For years and years the poor humble egg was relegated to that demonised list of foods to shun.
Fear was it would raise cholesterol levels, leading to health issues such as heart disease. In particular, the yolks were to be avoided at all costs!
However more recent research shows that while eggs certainly are high in cholesterol, this doesn’t actually mean that eggs will adversely affect your cholesterol levels. (Research: Serum cholesterol response to changes in the diet)
Eggs are certainly a staple in our diet – yolks and all, and here are just some of the health benefits.
1. Increased good cholestorol (HDL) – this has been linked to reduced risk of many diseases.
2. Eggs are an excellent source of choline – which helps build cell membranes.
3. Eggs contain lutein and zeaxanthin – important in preventing macular degeneration.
4. Eggs from pasture-raised hens are high in Omega-3 fatty acids which lower triglycerides, a factor in reducing heart disease.
5. Eggs are high in protein and score high on the Satiety Index, and therefore very filling, reducing the need for as much calorie intake during the day. This can aid in weight-loss.
6. Eggs are little bundles of multivitamins –
One large egg contains:
- Vitamin A: 6% of the RDA
- Vitamin B2: 15% of RDA
- Vitamin B5: 7% of RDA
- Vitamin B12: 9% of RDA
- Folate: 5% of RDA
- Phosphorus: 9% of RDA
- Selenium: 22% of RDA
Okay, we are starting to get the picture that maybe eggs aren’t all that bad for you after all.
But not all eggs are created equal and with food labelling erring towards the “marketing” side as opposed to what you really get, it can be a nightmare.
There’s cage, barn-laid, free-run, free-range, organic, pasture-fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free, vegetarian…
Got a head-ache yet?
So what does all that really mean. Let’s break down some of the main egg labels.
Hens are housed in battery cages. This is the production method for conventional egg farming. The current minimum space allocation for caged birds is 450cm2 floor space per bird (less than the size of a piece of A4 paper). With on average 3–5 birds per cage, this equals about 18 hens per square metre. The small size of the cages means that birds are unable to turn around easily, stretch out, flap their wings or exercise. Cages do not satisfy the hen’s behavioural need to perch, dust bathe, forage, and lay their eggs in a secluded nest. Beaks are trimmed to prevent cannibalism.
Barn Laid Eggs.
Hens in barn laid housing systems are not confined in cages so in theory they can move around. However, high stocking densities restrict hens’ ability to move freely and exercise, and to form or know their place within the social “pecking order”. Being confined indoors restricts hens’ ability to perform the normal behaviours that provide quality of life. They are still de-beaked and the male chicks still killed.
Free-range eggs are eggs produced from birds that are permitted outdoors for at least part of the day. The term “free-range” may be used differently depending on the country and the relevant laws.
Unfortunately in Australia there is no legal definition of the term ‘free range’ when it comes to egg production. There is a voluntary code allowing for 1,500 hens per hectare which is widely ignored by the major egg producers.
In the USA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires only that the hen spends part of her time outside, and allows egg producers to freely label these eggs as free-range.
In the EU In free-range systems, hens are housed to a similar standard as the barn or aviary. In addition, they have constant daytime access to an outside range with vegetation. Each hen must have at least 4 m2 of space.
These hens are raised all or most of their lives on pasture and are moved every few days to enrich the soil; they’re free to dust bathe, scratch and forage, eating worms and grubs. Generally you can get these eggs at markets or straight from the farmer.
Hens in this group are fed a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, usually by adding flax seed to the feed. The eggs typically have double the amount of omega-3’s as regular eggs, but at about twice the price.”
For a complete run-down of everything you could want to know abut eggs – check out this infographic.