If you’re trying to eat more Omega-3, there are a couple of things you can do:
- Eat more seafood like salmon, sardines, mackerel etc.
- Take Omega-3 supplements
If you don’t like seafood or don’t like popping pills, then you’re left with only one choice: eating Omega-3 foods – foods that are naturally rich in Omega-3 or have been supplemented with Omega-3.
If you’re wondering why I did not mention Flax or Chia as a source of Omega-3, check out my earlier post on Flaxseed oil vs fish oil. They are almost useless as a source of EPA & DHA Omega-3, which are the two types of Omega-3 you need.
In this series I’ll review foods that scream ‘Omega-3’ on their label. If I don’t get to some of your favorite foods, drop me a note or send me a sample – my grocery store doesn’t carry all the Omega-3 foods on the market.
Some Omega-3 foods are totally useless marketing gimmicks. Others are worth the added cost.
Omega-3 Foods Focus: Omega-3 Eggs
All eggs used to be Omega-3 eggs a hundred years ago, when chickens were allowed to roam the yard, foraging and pecking at leaves and grubs. Those chickens didn’t lay eggs every day, but when they did, their eggs were full of Omega-3.
Chickens put Omega-3 into their eggs for the same reason that human breast milk has DHA Omega-3 – to give the next generation an essential nutrient to grow and remain healthy.
But those days are long gone.
Now, eggs are mass-produced in giant factories where the chicken do nothing but eat feed made with corn and soy.
Corn and Soy are calorie-dense but poor in Omega-3.
Garbage in. Garbage out.
Since the mass-production of eggs began, eggs have seen their Omega-3 levels plummet and Omega-6 levels rise dramatically.
So today’s mass produced eggs have only about 35 mg of Omega-3 and about 700 mg of Omega-6.
Ideally, you want equal parts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 in your diet.
Eating 20 times more Omega-6 is not just dangerous, but deadly.
Too much Omega-6 equals more heart attacks.
Simple as that.
Too much Omega-6 also causes several other serious health issues. So whatever you eat, make sure it does not contain Omega-6 rich oils like corn oil, vegetable oil (soy), sunflower oil or safflower oil. Use Olive or Coconut oil instead.
By now, you’re probably thinking: is there a lot of cholesterol in eggs that I should be worrying about?
Answer is, no. Despite the cholesterol, eating eggs has never been convincingly linked to heart disease.
What’s an Omega-3 egg?
Omega-3 eggs are produced by hens fed a special vegetarian diet of plant material, grains, flaxseed and sometimes, even seaweed. While humans cannot convert the Omega-3 found in Flaxseed into usable forms, chickens surely can!
Flaxseed is one of the richest plant sources of omega-3.
Some new Omega-3 egg manufacturers have patented chicken feed that produces eggs with super high levels of Omega-3.
Not just that, they have lower levels of Omega-6.
It’s a win-win.
Omega-3 eggs usually have 4 times more omega-3 than regular eggs.
But patented chicken feed formulas like the one used by Christopher Eggs, have 20 varieties of vegetables. They say their feed mimics what chickens have chosen to eat for centuries. Back to basics!
Whatever the secret sauce, their eggs have 18 times more Omega-3 than regular eggs.
Each Christopher Egg has 660 mg of Omega-3! They claim to have the most Omega-3 per egg.
Omega-3 eggs are also low in other saturated and trans fats, which makes the good news even better.
Pasture, Free-range and Organic Eggs
Pasture eggs are ideal. They’re better than Omega-3 eggs.
With Pasture Eggs, chickens are allowed to wander about and eat what they want. This makes for great quality eggs with nice orangey yolks in the summer.
But pasture eggs are very hard to find.
Don’t confuse ‘Free range’ eggs with ‘Pasture.’
Free range eggs are the same unhealthy eggs as regular eggs, except these chickens have the freedom to wander about and may be get some sunshine. By USDA regulation, ‘allowed access to the outside’ is considered ‘free range.’ This usually means a tiny door is set open somewhere in the factory. The chickens may never see sunshine if they don’t figure out where this door is.
Click here for a report on Organic Eggs from the Cornucopia Institute.
Free range chickens are fed the same corn and soy feeds as regular chickens. So stay away from them even if they say ‘Organic Free Range.’ While that sounds healthy, it is not! The chickens doing the laying may be happier and freer but your health won’t be any better.
