Eggs might look all the same, but what’s inside is incredibly fragile and vulnerable matter. If you’ve ever had a yard bird, you know not all eggs are created equal. Industrial, supermarket eggs are fairly uniform, but fresh, quality, farm-to-table eggs are a whole different commodity.
In a nutshell, buy good eggs, from happy hens and you'll be alright, but still, let's find out which hens are the happiest so that we can choose the best and healthiest eggs.
Why Eggs Are So Good For You?
Eggs contain a large amount of high-quality proteins. Egg yolks are also a great natural source of Vitamins A, D and E. Egg protein has the perfect combination of essential amino acids required by the human body to build tissues, and so naturally, we eat them.
But are we eating the right eggs?
Unfortunately, for all its nutritional values and advantage, it has a low keeping quality. And if the egg is not in the right quality, it will not fully supply our body with the complete nutritional content. Not to mention, if you consume a bad egg, you run the risk of salmonella poisoning which has symptoms that include vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and stomach cramps which may last a few days.
Have you experienced any of these symptoms or you would simply like to prevent them from happening or maybe you are just wondering which eggs are the healthiest?
Keep reading to find out which are the best eggs to eat, what kind of chickens lay the most nutritious eggs, what are the different grades of eggs and whether or and how to check if these are fresh or not.
What To Look For When Buying Eggs?
The following are quality points to note when buying eggs.
Choose Refrigerated Eggs
I call it,"The Rule of the Refrigerated Case."
If you keep to this rule, you probably do not need to look out for anything else when purchasing eggs. Eggs in refrigerator cases are simply the best as they are in great consumption shape. When these eggs are collected from the farm, they are preserved in the refrigerator at an ambient temperature of 70C (450F) and this makes the egg last longer and prevents it from turning bad.
People living in the US will find refrigerated eggs in most stores as it is the requirement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). As eggs must be refrigerated for the entire journey from farm to the shop, you should look for the cartons that are labeled "Keep Refrigerated"
In many Asian and European countries, most eggs are sold in the room temperature and refrigerated ones are hard to come by. But don't worry, in these countries, egg-laying hens are heavily vaccinated against salmonella, which is not required in the U.S.
Basically, these are two different approaches to achieve the same result. But the fact that constant refrigeration will increase the shelf life of the egg from 21 days to nearly 50 days, I would always recommend buying refrigerated ones whenever possible.
Check For Sell-by or Expiry Date
Eggs usually have an expiry date written on them as directed by the USDA (United States Department Agricultural). If the eggs you want to buy do not have an expiry date written on them, check for the production date. The egg is safe for eating up to four weeks after production. Beyond that, the egg should not be eaten.
If your egg has neither the expiry nor production date, DO NOT BUY IT!
Check For Cracks
If there are any cracks on your egg, no matter how small, you should probably not buy it. A single crack can cause a lot of damage as the salmonella bacteria could penetrate through cracks. When purchasing eggs in containers, it is safe to buy eggs in tightly sealed containers that have not been opened.
Check For The USDA Grade Mark
There are 3 consumer grades for eggs in the United States. Grade AA, grade A, and grade B. These grades are determined by the appearance and condition of the eggshell and interior quality of the egg.
This is the best quality, is given to eggs that have firm and thick whites; yolks that are round and defect free and shells that are unbroken and clean.
This grade is also very good quality and it shares most of the quality traits of Grade AA, excluding the whites, which may not be as firm as the grade AA ones. Grade A is most frequently sold in supermarkets.
Grade B eggs have thinner whites and flatter and paler yolk than eggs of higher categories. The shells still must be undamaged but you may find slight stains on them. Grade B is usually not found in many stores and are used mostly for making frozen, liquid or dried products.
Check The Size
Eggs of any AA, A or B grade may differ in size and weight. There are 5 weight classes for consumer grades for shell eggs.
- Very Large/Extra-Large (XL)
- Large (L)
- Medium (M)
- Small (S)
- Pee Wee
Check The Color
Color of the egg is not actually a big factor to consider when choosing the best eggs. Color is determined mostly by the breed of chicken. Some of them can look more appealing than others but there is no innate taste or nutritional difference.
