Are eggs healthy for us or not? Well it depends on where the egg came from. Authentic organic pastured eggs are a healthy source of complete proteins and other nutrients that support memory, eyesight, development and cardiovascular health. They’re also less likely to carry salmonella.
Eggs also contain carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for eyesight, choline for memory, tryptophan and tyrosine which help with the prevention of cardiovascular disease. The cholesterol in eggs is important for health and does not adversely affect your serum cholesterol levels.
To reap the benefits of eggs it’s important to realize that they are not all the same. How the chicken is raised greatly affects the quality and health benefits of the eggs. The nutritional profile of chickens and their eggs raised in concentrated feeding operations are inferior to chickens raised in a free-range pasture. They are also less likely to be contaminated with salmonella.
As a consumer we have to be aware of where and how our food is raised. Unfortunately loop holes exist that allow companies to masquerade as free range and organic. If labeled cage free it does not mean they are being raised in an ideal clean environment. There is a significant difference between cage free and having access to the outdoors versus free range. With so many loopholes and lack of transparency it can be very confusing.
Large concentrated animal feeding operations account for 80 percent of the organic egg market. Less than 9 percent of hens raised in the U.S. are raised without cages. The organic label simply means the hens have been raised on organic feed and does not indicate that they have been humanely or sustainably raised.
Concentrated animal feeding lots are hotbeds for salmonella. About 1 million Americans are sickened and some 380 die from salmonella infections each year making contaminated chicken and eggs as the most common source. These chickens are diseased and are constantly needing antibiotics to live. Unfortunately, these practices affect the quality and health of the chicken and their eggs which are passed on to humans when we consume them.
So what can we do to protect ourselves and ensure we are getting the best quality eggs possible? Besides raising your own chickens and eggs, your next best option is to source them locally either from an organic farm or farmers market. Buy organic and make sure the chickens are allowed to roam free outside in the sunshine. What the animal eats and the condition of their environment greatly affects the quality and nutrition value of our food. Farmers markets are a great way to learn how your food is being raised and where it comes from with a direct relationship with the farmer. So stay local, ask questions and as always – be your own best health care advocate.
Dr. Heather Yost