How To Choose The Best Egg For Your Child
There's no debate about the health benefits of eggs for children. But, how much do you know about the eggs that you buy at the market? How do you choose the best ones? Read on to know more.
By Leena Ghosh
We’ve all heard the saying ‘an apple a day, keeps the doctor away,’ but the humble egg, with its many nutritional benefits, is not far behind. While the egg and its consumption has sometimes come under the scanner for several reasons, researchers have proved that eggs are a vital source of proteins and other nutrients for the human body.
A study by CHS Ruxton, E Derbyshire and S Gibson titled, 'The nutritional properties and health benefits of eggs', published in Nutrition & Food Science (2010), states the following: ‘Eggs are a rich source of protein and several essential nutrients, particularly vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium and choline. Emerging evidence suggests that eating eggs is associated with satiety, weight management and better diet quality’.
In fact, the egg is considered one of the highest sources of protein. As a result, it is often used as a standard to compare other protein-rich foods like fish and soybeans. As per the data provided on India’s NECC (National Egg Co-ordination Committee) website, on the protein-rich food scale, the egg scores 93.7 per cent.
Egg nutrition facts and value
But, with the demand for eggs being on a perpetual rise leading to hens being injected with hormones, the egg is not always what it’s cracked up to be. Before we get into how to choose the best egg for your child, you need to know the types of eggs available in the market today.
Different types of eggs in India
- Regular eggs: These are the eggs you find in your supermarket. The hens are raised in cages and provided grain-based feed. The feed is often supplemented with vitamins and minerals. The hens are sometimes even given antibiotics and hormones.
- Organic eggs: These hens are raised on organic feed and are not given any hormones or antibiotics. However, they are often kept in cages.
- Cage-free eggs: As the term denotes, these hens are not kept in cages and are allowed to roam about freely. But, this does not mean that they are kept in hygienic conditions. Many companies put the hens in packed hen houses or aviary systems, where the hens hardly have any space to perch or scratch in the dirt.
- Free-range eggs: Here, the hens are raised in a natural environment, where they have the option of going outside. They are fed natural feed like plants and insects.
- Enriched eggs: Here, the hens are provided feed rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (mostly flax seeds), as the normal human diet often lacks this important nutrient.
Egg labelling in India
While most countries have to follow strict protocols when labelling eggs, in India this practice has not yet been adopted. However, things might change soon with the Law Commission of India looking into the matter. According to a report published by the Law Commission of India, ‘Transportation and House-keeping of Egg-laying hens (layers) and Broiler Chickens’, published in July 2017, egg vendors will soon have to label the eggs so the customers can make an informed decision. The report states, ‘With a view to curtail the cruel practices of confining birds in battery cages, it is necessary to have a distinction between the produce obtained from healthy farming of hens in cage free environment and the produce obtained from battery cage farming. Towards this end, certification by the Animal Husbandry Departments of the States, recognising that the poultry farms follow the practice of cage free egg farming, is desirable. This would enable the consumer to select the produce obtained from healthy farming and will result in discouraging battery cage farm’.
Now, that you are aware of the varieties of eggs available in the market and their implications, here's how you can go about choosing the best egg for your child.
How to choose the best eggs in India
The sheer variety of eggs in the market in terms of colour, size and labels can be confusing, when all you want to do is make the right choice for your family. Here are a few pointers you can keep in your mind before you buy a dozen.
1. It’s not about the colour: Whether the colour of the egg shell is white, red or brown, it doesn’t make any difference to the nutritional value of the egg. The colour of the egg depends upon the breed of the hen that laid it.
2. Refrigeration adds shelf life: While it’s always advisable to check the ‘use by’ date before purchasing a product, refrigerated eggs have a longer shelf life. If refrigerated properly, an egg can last up to five to six weeks from the date it was packed.
3. Avoid the cracks: Though it may seem like common sense, many people tend to purchase a carton even if it has a cracked egg or two. Avoid buying cartons or packs with cracked eggs as they may not be safe to consume.
4. Labels matter: While many egg cartons in Indian markets do not have proper labelling, check the ones that do. Organic or free-range eggs are always a better choice.
How many eggs can your child eat every day?
Adding eggs to your child’s diet has many benefits as it is a good source of protein and other nutrients like iron, choline and vitamin D. Eggs are also a source of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat which are not healthy for the heart. Therefore, if your child is obtaining the daily required amount from other protein sources, it is prudent to limit the number of eggs in his daily diet.
At the end of the day, the choices you make determine the nutritional value of the meals your family has. So, be informed and always read before you buy.
About the author:
Written by Leena Ghosh on 15 September 2018; updated on 19 December 2019
The author is a journalist, writer, editor and the mother of a spirited young girl. In between juggling the roles of being a full-time cheerleader for her daughter, a thorough professional and a part time chef, she dreams of finishing the first page of her unwritten book.
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