Learn The Meaning of The Popular Labels:
- Omega-3 Enriched
- Certified Organic
Differences Between Free Range, Cage Free, Organic, Caged Pasture-Raised Eggs
The type of egg is determined by the type of chicken that lays it. So to understand these types of eggs, you need to understand the type of chickens that produce them.
Caged eggs do not harm you in any way but they have the lowest nutritional values because the chickens that produced them were raised under duress. They were raised in tight, dark and restrictive conditions and so the chicken produces lower quality eggs.
Means the hens are able to roam inside the farm building instead of being locked up in a battery cage. It does not mean however that these hens can go outdoors. Although they are not caged up, their living conditions can be still quite cramped up.
These chickens were not raised in battery cages and have exposure to the outside world for a considerable portion of their life but the access to outdoors can be still restricted and the outside area can be as small as two square feet per bird.
Organic eggs are produced by birds that were not fed any inorganic feeds, hormones, synthetic fertilizers and antibiotics. Eating the kind of eggs produced by this kind of chickens reduces your exposure to pesticides. Organic eggs are also free-range but not all the free-range eggs are organic.
Pasture raised eggs come from truly free-roam or open-roam hens. Hens that are allowed to roam around the green pasture and interact with their environment and have access to fresh air, sunlight and bugs. They are fed strictly with an organic diet. The eggs produced by these hens are known to be the best, with richer yolks, higher nutritional content and they taste better.
These hens are fed a diet of fish oils and flax seed to increase the level of omega-3 in the yolk.
There is also vegetarian chicken whose diet only consists of soybeans, corn and different grains. As chickens are natural omnivores, then that may not be the healthiest option either.
The Shocking Truth Between Free Range, Cage Free and Pasture Raised Eggs?
This video report by Cornucopia Institute may be a bit disturbing for some but it does show the reality behind the living conditions of many chickens and gives you a lot better understanding of what all these different labels I have mentioned above actually mean in real life.
So, Which Eggs Are The Healthiest Then?
Pasture raised eggs are the healthiest. According to the United States Department of Agriculture pasture raised eggs contain less cholesterol, less saturated fat, more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, 7 times more beta carotene and 4 to 6 times more vitamin D.
High Omega-3 eggs, from hens that have been fed the diet containing flaxseeds or hens that have been fed Organic diet, would be the second best option but the pasture raised egg are the ones you really want.
How Many Eggs Should I Eat a Week?
The maximum recommended count of eggs to eat per day is 1-3. Eating more than that does not have any know immediate repercussions, however eating more than recommended amount may have some adverse effects but we just don't know.
Unfortunately, there have been no studies where people have fed more than three eggs per day, so from the scientific point of view, it is uncertain what effects high egg consumption can have to a person. But overall, eating 1-3 eggs a day is proven to be perfectly safe.
The old cautionary tale about eating more than 5 eggs a week will raise your blood cholesterol level is certainly proven as a myth.
Egg Cholesterol Myth
In one sentence, the myth of egg cholesterol does not live up to its reality. Egg cholesterol has negligible effects on your blood cholesterol level. So the answer to the question “Can I eat eggs if I have high cholesterol?” is a resounding yes.
In this very informative video below Dr. Berg answers the question of whether egg yolk is healthy or not. He also talks about other benefits of eggs that you really don't want to miss out on.
How Should Raw Eggs Be Stored?
Eggs should be stored at 45°F (7°C) in a refrigerator, but be careful not to store them on the refrigerator door but inside the refrigerator itself. If the egg is broken and you have used part of it, the leftover should be kept in air-tight containers and put in the refrigerator, although this will only keep the egg viable for a maximum of 4 days.
Only frozen whole eggs can be stored in the refrigerator for an extended period of time, a maximum of 4 months.
It is not advisable to keep your eggs in cupboards, the best practice is to always keep them refrigerated.
How To Check If Eggs Are Fresh?
- Drop the egg in a bowl, glass or any container of cold water.
- If it sinks to the bottom of the container and lies flat on the side, the egg is still fresh and in excellent condition.
