I was flipping pages in a health magazine recently and ran across an ad for Eggland’s Best nutrient-fortified eggs.
The ad claims these eggs are superior because they “have more of the delicious, farm-fresh taste you and your family love,” plus “6 times more vitamin D, 10 times more vitamin E, and 25% less saturated fat than ordinary eggs.”
Are these statements true? And if they are, is the added nutrient benefit enough to justify shelling out 5, 6, 7 or even 8 times* as much money?
Basic health benefits of eggs (any egg)
I posted a few months ago about the health benefits of eggs.
Eggs are wonderful little packages stuffed with nutrients. An average large egg contains:
- 6.3 g protein
- 37 mg omega-3 fatty acids
- 574 mg omega-6 fatty acids
- 244 IU vitamin A
- 252 mcg lutein & zeaxanthin (great for eye health!)
- 17.5 mg IU vitamin D
- 23.5 mcg folate
- 126 mg choline (brain and nervous system)
- 15.8 mcg selenium (thyroid function and immune system)
- 211 mg cholesterol
- 5.0 g fat
- 1.5 g saturated fat
And an egg is only about 70 calories.
Comparatively, a large Eggland’s Best egg contains:
- 6.3 g protein
- 100 mg omega-3 fatty acids
- 700 mg omega-6 fatty acids
- 300 IU vitamin A
- 200 mcg lutein & zeaxanthin
- 16.0 mg IU vitamin D
- 23.5 mcg folate
- 125 mg choline
- 17.5 mcg selenium
- 175 mg cholesterol
- 4.0 g fat
- 1.2 g saturated fat
Eggland’s Best eggs have slightly more vitamin A and selenium, and slightly less saturated fat and cholesterol. Enough to justify the higher price? Not in my opinion.
They also have significantly higher levels of the omega fatty acids. This comes from feeding the hens flaxseed and fish oil. But lots of other common food sources are high in omega-3 (fish, nuts, seeds, oils, fortified dairy) and omega-6 (seeds, nuts, oils). We don’t need enriched eggs, too (in my opinion).
And keep in mind that all these nutrient numbers are based on an average egg.
As the website Truth in Advertising points out,
Eggland also notes that its egg compared with an “ordinary egg” has more Vitamin D and Vitamin B12, but there is no clear answer as to what constitutes “ordinary” eggs. There are plenty of egg purveyors available on the market, and each of these eggs has different nutritional values.
Egg labels 101
Other than size, what do all those different claims on a carton of eggs mean?
- Organic: These eggs are certified to have been laid by cage-free or free-range hens that had access to the outdoors and were fed organic feed. While recent reports show most small-scale farmers comply with these regulations, many large egg producers don’t.
- Cage-free: Laying hens can roam in a building, room, or open area instead of a cage. It does not necessarily mean that hens have access to the outdoors, nor does it indicate how much room they have to move around.
- Free-range or free-roaming: Laying hens have access to the outdoors. This can simply mean the hens have an indoor space connected to an outdoor area—not that they are roaming around “free.” In addition to eating grain these hens may forage for wild plants and insects.
- Grade: Refers to the quality of the egg. The majority of eggs in the stores are Grade AA, which means the shells are unstained, the yolks are free from defects, and they have “reasonably” clear and firm whites.
- Hormone-free: Laying hens are not given hormones.
- Vegetarian-fed: Laying hens are fed a vegetarian diet (a controversial practice as chickens are not naturally vegetarians).
- Omega-3 enriched eggs: Laid by hens that are fed a special diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- No added antibiotics: Also written as “no antibiotics administered.” It means the hens were not given antibiotics in their feed or water.
- Pasture-raised: This term is not USDA regulated. The commonly understood meaning is that the hens can roam and forage in a maintained pasture area.
Buy the eggs that suit your taste and budget
Nutrients aside, I agree that taste is important!
If you like eggs fried, scrambled, deviled, or whipped into an omelet or quiche, buy the brand you know to taste best, whether the eggs are fortified or not.
If you generally only use eggs in baking or don’t really notice a difference in flavor, spending more on a brand name is probably not a priority.
And all eggs taste better when fresh, so only buy what you need and eat them within a couple of weeks.
Bottom line: All eggs are healthy and a great source of many essential nutrients. Both generic eggs and name-brand eggs contain some of the best nutrients—protein, choline, selenium, lutein, and zeaxanthin—in equal amounts.
When buying a carton of eggs, opt for the low-cost store brand if you’re most concerned with cost. Look for brands that advertise “free-range” or “free-roaming” if you’re more concerned with ethical farming practices.
*These prices are based on what I saw at my local grocery store. A basic store-brand dozen of large eggs was $0.88 with a coupon. Compared to:
- Eggland’s Best: $4.29/dozen
- Happy Egg Co. Free-Range: $5.69
- Pete & Gerry’s Organic Free-Range: $6.89