Free range eggs are not pasture eggs.
Omega-3 eggs are not pasture eggs.
Pasture eggs are the best but Omega-3 eggs are the next best things.
The Baltimore Sun newspaper had an article worth reading: Enriched eggs, milk may not be best source for omega-3s
Omega-3 Foods – Marketing Gimmicks
Look for HOW MUCH Omega-3 is in each egg.
This is very important.
Some Omega-3 eggs have mostly ALA Omega-3. ALA makes for great window-dressing but does not provide the health benefits of EPA and DHA Omega-3 (the kind in fish.)
Smart Balance is an example. Sure, it has Omega-3 blasted over its label. But it has only 32 mg of DHA Omega-3. You’d have to take 10 eggs to equal a regular fish oil pill. And you’d have to take 30 eggs to equal the Omega-3 in one pharmaceutical grade fish oil like OmegaVia.
Omega-3 eggs are a step in the right direction, but it is NOT a one-and-done quick fix. Your body needs a LOT more Omega-3 than what is found in one Smart Balance egg.
Good, honest eggs manufacturers say how much DHA Omega-3 is in each egg. Higher the better. Even Christopher Eggs, who claim to have 660 mg of Omega-3 per egg has only 100 mg of EPA and DHA Omega-3. Those are the Omega-3s that make you healthier.
How much is 100 mg of EPA + DHA? That’s a third of a regular fish oil pill. Or a tenth of a pharmaceutical pill like OmegaVia.
So, which one to buy?
My choices are:
Christopher Eggs – these seem to have the highest amount of Omega-3 per egg but are not available everywhere.
Skagit River Ranch – if you’re lucky enough to live in the Seattle area, you can buy their eggs at a few places. They’re worth looking for.
Land O Lakes Omega-3 Eggs – sold nationwide. It has 350 mg of Omega-3 but they don’t say what kind, so I feel luke warm about it. But the yolks are nice and orange!
I also buy Trader Joes Omega-3 eggs, which have 75 mg of DHA Omega-3 per egg. That’s higher than most Omega-3 eggs. At $3.99 a dozen, it’s not too pricey either. They actually mention that they feed their chickens flaxseeds! Way to go, Trader Joes!
Other Gimmicks to Watch out for:
- “Vegetarian fed” – Sounds nice but means nothing. Stuffing a chicken with corn and soy is not a good thing.
- Serving size = 2 eggs. Serving size should be for 1 egg.
- No DHA or EPA amount – brands with no mention of DHA levels on the package.
My part in Egg History…
I needed a job.The year was 1986 and I was a wet behind the ears freshman at Purdue University.”What do you know about poultry?” asked Dr. William Stadelman, a Professor of Poultry Science, during the interview.
Poultry?! Heck, I better make something up quickly! I need this job. What the heck am I doing in the Poultry Science building? I’m a Biomedical Engineering student. I don’t care about poultry!
“Sir, my grandma had a bunch of chickens on her farm. And I’d feed ’em in the morning and steal their eggs in the afternoon. I did that every day for an entire summer.” All of that was true. Whew! Apparently, that was more experience than what the city kids from Chicago had. So I got the job.
He’d literally written the text book used by most universities. His students ran Tyson, Butterball and Jenny-O. He’d written over 230 scientific papers on eggs. Ok, so he could tell a rooster from a hen.
My first project working with him was to conduct taste tests on something called “Omega-3 eggs.” Sounded Star-trekky. He’d been working with the egg industry to increase the Omega-3 content of eggs by adding fish oil and fish meal into chicken feed. And he wanted to find out if these new, fancy Omega-3 eggs would taste funny.
So it was my job to find hundreds of volunteers and give them three small plates of scrambled eggs. One plate had regular eggs and the other two were Omega-3 eggs. They had to pick the odd one. It’s called a Triangle Test.
I am a Biomedical Engineering student, dammit! What am I doing scrambling eggs for 4-bucks-an-hour? I’m a loser.
By this time, I’d also realized that I was a math moron. I stunk at Calculus and Differential Equations. My dreams of designing an artificial heart with my biomedical engineering degree went poof.
But I was really getting into this Omega-3 thing…
And the rest is history.
Dr. Stadelman passed away in 2007 at the age of 90. He was known as the ‘Father of Poultry Science.’
You are missed, Doc.