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Eggs Are So Much More with Flax

Produced by hens that were fed flax, omega-3 enriched eggs contain an extra measure of goodness. For cost, convenience and versatility, these eggs provide most consumers with unsurpassed choice if they want to increase heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.

That's the recommendation of dietitian Dr. Diane Morris, one of the authors of a paper being distributed this year to U.S. egg producers. In the paper, entitled "Production of Omega-3 Eggs for Health Conscious Consumers," Morris compares nutrient levels in omega-3 enriched eggs with recommendations from medical scientists in both the United States and Canada.

"How can consumers plan a diet that meets current omega-3 intake recommendations?" she writes. "In today’s marketplace, the best strategy is to eat omega-3-enriched eggs derived from hens that were fed flax seed."

In her report, produced for the Flax Council of Canada, Morris describes research into the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These two compounds - which help to prevent clogging of arteries and can be useful in combating Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure and coronary heart disease - can be derived from alpha linolenic acid (ALA). When hens are fed flax, the richest plant source of ALA in the North American diet, they break down some of the ALA into the two desirable fatty acids, making their eggs excellent sources of both EPA and DHA.

One of the fundamental problems of the North American diet is that most people consume far more omega-6 fatty acids - derived from oils such as corn, sunflower, soybean oil and from livestock fed corn - than omega-3 fatty acids, notes Morris. A healthy diet is intended to bring the levels of the two kinds of fatty acids closer together. For many consumers, regular consumption of the omega-3 enriched eggs will be a major step towards reaching the desirable level of the healthy fatty acids.

"A single omega-3-enriched egg provides 38% of Health Canada's recommended intake of total omega-3 fatty acids daily and 14% of the U.S. proposed adequate intakes for ALA, EPA and DHA combined."

Health Canada recommends that adults consume 1.1 grams of ALA, EPA and DHA per day. While the United States doesn't have an official recommendation yet, a working group of scientists is urging a daily total of 2.9 grams (with at least 0.44 grams of that coming from DHA and EPA). A single omega-3 enriched egg has, on average, 0.42 grams of total omega-3s, with 0.14 grams in the form of EPA and DHA.

The North American average for egg consumption is one half an egg per day, writes Morris. Switching to omega-3 enriched eggs and doubling consumption to one per day will prove to be much easier for most North Americans than the frequently heard advice to double their fish consumption.

Health-conscious consumers have been urged for a number of years to eat more fish in order to obtain the recommended levels of EPA and DHA, but Morris notes several difficulties with that advice. For one, it's only deep-running, cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring and fresh tuna that are good sources of the fatty acids. Popular white fish such as cod, haddock and halibut  - and canned tuna - are low in the compounds. Consumers who don't like the taste or can't afford fresh fish will find the "eat fish" advice hard to follow.

Some consumers may even be led to unhealthy food choices as a result of the pro-fish message.

Morris notes that some individuals may order fast food restaurants' fish sandwiches, thinking that they are making a healthy food choice. But not only are the fish sandwiches usually made of haddock, they are typically breaded and deep-fried. A single fish sandwich is likely to provide more than the recommended daily maximum for omega-6 fatty acids, which in excess can stimulate clogging of arteries.

Eggs were stigmatized years ago as sources of cholesterol, notes Morris, but three medical studies in recent years have agreed that most consumers can eat four to 12 eggs per week without increasing their LDL cholesterol.

That's good news, given that eggs can be cooked so many ways as well as being used in baking, casseroles, and pasta dishes.

"Eggs are so much more versatile in the diet," she says.

- Jewish Press