Eggs are a major staple of the Paleo diet., or they seem to be among the Paleo practitioners I know. And they should be. Eggs are a fantastic source of protein and fat and are full of nutrients like vitamins E and A and omega-3. They are also relatively inexpensive – a great value for the nutrition they provide. But did you know that there is a best and worst way to eat eggs?
But first we need to discuss what are the best eggs to eat. The eggs found in your supermarket’s refrigerated section are, for the most part, are eggs you want to avoid. Why? The hens that lay those eggs are confined which means they have no access to fresh air and sunlight. Further, the diet they are fed is not appropriate for chickens. They are fed a mixture of corn, soy, cottonseed meals and synthetic additives. While seeds and grains can be a part of a birds diet, it’s not the only thing they would eat. Foraging hens would also be eating grass and plants, seeds, bugs and worms. The nutrient value of eggs produced by a pastured hen as opposed to CAFO (confined animal feeding operation) hen is like night and day.From Mother Earth News:
Most of the eggs currently sold in supermarkets are nutritionally inferior to eggs produced by hens raised on pasture. That’s the conclusion we have reached following completion of the 2007 Mother Earth News egg testing project. Our testing has found that, compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
Pastured eggs are also safer and contain far less salmonella. In 2008 the British Soil Association found that:
…..organic laying hen farms have a significantly lower level of Salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterium that causes one of the commonest forms of food poisoning worldwide.The study showed that 23.4 per cent of farms with caged hens tested positive for salmonella compared to 4.4 per cent in organic flocks and 6.5 per cent in free-range flocks.
So where can one buy these eggs? From Mercola.com:
Your best source for fresh eggs is a local farmer that allows his hens to forage freely outdoors. If you live in an urban area, visiting a local health food store is typically the quickest route to finding high-quality local egg sources. Your local farmers market is another source for fresh free range eggs, and is a great way to meet the people who produce your food. With face-to-face contact, you can get your questions answered and know exactly what you’re buying. Better yet, visit the farm and ask for a tour. Most will be eager to show off their operation, as long as they’ve got nothing to hide. Your egg farmer should be paying attention to proper nutrition, clean water, adequate housing space, and good ventilation to reduce stress on the hens and support their immunity.
Cornucopia.org offers a helpful organic egg scorecard that rates egg manufacturers based on 22 criteria that are important for organic consumers. According to Cornucopia, their report “showcases ethical family farms, and their brands, and exposes factory farm producers and brands in grocery store coolers that threaten to take over organic livestock agriculture.”
Besides that, you can tell the eggs are free range by the color of the egg yolk. Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks. Dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you’re getting eggs form caged hens that are not allowed to forage for their natural diet.
The Best Way to Eat Eggs on the Paleo Diet
Believe it or not cooked eggs especially scrambled is the worst way to eat eggs. Scrambled eggs oxidizes the cholesterol in the egg. This can be a problem if you already have cholesterol issues.
The best way to eat eggs is raw. Now I know that sounds gross, but consider this. The eggs eaten by our Paleo ancestors would have been raw, eaten shortly after having been gathered. These eggs would have also been fertilized, unlike our eggs today, and eaten in season. Now I know that our pastured eggs sit around longer, but they are still safe to eat raw. Again from Mercola.com:
……as long as you’re getting fresh pastured eggs, your risk of getting ill from a raw egg is quite slim. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, of the 69 billion eggs produced annually in the United States, some 2.3 million are contaminated with Salmonella—equivalent to just one in every 30,000 eggs.
While eggs are often one of your most allergenic foods, I believe this is because they are typically cooked too much. Heating the egg protein actually changes its chemical shape, and this distortion can easily lead to allergies..If you consume your eggs in their raw state, the incidence of egg allergy virtually disappears. I also believe eating eggs raw helps preserve many of the highly perishable nutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are powerful prevention elements for age-related macular degeneration, which is the most common cause of blindness.
…… Beware of consuming raw egg whites without the yolks as raw egg whites contain avidin, which can bind to biotin. If you cook the egg white the avidin is not an issue. Likewise, if you consume the whole raw egg (both yolk and egg white) there is more than enough biotin in the yolk to compensate for the avidin binding.
An easy way to eat raw eggs is in a smoothie. I know smoothies are not typically paleo, but a drink made with coconut or almond milk, some vanilla and a raw egg can go down nicely if blended. And raw egg yolks have a vanilla flavor to them. If you just cannot bring yourself to eat raw eggs, then soft-boil them. This has the benefit of leaving the yolk uncooked and the white firming up.
So, now that you know what is the best way to eat eggs on the Paleo diet, are you ready to dive in? I know I am! It’s now time for breakfast and I’m going to make a smoothie this morning. How are you going to eat your raw eggs today?