- Eggs that sink to the bottom but stand instead of lying flat are a few weeks old but are still good to eat.
- Eggs that float should be discarded since they are no longer suitable for consumption.
This is the best and definitive method to check for the freshness at home. Other methods like keeping the egg close to your ear while shaking it for any sound exist but are a lot less reliable.
You can always crack the egg open and smell it and examine it.
How Are Liquid Egg Whites Made?
Egg shells are broke and the content is separated into the whites and the yolks. To make liquid egg whites, the whites and yolks are separately pasteurized. The pasteurized egg white is the liquid egg white. The yolk can be used in other industries like ice cream and mayonnaise production companies.
Also, many supermarkets sell liquid egg products as some people find them more convenient to use.
This video below demonstrates the process our liquid egg products from start to finish.
Are Liquid Egg Whites Better Than Whole Egg?
Liquid Egg Whites versus Egg or Egg yolks? Well, I guess it depends on what you are after.
Nutritionally speaking, pasteurized liquid egg whites are very similar to egg whites in the shell. But most people should not discard the yolks as yolks contain very valuable nutrients, including beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, selenium and much more.
So, If your goal is the nutritional content of the egg, go with the whole egg which contains both yolks and whites. But if you are trying to avoid even the smallest amount of cholesterol, stick to liquid whites only.
The entire egg gives you always the most complete nutrition.
When buying liquid egg whites, the same shopping rules I mentioned above still apply. Check for the sell-by date and whether the product is made out of cadge, free range or organic eggs. Most liquid egg products do require refrigeration, but always read the carton for storage instructions.
Other Birds Eggs You Can Eat
Chicken eggs are the most popular type of egg that we buy and eat. However, there are about 9,000 different species of birds in the world, and they all lay eggs. I would assume that most of these eggs are also edible and probably even taste good but below I will cover 7 other bird eggs that could be found in some supermarkets.
Chicken and duck eggs have many similarities, but also some differences. For instance, the yolk of a duck egg is a little bigger. Personally I think that duck eggs also taste better in flavour. They have higher levels of protein & fat, and feature a thicker shell which keeps them fresh longer.
Duck and turkey eggs taste the same and are the same size. However, the egg white and yolk of turkey eggs are much thicker. That is why turkey eggs have a creamer texture and taste. In fact, the rich flavour of turkey eggs makes them popular to use when preparing pastries. But if you go to the average supermarket, it is difficult to find turkey eggs for sale. The reason is that farmers make more money selling the fully matured turkey birds than selling the turkey eggs.
Compared to a chicken egg, a goose egg is twice as big. Goose eggs are also heavier, contain more protein, and taste denser. Since their shells are thicker, it’ll take more effort to crack them open. It is even harder to find goose eggs in stores compared to duck eggs and chicken eggs. After all, geese lay roughly 40 eggs annually, which is not that much.
Quail eggs can be described as small, delicate, and with barely any taste. They have mostly the same nutritional content as chicken eggs. The only difference is that the quail eggs have the nutritional value 3-4 higher than chicken egg. In several countries in the world, quail eggs are a delicacy due to their healing properties.
Pheasant eggs and duck eggs are about the same size. This means they’re both a little bigger than chicken eggs. Pheasant eggs don’t have a very rich taste, like the light taste of quail eggs. But since it’s a gamy bird, pheasant eggs taste rather gamy.
Ostriches are big birds, so naturally they lay the biggest bird eggs. Each ostrich egg is about 3 pounds in weight, which is 24 times more than the weight of a chicken egg. An ostrich eggshell is very thick and has a creamy colour to it. For this reason, it is a tough shell to crack open. But once you do crack it open, you’ll get about 2,000 calories from consuming one egg. Meanwhile, it possesses the same nutrients of a chicken egg as well as the runny yolk.
Are Hard-Boiled Eggs Good For You?
Eating eggs is good for you. Whether you prefer them hard boiled or soft boiled, you can eat eggs guilt-free. However, there are few way to cook your eggs that is considered more healthier then others.
So let's look why soft boiled egg could be better choice for you that hard boiled one.
