Health
7 Things You Should Know About Eggs
I never knew these things! I am definitely going to keep them in mind the next time I get eggs!
Erin Russell
07.07.17

If you’ve ever bought eggs from a farmer’s market, you may have noticed that the shell and yolk often have different coloring than supermarket eggs. This is completely normal. However, the color of the egg yolk can reveal certain qualities about the diet of the chickens.

In fact, some chicken farmers supplement their chickens’ diet or infuse their eggs using a number of different additives to change the color of their egg shells or yolks. These are called specialty eggs. Along with telling you what this means, we’ve also included information about safety, nutrition, and concerns people may have about consuming eggs.

Flickr/Amy
Source:
Flickr/Amy

Coloring

In a question to “The Salt” on NPR, a man asked why, when he had eggs in Africa, the yolks were white as opposed to the traditional orange of the American food staple. Maria Godoy responded with her research that the color of egg yolks has more to do with the diet of chickens than anything else and is not necessarily something to fear.

Egg yolk color is determined by a pigment found in plants called xanthophylls. Depending on the grain that a chicken is fed, the color of the yolk may be different. It can also explain the diversity of what a chicken eats—whether they are fed only certain grains or a combination of grains and veggies. However, in general, darker yolks tend to be richer in nutrients like omega 3s, carotenoids, and luteins, according to Broad Ripples Farmers Market.

Light

A light colored yolk, like the one mentioned in the article published by NPR, is because chickens in Africa are fed a grain called Sorghum, which has very low pigmentation in comparison to yellow corn or carrots. It is rare that consumers in the United States would find a yolk that is near white in color.

Medium

Flickr/snickclunk
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Flickr/snickclunk

The eggs people find at the supermarket traditionally have a bright orange-colored yolk. This is because most American farmers feed their chickens sources of xanthophyll that have lutein extracts. That list includes marigold leaves, yellow maize, green feed like alfalfa, orange peels, algae, carrots, and annatto seeds, according to Modern Farmer.

Dark

Egg yolks that are reddish or red-orange in color reflect consumption of a xanthophyll extract called zeaxanthin which comes from dark red or green plants such as peppers, kale, spinach, and broccoli.

Cholesterol

For many years, the American Heart Association (AHA) has warned against the consumption of egg yolks for people who struggle with maintaining a healthy cholesterol or have diabetes. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), raw egg yolks contain 186 milligrams of cholesterol for every one large egg that a person consumes. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 300 milligrams per day.

However, sources like Web MD and the Mayo Clinic claim that the cholesterol in eggs actually does very little harm in comparison to the 1.5 grams of saturated fats found in eggs. So do you risk it? The AHA still recommends limiting the intake of egg yolks in order to reduce effects of LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Restricting consumption to 2-3 eggs per week provides the nutrients the body needs while maintaining a heart-healthy balance.

Nutritional Value

Flickr/Willow Cottage Garden
Source:
Flickr/Willow Cottage Garden

Of the nutrients that egg yolks contain, there are 6 grams of protein, nearly 5 grams of fat and 28 milligrams of calcium. The yolk also contains a significant source of magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.

Egg yolks also provide Vitamins A, E, D and folate. The National Institute of Health explains that folate is a B vitamin that is a necessary partner in the synthesis of DNA and RNA and also helps to metabolize amino acids. A folate deficiency can lead to health problems such as anemia. Needless to say, folate is pretty important.

General Safety

Didgeman
Source:
Didgeman

The Food & Drug Administration has set specific guidelines and regulations for how eggs can be handled. Eggs, if spoiled, can grow a group of bacteria called Salmonella which causes food poisoning. They recommend consumers always purchase eggs that have been consistently refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and store them at that temperature.

Ultimately, the color of the egg does not determine whether there are more nutrients or less. A deeper or richer color does not signify that there are more nutrients. However, different xanthophyll extracts do contain vitamins that are good for the body. The color merely determines which vegetables or grains the chicken has been fed. As Modern Farmer noted, scientists have in fact developed additives that can provide the same effect that xanthophyll has on coloring to create a yolk color that a particular population prefers. Only the packaging can tell.

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By Erin Russell
hi@sbly.com
Erin Marissa Russell is a contributing writer at Shareably. She is based in Denton, TX, and can be reached at erin.russellgibsoncontent@gmail.com.
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