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All About Eggs

March 29, 2016 by Dean Simmons, Registered Dietitian

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Types of eggs

When did choosing eggs get so confusing? Wading through information ranging from cholesterol to farming practices can be overwhelming! Well…Let’s get cracking at learning more. Read on.

Where do Eggs Come From?

  • Mainly from egg-laying chickens, which are different from the chickens that are raised for meat.
  • Some specialty farmers offer duck and quail eggs. 

What’s the Difference Between Brown and White Eggs?

  • White and brown eggs come from different breeds of chickens.  
  • The shell colour has no relationship to the colour of the hen’s feathers.
  • Brown and white standard eggs have the same nutrients.

Why are Some Egg Yolks Darker than Others?

  • The colour of the yolk (from pale yellow to deep orange) depends on the hen’s diet.
  • The orange colour in the yolks comes from carotenoids in the feed given to hens.
  • Hens that eat corn, alfalfa or grass have eggs with darker yolks than hens that eat wheat.

Types of Eggs

There was a time when picking up a carton of eggs meant choosing between white and brown eggs.  Nowadays there are more options to choose from. How chickens are housed and fed determines much of the difference between the types of eggs available in stores.  

Cage Eggs (In BC about 75 per cent of eggs come from hens raised in cages)

  • Standard white or brown eggs: From hens that are typically raised in cages and given a standard grain-based feed.

Cage-Free Eggs

  • Free-Run Eggs: From hens that can roam about inside the barn, stretch their wings and use nesting boxes. They are given a standard grain-based feed.
  • Free Range Eggs: From hens that can roam about inside the barn and also have access to an outdoor area (weather permitting). These chickens have room to stretch their wings and are able to use nesting boxes. They are given a standard grain-based feed and may have access to grass and insects when outside.
  • Organic Eggs: From free-range hens that are also given organic feed and raised according to organic standards.
  • SPCA Certified Eggs: From hens that are raised in either free-run or free-range systems with additional requirements to improve animal welfare.

Modified Eggs (Unless specified otherwise they are likely cage eggs.)

  • Omega-3 Eggs: From hens that have had flax seed added to their feed, resulting in more omega-3 fatty acids in the yolk.
  • Vitamin Enhanced Eggs: From hens that had nutritionally enhanced feed (e.g. vitamin D or E), which results in enriched yolks.
  • Vegetarian Eggs: From hens fed only plant-based feed (meaning that the chickens are fed a vegan diet).

Processed Eggs

  • Liquid, frozen or dried eggs products made from pasteurized eggs. Cartons of liquid eggs and egg white products are the types of processed eggs most commonly found in stores. Unless otherwise specified, processed eggs are usually made from standard white eggs.

Cost of Eggs

Eggs vary in price. In general, cage eggs cost the least, while cage-free eggs and eggs from hens fed modified diets cost more.  The price per egg ranges from about $0.25 to $0.60. Considering that eggs are packed with nutrients this is great value.

Cooking with Eggs

Eggs are one of the most useful ingredients in the kitchen.  Beyond being a fine dish by themselves, eggs have several functions in baking and cooking that make them all-stars in the kitchen.  In recipes, use large eggs unless otherwise specified.

Egg Nutrition

Eggs are packed with goodness!  Most of the nutrients and half the egg’s protein are in the yolk.  Both white and brown standard eggs contain the same type and amount of nutrients.  All eggs are a good source of high quality protein, riboflavin, vitamin B12, selenium and contain other essential nutrients. Eggs from hens fed modified diets, like omega-3 eggs or vitamin D enhanced eggs, are higher in those specific nutrients.

The Cholesterol Question

Concerned about your cholesterol levels? Eggs are low in saturated fat, but high in cholesterol. Evidence suggests that eating up to 7 eggs per week as part of a healthy diet does not increase heart disease risk in healthy people. That said, people living with diabetes, heart disease or high cholesterol are generally recommended to reduce the amount of egg yolk they eat to two or less yolks per week. You can still enjoy egg whites, which are fat and cholesterol free.

Other nutrients like soluble fibre, trans and saturated fat each have a greater impact on blood cholesterol than the dietary cholesterol found in eggs, shellfish, meat and milk products. Learn more about heart healthy eating; call 8-1-1 between 9 am and 5 pm Monday to Friday to speak with a registered dietitian at HealthLink BC. 


Related blogs
Egg Me On
Hunting for Egg Recipes 
Recipe! Frittata to Go 

Recommended resources
Egg Farmers of Canada: Home    
BC Egg: Egg-Q
Eggs Farmers of Alberta: Types of Eggs
National Farm Animal Care Council: Poultry-Layers
BCSPCA: Egg-laying Hens, Comparison of Standards for Egg-laying Chickens and Interpreting Labels

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Comments (3)

NWalshaw

Posted on Friday April 8, 2016 a 12:06pm

Considering the 2012 Canadian Cardiology Guidelines for patients with dyslipidemia suggest that cholesterol be limited to 200mg/day (e.g. one egg per day) your limitation of 1 egg a week seems overly restrictive. Even the restriction for patients with diabetes allows more than 1 egg a week.

cpetelski's picture

HealthyFamilies BC

Posted on Monday April 11, 2016 a 3:42pm

Thanks for your comment NWalshaw. Agreed, 1 egg per week does seem restrictive. Under “The Cholesterol Question” heading, this article states, “eating up to 7 eggs per week as part of a healthy diet does not increase heart disease risk in healthy people. That said, people living with diabetes, heart disease or high cholesterol are generally recommended to reduce the amount of egg yolk they eat to less than two yolks per week.” Where did you see the reference to 1 egg? Let us know and we’ll make sure to get the proper information up. -Healthy Families BC

Dean

Posted on Tuesday April 12, 2016 a 10:46am

Dear NWalshaw, thank you for reading this post so closely. In the original post there was a small error in the wording of the egg yolk recommendation for people living with diabetes, heart disease or high cholesterol. The original wording stated that the general recommendation was “less than two” egg yolks per week. This has been revised to correctly state “two or less” egg yolks per week.

As you’ve noted, people with these health conditions are generally recommended to limit the cholesterol they get from foods. Considering that, in addition to eggs, cholesterol is found in many commonly eaten foods like meats, poultry, fish, shellfish and milk-based foods consuming an egg per day may make it challenging to adequately limit one’s cholesterol intake.

It is recommended that readers speak with their healthcare provider for personalized advice on limiting the cholesterol they get from foods. B.C. residents can speak with a registered dietitian at HealthLink BC by calling 8-1-1 for free advice on how to limit the cholesterol in the foods they eat, and more importantly emphasize ways of eating that reduce their blood cholesterol.

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