Nutritious food gets damaged when you apply heat to it. However, this is not always a bad thing. For instance, when you heat raw vegetables in the microwave or on the stove, the cellular walls of the vegetables break down. This makes it easier for your gut to absorb the nutrients from them.
Another example is with egg whites, where heat causes their proteins to have more bioavailability in the body. What’s even better is that the avidin in egg whites is destroyed by the heat too. Avidin is a trouble-causing protein, so destroying it is beneficial to the body. But if you were to heat the entire egg, then it would destroy the precious nutrients and fats that are in the yolk.
Egg Whites vs. Egg Yolks
Most people think egg yolk is unhealthy because of its high cholesterol. However, the yolk is actually the healthiest part of the egg because it is loaded with nutrients. And if you get pasture raised ones, then it is even better. As I covered above, the yolks of pastured eggs are much healthier than the egg yolks of other sources. Their proteins and fats are great for the body. Contrary to popular belief, it is perfectly fine to eat the yolk.
The cholesterol and fat content of egg yolks is not bad for you if they’re not over heated. Like with olive oil, the good fats of egg yolks can become less healthy when they’re heated and oxidized. That is why some people like to drink raw egg yolks in a glass. Yolks are always better for you when they’re not hard cooked. Heating causes the proteins of egg whites and the fats of egg yolks to curl up. This causes the body to have sticky fats which cannot be processed too well.
How To Cook Healthy Eggs?
Here are the best ways to maximize the nutritional value of eggs when you cook them.
Soft boiling your eggs will help them retain their nutritional content. The yolk does not get hard, so it is a bit runny. Even though this cooking method takes some extra effort, it’ll make your eggs tasty and quite healthy.
The yolk has nutrients and fats which must be protected from oxidation. When you soft boil an egg, this protection exists because the egg white, water, and eggshell layers are all preserved around the yolk. If you can master this cooking process, you’ll cook the eggs quite easily and quickly. Plus, the protein of the egg whites is utilized and the bad avidin protein is removed.
So, what’s going on inside the egg?
The egg white solidifies at 150°F/ 65°C while the yolk thickens at 158°F/70°C. Since our boiling water will get close to 212°F/100°C, it wont take long to overcook your eggs so you have to keep a close eye to prevent the eggs from getting hard and rubbery.
1. Fill your pot with water and add the eggs carefully with a spoon. Eggs should be sunk an inch below the surface.
2. Do not add them directly into boiling water. Instead, go full power and wait for a rolling boil.
Start your timer!
- Soft-cooked yolk 4 minutes
- Medium-cooked yolk 6 minutes
Add a minute for large eggs, and two minutes for extra-large ones.
Remove eggs when the bell rings and quickly rinse them with cold water. This will prevent the eggs to overcook avoiding the not-so-pleasing green rim around the yolk.
Surprisingly, though, soft boiling is not something that many people consider when cooking an egg unless it is for a party or event. But it is certainly healthier than scrambling or frying them on the stove.
Purpose made timers are the best to soft boiling. Here are 2 most popular ones: Piercer Timer vs Heat-Sensitive Colour-Changing Timer
Another healthy method for cooking eggs is to poach them.
If you’ve never done this before, then you may have trouble at first. You may even waste a couple of eggs trying to learn the process. But it is worth the effort once you learn the technique. Poached eggs have a great flavor to them.
This technique basically involves boiling water in a pot and then cracking the contents of an egg into it. If done correctly, the egg whites will surround the egg yolk and cover it entirely.
Once the egg whites are completely visible in the boiling water, you can scoop it out of the pot. Of course, there is no protective shell available like there is with the soft-boiled egg. The egg whites serve as the only protective layer of the yolk.
In this video below Jamie Oliver is sharing 3 easy poaching methods and some tips and trick to make sure that you would get it right every time.
Poached eggs are used to make eggs benedict, although you can just as easily eat poached eggs by themselves if you want to.
Eggs are very tasty, nutritious and good for you, so I really hope you will consider making them not only for breakfast but for all hours of the day.
To find out more about healthy eating, be sure to check out my other posts or leave a comment below.