What came first—the kitchen or the egg? There are few things more common to find in the typical household than a carton of eggs. The staple of quick morning breakfasts and lavish weekend brunches, and an essential ingredient in baked goods, eggs are everywhere from quiches to cakes, omelettes to pizzettes.
But which types of eggs are worth buying—are they all healthy for you, and are brown eggs really better than white eggs? Thrive Market investigates.
Eggs and better health
Eggs have been the focus of numerous studies and opinion pieces over the years, since they are a food that nutrition experts have constantly changed their minds about over time. In 1961, eggs were said to be bad for you, allegedly a culprit for delivering a huge amount of cholesterol, which is seen to have a negative impact on heart health.
An article published by Time Magazine in 1984, went a step further, all but declaring eggs as a food terrible for the human body. But in the years since, research has been unanimous that this former “egg panic” was far from justified, with nutritionists admitting that eggs are actually incredibly good for health and nutrition.
Eating even just a single egg provides a huge range of nutrients including:
- B vitamins, including B2, B5, and B12—all of which are responsible for converting food to energy and boosting metabolism.
- Phosphorus, needed for the growth, maintenance, and repair of all tissues and cells and the production of DNA.
- Selenium, which keeps the thyroid gland running on all cylinders and helps with reproductive systems.
- Folate, a must for pregnant women since it contributes to the health of developing fetuses and cuts down on the risk of birth defects.
- Vitamin A, an essential vitamin known to keep eye health strong and reduces the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration later in life. Eggs also have two antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, that can help to strengthen the retina.
- Vitamin D, which helps regulate the immune system and neuromuscular system, as well as increasing the rate at which the body absorbs calcium.
- Zinc, presenting a huge boost to the immune system.
- Calcium, to build healthy bones and teeth and prevent breaks and the development of osteoporosis as the body ages.
- Vitamin E, an antioxidant that moisturizes the skin and reduces visible signs of aging.
- Vitamin K, to keep blood flow regular within the body and prevent blood clots.
- Omega-3 fatty acids, or the good kind of fats, that can reduce amounts of triglycerides in the bloodstream and lead to better heart health. However, not all eggs contain high levels of omega-3’s—rather, only those that are produced by hens raised with enriched feed. You’ll see it noted on egg carton labels.
- Choline, a compound that’s vital for building stronger cellular membranes and can influence the functionality of the brain, which means it plays a major role in the development of unborn babies. Eggs are a key source, containing more than 100 milligrams.
- Protein, the building block of human life. The body uses protein to create molecules and tissues, strengthen muscles, and fuel bodily functions. A single egg provides six grams of protein, including all of the essential amino acids that the body can’t produce on its own.
And when it comes to the cholesterol issue, it’s important to know that, today, cholesterol content in eggs is much lower than it was just ten years ago. The reason is that the hen feed has been modified to be healthier than older formulas, and results in a much healthier egg. Nowadays, a medium-sized egg contains about 100 milligrams of cholesterol, roughly a third of the daily recommended allowance.
The difference between brown eggs and white eggs
Does color really make that much of a difference? Sometimes, yes. Over the last several years, there has been a growing belief that brown eggs are better, which is probably partially related to the fact that other brown foods actually are a better option—brown sugar is better than white refined sugar, brown-tinged whole wheat bread is better than white bread, etc.
But when it comes to eggs, color doesn’t mean much—in fact, the only thing that impacts the color of an egg is the breed of hen that lays it:
- A white feathered hen with white earlobes will generally lay white eggs
- A reddish or brown feathered hen with red earlobes will lay brown eggs
That’s really the big difference between the two. Nutritional values are the same, shells are the same thickness, and even taste will be similar (though brown eggs may end up costing more).
One of the key reasons that brown eggs have a better reputation is that the small farmers and organic farms that are seen as producing better quality overall also usually raise the types of female chickens that produce brown eggs.
Other types of eggs to distinguish
While brown eggs and white eggs may not have much of a difference, there are several types of eggs that do have significant components. Here are some of the most common:
This type of egg comes from a hen that doesn’t live in a cage. Rather, they’re allowed to roam freely. This can impact the quality and taste of the egg in a positive way because the animal is considered to be happier and won’t produce the stress hormones or have the same amount of illness as other types of more herded chickens.
Organic eggs refer to those that come from hens that are fed a diet free from fertilizers, herbicides, and fungicides. This doesn’t impact the way that the hen was raised, which is why many choose a cage-free organic option. But the important thing to understand is that organic eggs are exposed to fewer chemicals, which can impact taste and health benefits.
This takes the idea of “cage-free” a step further. Pasture-raised hens are allowed to live a pretty free life on the farm, roaming as they see fit. These female chickens also eat a variety of foods that they may not obtain in a cage, since they are able to forage throughout the day, which results in eggs that taste better and are better for you.
Hens that are fed foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as flaxseeds) will lay eggs that also have increased levels of omega-3’s, which benefit human health, too. The amount can vary, but you can look for these specific labels at the store.
Cooking with eggs
Regardless of what color or type of egg you choose to purchase and cook with, eggs can be a versatile component of many recipes. While they taste great in fried egg sandwiches or with a side of bacon, there’s also some more inventive ways to use them. Here are a half-dozen of Thrive’s favorites.
Eggs make the fluffy custard that is iconic in this classic dessert, which is finished with a flame-basted sugary layer. This recipe keeps things Paleo-friendly by using coconut cream rather than traditional milk and coconut sugar instead of refined white sugar crystals. Secure a set of ramekins and a pastry torch, and you can enjoy this treat again and again.
Breakfast would be nothing without eggs, but you don’t always have to go for scrambled. Try this tasty breakfast pizza with a Paleo-friendly, gluten-free crust made from coconut flour, coconut milk, and some savory seasonings; it’s topped with sunny-side-up eggs, bacon, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes for some real slices of heaven.
Egg salad can be a filling lunch, but egg salad doused in mayo—not so much. Scrap that in favor of this recipe that uses tahini instead. Made from sesame seeds, its nutty flavor pairs great with eggs without being overbearing. Complement the mix with some fresh radishes, roma tomatoes, and avocados for extra flavor and texture.
Have a little extra time in the morning? Try baking your eggs for the perfect texture and consistency. The result is runny golden yolks with with firm whites. This recipe wraps them up in a bed of warm spinach that’s been doused in coconut milk. You’ll also need coconut oil, garlic, Dijon mustard, nutritional yeast, and cayenne pepper to make this pan just right.
Nothing about this one-pot meal disappoints. Here, eggs are poached in a rich tomato sauce along with honey, balsamic vinegar, bell pepper, savory spices, and a pinch of feta cheese for a bit of creamy tartness. This dish is so good you might want to save it for dinner, too!
Here’s an easier, less messy way to make poached eggs. Roasted tomatoes provide the perfect vessel and imbue the yolk with some flavor during the cooking process. To make these breakfast boats, you’ll also need some fresh thyme, salt and pepper, and olive oil.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho