There are so many options. Regular white eggs are a bargain at under $2 a carton. There are brown eggs, but you have to read the cartons to figure out what’s going on: some are organic or cage-free, some are omega-3 fortified, and then there are some labeled free-range. These brown eggs tend to be pricier, but how do we know which ones to choose?
The first thing to know is that the color of the egg depends on the breed of chicken. Their genetics determine the pigment that will be deposited before the egg is laid. Most of the time, chickens with white ear lobes produce white eggs, and chickens with red ear lobes produce brown eggs. But this is not always the case, and there are blue or green eggs that can also be laid. The main point here is that just because an egg is brown does not mean it is necessarily healthier for you.
Organic eggs come from chickens who are fed organic feed, meaning it is not treated with any pesticides or fertilizers. But, organic does not mean free-range. They can still be caged. It also does not indicate whether chickens are fed corn or grass or something else; just that no chemicals are added to their feed. This means these chemicals will not be passed onto us, which is a good thing.
Free-range or cage-free eggs come from chickens who are allowed to roam and are not kept in cages their entire lives. However, this is not very closely regulated. Chickens could be cage-free but kept in a barn all day. Or maybe they are packed into one tiny area so even though they are not in cages, they have very crowded living situations. Also, free-range or cage-free makes no indication of what these chickens are fed. Some eggs are labeled “organic free-range,” which is a better choice.
Free-range grass-fed chickens
Recently I bought farm fresh eggs from Denver’s year-round indoor farmer’s market. These eggs come from grass-fed chickens who are allowed to roam freely their entire lives in large, grassy outdoor spaces. Grass-fed chicken eggs are much more nutrient-dense than other types of eggs. They have about 4 times more vitamin D than the original white eggs you buy in the supermarket, and one thid less cholesterol. They have less saturated fat, more vitamin A, more vitamin E, more beta carotene, and double the amount of healthy omega-3 fats. The color of the yoke from a farm fresh grass-fed egg is indicative of the health of these chickens and all the nutrients they receive. These chickens are in the sunshine all day and get plenty of vitamin D, which is vital to health (read about it here).
Find out if there are any local farms that produce eggs from grass-fed chickens in your area. Often they sell their eggs at independent grocery stores or farmer’s markets. Other times you may have to meet them somewhere in the city to purchase your eggs. If this is not possible, try to buy grass-fed, organic, free-range eggs whenever possible. They are rich in nutrients and taste so much better!
Another tip: many people eat only the egg whites, because they want to avoid the fats found in the egg yokes. However, an egg is a whole food, and like all whole foods, must be eaten as such in order to get all of the health benefits. The nutrients in the whites work with the nutrients in the yoke to properly digest and absorb into your body. Without both components, some nutrients will be lost. If you are on a low-fat diet, I recommend just eating half the egg (white and yoke), rather than the entire white and no yoke. Also keep in mind that the fats in the egg yoke are wonderful fats that our bodies need and utilize to be fully balanced. It’s the processed foods and sugars that make us gain weight, not something from a food as perfect as an egg!