25 May 2016


Without a doubt, eggs the unofficial red-headed stepchild of the natural foods industry. With a history of conflicting studies on everything from blood pressure and cholesterol levels to bone density, the egg’s “secret” is the same as all others; a food where quality over quantity is the ultimate determinant for consumption benefits.

In the early 1900s, the egg industry was primarily based on small-farm and independent housing operations. A key component of the permaculture system of farming, chickens provided not only eggs and meat, but also natural pest control and fertilization as they roamed the pasture, picking bugs and depositing nitrogen. This access to the beneficial fats and proteins in the graze-feed system resulted in a high-protein, low fat, balanced egg that had a variety of shell colors based on the species of the layer hen, as well as a dark, amber colored yolk indicative of high nutrient density and a naturally occurring omega complex.

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Production ramped up slowly over the range of roughly 50 years leading to the mid-1900s, as raised coops, cage-stacks, and automation of egg collection. The benefits of the standardization of nutrition presented primarily as a cost-benefit for the farmers, as foraging began to be supplemented with the addition of seeds and grains, causing a moderate shift in the egg’s nutritional breakdown.

The dietary spectrum of eggs falls into four major categories; pasture-raised/free range, omega-3, organic, and conventionally raised. The composition of an egg is usually described as having two basic parts: the white and the yolk. The white is approximately 87% water and 13% protein, and contains both vitamins and minerals. The yolk is about 50% water, 33% fat, and 17% protein; like the white, it also contains both vitamins and minerals.

While all eggs do contain high levels of dietary cholesterol, each category responds differently in the body with conventional tactics scoring lowest (low to moderate LDL increase) and free range scoring highest, as they have been shown to increase the liver’s production of HDL as well as the quality of HDL, or “good” cholesterol. Due to the fact that any increase in cholesterol is considered a risk for type II diabetics, please consider that despite all other benefits, eggs should be consumed in moderation; the total amount is something to discuss with your nutritional coach.

While virtually all egg yolks contain a spectrum of omega-3 fatty acids, the variety and density vary with the amounts of omegas in the hens’ diet. To combat the loss of seed-forage sourced omegas, commercial farmers developed the “omega-3” egg, by supplementing the grain and corn diets provided to the hens with krill, flax, algae, and other fatty acid laden foods. What is gained in omega-3 eggs is the natural vitamin E content of pasture raised hens. One broad-spectrum study completed recently shows over 200% higher density of vitamin E in the yolks of foraging hens who had access to a variety of grasses and lentils in addition insects.

In regards to the egg whites, or technically, albumen, eggs provide the complete package. Making up roughly two thirds of an egg’s weight, the albumen is dietaryily important due to housing all of the essential amino acids (those that your body cannot manufacture, nor store in excess amounts), a single egg contains roughly 3.6 grams of protein. Among the major components are an average of .3g leucine – a key factor in muscle growth, .25g lysine, which aids in the support of the immune system and is one of the two major building blocks of collagen along with proline, .2g phenylaline, and .26g valine. The remaining 2.6g is an amalgamation of the remaining amino acids. Many “conditional” aminos are found to be naturally occuring as well, such as .2g serine and argenine each, both of which your body requires in high amounts during times of stress and fatigue. Second tier are glycine, proline, cystine, and tyrosine, each roughly at .1g per egg white.

Farm Fresh Egg

Calories – 249 Sodium – 444mg Vitamin A – 9%

Total Fat – 12g Potassium – 68mg Vitamin C – 0%

Saturated – 4g Total Carbs – 25g Calcium – 17%

Polyunsaturated – 1g Dietary Fiber – 3g Iron – 11%

Monounsaturated – 3g Sugars – 2g

Trans – 0g Protein – 14g

Cholesterol- 224mg

choline – 35% selenium – 28% biotin – 27% vitamin B – 1223%

vitamin B – 220% molybdenum – 19% iodine – 18% pantothenic acid – 14%

protein – 13% phosphorus – 12% vitamin D – 11% vitamin A – 8%

Table 1 – Nutritional Density of Eggs


Egg White

Egg Yolk




Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium


Vitamin B3



Vitamin B2



Total Fat



Omega-3 Fats



Vitamins A, D, E, K






Vitamins B5, B6, B12, Folate, Choline

10% or less

90% or more

Calcium, Phosphorus, Zinc, Copper, Iron

10% or less

90% or more




Vitamin B1









Table 2 – Nutritional breakdown of yolk vs white

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Given access to a farmers market, health food store, or alternative grocery store, there is little argument that your best bet lies in consuming the entire body of a pasture raised egg, yolk included. For infomation on where to find a great source, I reccomend checking out www.eatlocalgrown.com , an open source project that helps you track local produce and meats, organic foods, farmers markets, and more by zip code.


  • Andersen CJ, Blesso CN, Lee J, et al. Egg Consumption Modulates HDL Lipid Composition and Increases the Cholesterol-Accepting Capacity of Serum in Metabolic Syndrome. Lipids. 2013 Mar 15. [Epub ahead of print]
  • Bruneel C, Lemahieu C, Fraeye I, et al. Impact of microalgal feed supplementation on omega-3 fatty acid enrichment of hen eggs. Journal of Functional Foods, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 5 March 2013.
  • Burbaugh D, Toro E, and Gernat A. Introduction to pasture-raised poultry: maximizing foraging behavior. (2006). Document Number AN237. University of Florida, IFAS Extension, Gainsville, FL.
  • Djousse L and Gaziano JM. Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians’ Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Apr;87(4):964-9.
  • Fraeye I, Bruneel C, Lemahieu C, et al. Dietary enrichment of eggs with omega-3 fatty acids: A review. Food Research International, Volume 48, Issue 2, October 2012, Pages 961-969.
  • Karstena HD, Pattersona PH, Stouta R, et al. Vitamins A, E and fatty acid composition of the eggs of caged hens and pastured hens. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Volume 25, Special Issue 01, March 2010, pp 45-54.
  • Karstena HD, Pattersona PH, Stouta R, et al. Vitamins A, E and fatty acid composition of the eggs of caged hens and pastured hens. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Volume 25, Special Issue 01, March 2010, pp 45-54.

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