By Christine Richmond, REDBOOK
There's no such thing as a plain old egg anymore. Every carton seems to blare healthy- and important-sounding differences like "cage-free" or "enriched with omega-3s." But what do those things mean? And what should you buy? Registered dietitian Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It, clears things up.
1. THE LABEL: Omega-3 enriched
WHAT IT MEANS: These eggs haven't been injected with fish oil or anything, it's just that the chickens that laid them were fed omega-3-rich foods like flaxseed, so their eggs have seven times more of the heart-healthy fats than regular eggs. "It's an easy way to bolster your diet," says Taub-Dix, "but you also need direct sources of omegas, like fish and walnuts."
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2. THE LABEL: Vegetarian
WHAT IT MEANS: Unlike chickens on large factory farms--which may be fed cow, pig, and even chicken parts--these birds don't eat meat, aside from the occasional insect or worm they come across in their pens. But there's no evidence that the resulting eggs are any healthier for humans, Taub-Dix says.
3. THE LABEL: Free-range, cage-free
WHAT IT MEANS: Ninety percent of the eggs at the grocery store come from hens that are kept in very tightly packed cages. Animal-rights folks say the practice is unkind; health experts worry that close quarters make it easier for fecal-borne bacteria such as E. coli to get onto the eggs. "Free" hens have more crawl space.
4. THE LABEL: USDA organic
WHAT IT MEANS: The hens that lay these eggs have access to the outdoors and are fed an organic diet, which equals fewer pesticide residues in your diet, Taub-Dix says. The birds aren't given antibiotics, either--that's good news, since one study found that antibiotics given to chickens can end up in their eggs.
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