How to Buy Eggs

Whether you like them scrambled for breakfast, deviled for a satisfying snack, or as the key ingredient in a delicious frittata for a simple weeknight meal, eggs are a versatile source of healthy protein and can be enjoyed on all Phases of the South Beach Diet. When shopping for eggs, you’ll notice that there are many types to choose from: brown eggs, white eggs, jumbo, extra-large, large, medium, and small. Here we'll take a crack at clearing up any confusion you may have when it comes to buying eggs.

Shell color: Interestingly, the difference in shell color has nothing to do with the quality of the egg. The color of the eggshell depends on the breed of the hen. Some hens lay white eggs and others lay brown ones — some even lay blueish-green. While there is no difference in nutritional value or taste, brown eggs tend to cost more than white because the hens that lay them are larger and require more food.

Yolk color: The differences in yolk color depend on the type of feed given to the hen. While hens given wheat-based feed tend to produce eggs with lighter-yellow yolks, those that eat corn-based feed tend to lay eggs with darker-yellow yolks. Fortunately, the color of the yolk does not affect flavor or nutritional value. The yolk is the most nutritious part of the egg — it is rich in vitamins A, C, and E, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are known to improve eye health. When it comes to cholesterol, eggs just aren’t a problem for most people, says Dr. Agatston. If you are concerned, talk with your own physician.

Egg size: Eggs come in many sizes, from small to jumbo. Generally, most baking recipes call for large eggs, so it’s good to have these on hand. You can use any size egg for scrambled or poached, for example. However, if you like to eat hard-boiled or deviled eggs, you might prefer extra-large or jumbo eggs for a slightly heartier nibble.

Egg grade: Grading is an indicator of egg quality and freshness, though only eggs graded A and AA are sold to supermarkets. There's not much difference between grade A and grade AA eggs, so don't worry about which one to choose. Instead, consider the storage conditions (eggs should be refrigerated) and the sell-by date (if they’ve been kept refrigerated eggs can safely be consumed several weeks beyond the sell-by date) and open the carton to examine the eggs and make sure that none are cracked.

Organic eggs: For producers to label their eggs organic, they must follow a number of USDA guidelines. For example, eggs must come from chickens that only eat organic feed. The feed cannot contain animal by-products, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or other chemicals. The chickens may only be given antibiotics when these are needed to treat an illness and they can’t be injected with the types of hormones and other drugs that industrial producers typically use.

Omega-3 eggs: Eggs can contain omega-3 fatty acids if the chicken that produces them is fed a diet high in omega-3-rich foods like fish oil and marine microalgae, which both contain the omega-3 docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and flaxseed, which is a good source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Some cartons may tell you how much of each kind of omega-3 is contained in the eggs you’re purchasing. Look for organic brands.

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