Battery farmed or organic eggs – there’s little difference for your health
That means, all standard eggs are equally nutritious. “If there is a difference, it wouldn’t be nutritionally significant,” says Dr Carrie Ruxton, a dietician and adviser to the British egg industry.
Organic and free range eggs cost more because it’s more expensive to rear higher welfare hens – not because the eggs are better for our health.
Is it worth paying more for enriched eggs?
Some egg producers enrich the hen feed with extra vitamin D, selenium (an important mineral) and/or omega-3 (an essential fatty acid that promotes brain and heart health). Is it worth paying extra for these?
“When it comes to omega-3, standard eggs contain 60 mg of DHA, a type of omega-3, whereas enriched eggs contain more than double this amount,” says Bridget Benelam, a nutrition scientist with the British Nutrition Foundation. “However, oily fish are a richer source.”
Similarly, standard eggs contain 23 micrograms of selenium per 100g [100g is about two standard eggs], so they qualify as a rich source. “Enriched eggs contain higher levels, for example, over 30 micrograms per 100g, but standard eggs are still a useful source of selenium in the diet,” Benelam says. But snacking on one or two Brazil nuts is another way to up your selenium intake.
A standard egg contains 1.6 micrograms of vitamin D, which makes them one of the best sources. “The recommendation is 10 micrograms per day, so one egg is giving you just under a fifth of what you need,” Dr Ruxton says. However, it might be worth considering vitamin D-enriched eggs if your budget allows. There are few other good food sources of vitamin D apart from oily fish and fortified mushrooms. Some brands of enriched eggs contain twice the vitamin D of standard.
Does the colour of the shell matter?
No, the breed of the hen determines the colour of the shell. There’s no nutritional difference between eggs with brown, white or blue shells, according to the British Egg Industry Council.
Are bright orange yolks healthier than standard yellow?
No. All hen feed in Britain contains pigments – commonly paprika and/or marigold extract – to give yolks their yellow colour. (In some countries, hens are fed maize, which contains pigments called carotenoids, and this gives yolks an orange colour. British hens are fed wheat instead of maize, so pigments need to be added to the feed or the yolks would be extremely pale and unappealing).
“The producers with the deeper-coloured orange yolks are basically just adding more of those pigments,” Joret says, adding there’s no evidence these eggs are healthier. However, some studies suggest that lutein, a chemical in marigold pigment, supports eye health.