Are eggs healthy? Are brown eggs better than white? Here are the facts!
Eggs are in heavy rotation around here. We go through a dozen or two each week between baking, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and of course brinner (breakfast for dinner). They’re a truly affordable source of high-quality protein, even if you buy organic. I sometimes get questions about eggs–and read misinformation about them online–and wanted to be sure you had the facts so you can make the best choice for your family.
Myth #1: Brown eggs are better than white.
Facts: They may somehow seem more “natural” because of the brown hue, but brown eggs simply come from a different breed of chicken than white eggs do. Though not true with all breeds, hens with white feathers and earlobes tend to lay white eggs, while hens with reddish-brown feathers and earlobes lay brown eggs. Brown eggs aren’t somehow more wholesome, and there are no significant nutritional differences between brown and white eggs. One large egg has about 70 calories, 6 grams of protein, and lots of vitamins and minerals.
Myth #2: Egg whites are healthier than yolks.
Facts: Egg whites are full of protein. But most of the egg’s nutrients (and almost half the protein) is actually found in the yolk. The yolk contains vitamin D (eggs are one of the only foods that naturally contains vitamin D), choline (a nutrient that’s especially important during pregnancy but that most people don’t get enough of), and antioxidants like lutein (which is good for eye health).
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Myth #3: “Cage Free” means the hens were happily roaming outdoors.
When eggs are labeled “Cage Free”, that simply means that the hens were not held in enclosures (cages), but they are still kept indoors. “Free Range” eggs come from hens that are given access to the outdoors–but it doesn’t mean they actually went outdoors (or that the outdoor environment was more than a concrete slab). Though there’s not a standard definition for it yet, a “Pasture Raised” claim indicates the hens roamed and foraged outside for part of the time. As for “Certified Organic” eggs, they’re laid by hens that have access to the outdoors and eat all-organic feed that was grown without most synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.
Myth #4: Eggs from “Vegetarian Fed” hens are superior.
Facts: Hens are typically fed a grain-based diet of corn and soybean meal. “Vegetarian Diet” means the hens ate only these grains (and that the feed didn’t include any animal byproducts). But it also means that the hens weren’t outdoors pecking around for other food sources like insects. So if you’re looking for eggs from hens that foraged outdoors, “Vegetarian Fed” is not the right pick.
Myth #5: You should look for the claim “hormone free” on cartons.
Facts: “Hormone-free” or some variation of the claim “Hens raised without added hormones” are meaningless on eggs. By law, poultry is not allowed to be given hormones, so this claim on cartons is just marketing.
Myth #6: You should toss eggs once they reach the date stamped on the carton.
Facts: Don’t worry if you’re past the “sell by” date stamped on the carton. Eggs will keep up to three weeks after that date.
Myth #7: Store-bought eggs can be left unrefrigerated, like they do in the UK.
Facts: U.S. store-bought eggs should be kept refrigerated. Eggs have a natural protective coating on the shell that seals them from bacteria entering, but that coating is removed when eggs are washed and sanitized during processing. If eggs are bought cold from the refrigerated section of the store and then kept at room temperature at home, the eggs will “sweat”, which could allow bacteria to enter through the shell. In the UK, eggs aren’t washed this way, so the eggs retain the protective coating and aren’t required to be kept refrigerated (which is why you can buy them straight from the shelf in their markets). Eggs from backyard chickens and some small farms also have this protective coating unless they’re washed. But keep in mind that eggs will stay fresher longer in the refrigerator.
Myth #8: Eggs are bad for your cholesterol level.
Facts: According to the American Heart Association, foods like eggs that are rich in cholesterol but low in saturated fat don’t have a large effect on your cholesterol level. And the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans cite eggs as part of a healthy eating pattern.
- Egg Nutrition Center
- United States Department of Agriculture
- American Egg Board
- Egg Safety Center
- American Heart Association
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans