure if there's any way currently to know IF the chickens actually ventured outside even when they're labeled "cage-free".

So what are the best options?

1. By FAR the best option is if you can find a local farmer where you KNOW that the hens are actually outdoors most of the time and allowed to eat a natural diet with high variety. These will be the superstar eggs in terms of nutritional quality.

This could be at farmers markets or even farmers that deliver to urban areas (which I've found in every state I've lived, so it's not impossible).

2. Okay, I understand that not everyone will be able to find a local farmer or a farmer that delivers eggs from happy hens that roam freely eating what chickens were meant to eat...the world isn't perfect...

So, the next best option is to read the labels on egg cartons and see if it sounds like the hens were fed a highly variable diet (instead of just grains).  Sometimes this can come from algae meal or flax seed, etc added to their diet.  This is at least an improvement over standard supermarket eggs.

Despite what you may hear from some so-called "health experts" who say that all eggs are equal, these types of eggs WILL have nutritional benefits compared to your typical supermarket eggs.

Also, look for organic as well as antibiotic and hormone-free if possible. "Cage-free" may or may not always be an improvement depending on the company.

And lastly, if you read articles or hear people telling you that whole eggs are unhealthy because of saturated fat and cholesterol, please tell them (in a nice way) to GET A CLUE!

That's not how it works... here's a previous article I did about whole eggs vs egg whites, which also touches on the saturated fat and cholesterol topic:

Feel free to fwd this newsletter to your friends or family that would enjoy today's eggs article.

Til next newsletter,
Eat clean and stay lean.

Mike Geary
Certified Nutrition Specialist
Certified Personal Trainer
Founder -

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