Eggs are an enigmatic lot.
First, there’s the question about who begat whom, the egg or the chicken. Then there’s the cryptic coding and murky descriptions on the cartons they come in.
Next, there’s those pastel and jewel-toned ones – even before they’ve been dyed for Easter!
Follow this up with the ever-changing information about eggs, cholesterol, and heart disease. They were good for us, then they were bad, then kind of good…
And of course, there’s the issue of brown ones being “better” than white ones.
While the question remains about which came first, we have determined which color rules the roost, and outline some surprising new information about dietary recommendations for these protein powerhouses.
Are Brown Eggs Really More Nutritious?
In a word, no – there is no chicken egg that’s superior to another in any way.
That’s worth repeating: brown eggs are not a more nutritious selection.
According to the University of Illinois’ Incubation and Embryology extension program, regardless of their color, all eggs contain equivalent nutrients when hens are fed a similar diet. And, they’ll also have the same flavor, shelf life, and cooking characteristics.
The reason for different shell colors is that different chicken breeds lay eggs of different colors. All shells start out white, but as they pass through a hen’s oviduct, pigment is deposited on the outside.
For example, Ameraucana birds from South America produce blue, green, and teal colors. French Marans lay copper, brick, and dark chocolate colored gems. Easter Eggers, not a true breed but a cross, create rose, blue, and olive colored shells.
And the most common laying hen in the U.S. produces the white variety – the Single Comb White Leghorn, immortalized by the blustery Looney Tunes character, Foghorn Leghorn.
You know, “Lookit here son, ah say son, did ya see that hawk after those hens? He scared ’em! That Rhode Island Red turned white. Then blue. Rhode Island. Red, white, and blue. That’s a joke, son!” That Foghorn Leghorn!
But What About the Yolk Color?
Don’t brown eggs have a deeper, sunshine-yellow color that beams healthy nutrition?
Well, they may. But it’s not due to shell color. It’s because of what the hens eat.
Chickens fed a diet of wheat or barley have pale yolks. Yellow corn and alfalfa meal produce medium-yellow yolks, and chickens that have access to plants rich in xanthophyll will have deep yellow yolks.
Xanthophyll is a type of chlorophyll with yellow and orange pigments that are absorbed by the chicken in their diets, and this results in a more robustly colored yolk. This is why some farmers supplement their hens’ diets with marigold petals, which are rich in xanthophyll.
So, if the nutritional value is the same, and yolk color is only due to diet, why are brown ones often more expensive?
Typically, the breeds of chickens that lay the brown shades are larger and heavier than those that lay white ones. This means they require more feed, making them more expensive to produce. And if their diet is supplemented with xanthophyll-rich products for more colorful yolks, that too is an added expense.
Excited to add some eggs to your own diet? Check out this recipe for eggs benedict, or our suggestions for using up that stash of Easter eggs after the holiday. Or use them in our delicious, healthier version of breaded beef fillets.
Love aioli? Make it fresh in our recipe for carrot raisin salad with lemon aioli.
Fertile vs. Infertile
Another concept that’s been gaining ground is that fertile ones are more nutritious than unfertilized eggs.
This idea has become popular among advocates of both paleo and raw food diets, but the science doesn’t support this claim.
A report by authors Jacqueline Jacob and Richard Miles of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences states that there is no nutritional difference between them. Both are safe to eat, and most eggs available in grocery stores are infertile, as hens don’t need to have a rooster around to lay.
What About Cholesterol?
In 2015, the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) published the 2015-2020 edition of their Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
In a turnaround from previous guidelines that recommended limiting cholesterol intake to no more than 300 milligrams per day, the Guidelines did away with this recommendation.
Why? The Guidelines explain: “Because available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol… Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”
In other words, it has not been proven that eating foods high in cholesterol directly causes high blood cholesterol, or that consuming eggs definitively contributes directly to the onset of heart disease.
Eggs are back in favor, when consumed in moderation – one per day is the recommended allowance.
And that’s good news, because they’re are a complete protein, as well as a good source of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients.
Clearly, eggs have been misunderstood.
But now that a few of the more common misconceptions have been cleared up, will it change your eating patterns?
Will you be inclined to enjoy their excellent nutritional value more often, or will you wait and see what the next round of research reveals?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
The staff at Foodal are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.
Photo credits: Shutterstock.
About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.