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Free-range, pastured, organic, or natural eggs? The choices are endless! Have you ever stared at the egg section in the grocery store? There are so many options and it can be overwhelming to know what is the healthiest option. Come along with me as we finally put an end to all of these questions.
First of all, what’s with all the labels?
There are 4 major labels that go on an egg carton that you need to understand.
Cage Free: Chickens are not kept in cages, but are often still kept inside with no access to the outdoors. Usually these chickens have 1 square foot per bird; their diets are fully supplemented with (often corn based) feed -- Sound healthy???
Free-Range or Free-Roaming: These chickens have some access to outdoor space. This is great -- until you realize that manufactures can have a small access door at one end of a very large factory, chickens on the other side of the factory may never even realize there is a door!
Pastured raised: This, my friends, is the label you are looking for. Each bird usually has over 100 sq feet of pasture to roam freely -- making their eggs the best quality available in the supermarket. Sometimes their daily foraging diets are supplemented with natural feeds but you can trust that their eggs are free from chemicals and synthetics that would make you ill.
Other terms: Natural and Farm Fresh: Don't trust this. There is no regulation on the contents. This is great marketing, but means little else without other terms on the box.
Secondly, why do I need to spend more for free-range eggs?
Research on this topic has been occurring since the 1970s, with more and more data showing the health benefits of free-range eggs.
Free-range eggs contain:
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A. Vitamin A is a potent antioxidant which can help your eyes and immune system
- 2-13x more Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a great anti-inflammatory fat. They are important for heart health and can help keep your blood lipid levels in a normal range.
- More vitamin E. 3x more of this powerful antioxidant. It has been shown to assist with blood sugar control and supports your immune system.
- More beta carotene. Free Range Eggs contain 7x more of this nutrient. It has been seen to decrease asthma symptoms, cancer, heart disease, and can even help prevent sunburns in some people -- wait, what? Yes, think about it, better nutrition means healthier skin!
- More B vitamins. 50% more folic acid and 70% more B12. These nutrients are important for the utilization of food for energy.
Ok, so what about color? Should I look for brown?
There is no difference in nutrition between egg shell color. The color is actually determined by the breed of chicken. Some lay white eggs, some lay brown, and some even lay blue or pink! All eggs can be healthy IF the chicken is raised in a healthy environment and has the correct nutrition. We are what we eat, right?
We hope this helps you make a healthier choice next time you go to the grocery store. Nourish yourself from the inside out!
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