Browsing the grocery aisle,you're likely to find eggs with the words "omega-3" on the label. These eggs are different from regular eggs because they've been enriched with essential polyunsaturated fats, which is done by feeding laying hens a diet rich in omega-3 fats. Enriched eggs typically cost more than standard eggs, and you may wonder if they offer more health benefits and whether the price is worth the extra cost.
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The Scoop on Omega-3 Fats
Omega-3s are found in some plant and nut oils; in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and halibut; and in foods that manufacturers have fortified with the fats. Omega-3 fats helps your brain function properly and are necessary for proper growth and development. They also reduce inflammation and may reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and arthritis, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Types of Omega-3s in Eggs
There are three primary omega-3 fats: alpha-linolenic acid, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, or ALA, EPA and DHA. The first type is found in plants, and the latter two are found in fish. The amount and type of omega-3 fatty acids found in eggs varies depending on the diet the hens are fed. Land O Lakes omega-3 eggs contain 160 milligrams of omega-3 per egg in the form ALA, while organic Horizon eggs contain 225 milligrams of combined DHA and AHA omega-3 fatty acids per egg.
Omega-3 vs. Regular Eggs for Health
The "Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences" published a study in June 2008 examining whether omega-3 eggs offered benefits over regular eggs. In a double-blind study, 19 healthy participants ate one regular egg or one omega-3 egg daily along with their regular diet for 30 days. Researchers found that eating the omega-3 eggs resulted in lower blood glucose and apolipoprotein B, a component of LDL -- a bad form of cholesterol. Eating omega-3 eggs also increased apolipoprotein A-1, a component of HDL, which is a beneficial type of cholesterol. These changes are linked to a decreased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Other Sources of Omega-3s
If your overall diet is lacking in omega-3 fats, fortified eggs may offer a convenient way to boost your consumption. The Institute of Medicine recommends 0.6 to 1.2 grams of ALA per day. The American Dietetic Association recommends 500 milligrams of EPA plus DHA per day. Keep in mind that the amount of omega-3s in fortified eggs is low compared to fatty fish. A 3-ounce serving of wild Atlantic cooked salmon contains a combined total of 1,564 milligrams of EPA and DHA, according to the U.S Department of Agriculture.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences: Biochemical Effects of Consumption of Eggs Containing Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
- Land O Lakes: All-Natural Eggs With 160 mg of ALA per Egg
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Estimated Average Requirements
- Horizon: Omega-3 Eggs
- Health.gov: Appendix G2: Original Food Guide Pyramid Patterns and Description of USDA Analyses