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Eggs On A Mission

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With a little help, nature’s most simple food takes on superhero status.

It used to be that the biggest difference between two eggs was the colour of their shells. (For the record, brown and white eggs are identical inside low in calories and packed with nutrients) But these days, we can choose eggs that may actually be healthier for the hens, the environment, and us. And we are choosing: Sales of enhanced, organic, and cage-free speciality eggs are growing by approximately 25% a year.

The most exciting new trend in speciality eggs is the addition of omega-3 fatty acids, which has helped the incredible edible overcome its unfair reputation as a danger to your heart. (One egg has about 215 mg of cholesterol nearly a day’s worth. But moderate intake of eggs is still healthy for most of us.) Other speciality eggs, such as the ethical-sounding “cage-free” and the environmental-minded “organic,” may not confer specific health benefits, but they just might help you feel like you’re making the world a better place (and maybe you are). Still, are they and other speciality eggs worth the extra money? Here’s what we know about three speciality picks.

If you want to… BOOST HEART HEALTH

Consider: Omega-3-enriched eggs

Many producers now add sources of omega-3 fats such as flaxseed or canola oil to the hens’ feed to increase the healthy fat in their eggs. Studies show that omega-3s may help prevent heart attacks, but a common source in our diets is canned tuna which is not the safest pick when it comes to mercury. Eggs? Mainly mercury-free.

Shop smart: Cartons carrying the USDA-certified label have been inspected, so you can feel confident that their claims (such as “omega-3 enhanced”) are valid.

If you want to… SHOP ETHICALLY

Consider: Certified humane eggs

Nutritionally, the term “cage-free” means nothing; this category appeals mainly to those concerned about the health and safety of chickens.

Cage-free hens aren’t necessarily pecking away happily in open areas, though. Their beaks may be trimmed to prevent aggressive behaviour, and their feed is controlled. And chickens tend to crowd near food and water regardless of space.

Shop smart: The Certified Humane Raised and Handled label means your eggs went through a voluntary, thorough inspection process by an independent animal-welfare group (certifiedhumane.com).

If you want to… HELP THE PLANET

Consider: Certified organic eggs

Organic eggs come from hens whose feed is not irradiated, genetically engineered, treated with synthetic pesticides or fertilizer, or made with animal byproducts, but there’s no clear evidence that organic eggs contain fewer pesticides than conventional ones.

Shop smart: Although “organic” is a meaningful, USDA-regulated term, don’t be fooled by labels that read “natural” or “hormone-free” those words apply to all eggs.