Eggs are one of the closest things you can find to a naturally perfect food, says nutrition expert and author J.J. Virgin. They're rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and compounds that researchers have linked to everything from a lower risk of heart disease to better vision in your later years. And now, eggs might be healthier than they've ever been: Fortified eggs have nearly identical nutrition to regular eggs along with some added benefits.
How They're Fortified
Fortified eggs are eggs that typically come from chickens that have had ground flaxseeds added to their regular feed. Flaxseeds have a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly alpha-linolenic acid, or ALA. What goes into the chicken comes out again, mainly, in its eggs, so a hen that's been eating feed supplemented with flax meal will yield eggs dense with omega-3 fatty acids. Your body can convert ALA to docosahexanoic acid, or DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, both of which are linked to a lower risk of high blood cholesterol and heart disease. Fortified eggs may also come from chickens that have been supplemented with vitamin E, sea kelp, alfalfa and rice bran.
In 2008, scientists at the Tel Aviv University reported that you're not getting shafted by producers of fortified eggs -- these eggs really do have a higher content of omega-3 fatty acids than regular eggs. According to their study, a fortified egg could provide the average American with about 14 percent of the recommended amount of polyunsaturated fats she should have each day. The typical fortified egg has the same amount of calories, protein and fat as a regular egg, but contains 115 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids compared to the 49 milligrams in an ordinary egg. Depending on the chicken feed, fortified eggs may also have more vitamin D, vitamin E, folate and iodine.
What Experts Say
If you want to eat fortified eggs -- and can afford the usually higher price tag -- nutritionist Monica Reinagel says to go for it. They won't hurt you, and they can help you get the 1,100 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids that the Institute of Medicine recommends daily for adult women. However, the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition assistant director, Susan Bowerman, points out that you shouldn't depend solely on foods like fortified eggs to get your omega-3 fatty acids. A 3-ounce serving of cooked salmon will give you far more. If you're a vegetarian who consumes fortified eggs, you'll still need some other source of omega-3 fatty acids -- dietary supplements, for instance -- in order to get enough.
Egg Intake Recommendations
If you're a healthy woman, eating ordinary or fortified eggs regularly throughout the week isn't going to kill you, says the Dietitians of Canada. Yes, eggs do have cholesterol and saturated fat, but if you don't have high blood cholesterol, diabetes or heart disease, you can have one whole egg a day -- which includes eggs in dishes or baked goods -- without worrying. If you do have a history of these conditions, it's best to limit your intake to no more than two eggs a week. Just don't dump the yolk, especially if you're going out of your way to get fortified eggs -- most of the omega-3 fatty acids are concentrated there. If you skip the yolk, you don't get the heart-healthy fats.
- Eggland's Best: EB Eggs versus Ordinary Eggs
- Cooking Light: The Most Common Nutrition Mistakes
- MayoClinic.com: Ground Flaxseed - Better Than Whole?
- The Vegan R.D.: Omega-3 Fats in Vegan Diets - A Quick Primer
- Eggland's Best: Superior Feed
- The Israel Medical Association Journal: Egg Fortification with n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA): Nutritional Benefits Versus High n-6 PUFA Western Diets and Consumer Acceptance
- QuickandDirtyTips.com: Which Eggs are Best?
- Los Angeles Times: Enriched Eggs, Milk May Not be Best Source for Omega-3s
- EatRight Ontario: Understanding Eggs and Cholesterol - How Many Eggs Can You Eat?
Michelle Kerns writes for a variety of print and online publications and specializes in literature and science topics. She has served as a book columnist since 2008 and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Kerns studied English literature and neurology at UC Davis.