In the spring season eggs are often taking center stage. There are countless uses for the wondrous egg -- from a breakfast essential to colorful icons for Easter fun. With so many options for this spring staple, this article may help you evaluate labels on an egg carton so you can make the best choice.
What is the nutritional value of an egg?
Each large chicken egg typically contains approximately 75 calories, 5 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein, and 13 different essential vitamins and minerals. The egg white is primarily protein, while the egg yolk contains fat, cholesterol, some protein, vitamins and minerals. Eggs can be a very healthful addition to a well-balanced diet.
The nutritional value of an egg does not vary based on the color of the egg, the length of time the chicken has spent outdoors or whether the egg is organic or not.
The nutritional value can vary only slightly depending on egg size, as well as the diet fed to the chicken who laid the egg. For instance, some brands of eggs boast high Omega-3 fatty acid content (commonly known as a “good fat”) because those chickens are given a feed that contains more Omega-3 fatty acids.
So how many eggs should you eat a day? A large egg yolk has about 186 mg dietary cholesterol, so people with high blood cholesterol levels, heart disease or diabetes are cautioned to limit egg yolks to 2- 3 per week or less. The egg white has no cholesterol, so can be used more often. For a diet without any restrictions, the recommendation is to alternate between eggs and other healthy high protein foods.
What is the difference from an organic egg and a conventional egg?
When an egg is sold as organic, it has standards for the feed provided, medication administered and welfare of the hens. They are fed organic feed that is produced without genetic modifications (GMOs) or the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. The chickens cannot be given antibiotics in their water or feed unless there was a case of an infection.
USDA organic egg-laying hens must have access to the outdoors. Forced molting by food restriction is prohibited. Forced molting is a process to increase egg production and quality by altering the reproductive tract of a chicken. This occurs by placing the hens in a more confined area, introducing stress, and withholding food and/or water for extended periods of time. This can be a common practice in non-organic egg producers.
How much space is a chicken given?
Free range or free roaming hens must have housing with unlimited access to food and water along with access to the outdoors. However, in the U.S. there is no standard as to how much time they spend outdoors. The outdoor area should include plant vegetation and have sunshine access.
Cage free (also called barn-roaming) hens must have housing in an enclosed communal area with unlimited access to food and water — they may or may not go outdoors. Eggs sold without these labels may be housed in cages with limited ability to roam and may be allotted a specific amount of food and water.
Pasture-raised or pastured eggs are laid by hens that are allowed to hunt and graze outside on their natural diets. These hens likely spend the most amount of time outdoors.
There are many egg choices available to meet both nutritional needs and personal ethic choices. Eat up!
To learn more about how you can eat healthier, visit TMH.ORG/EatHealthy.