Omega-3 Enriched Eggs
Omega-3 eggs are eggs fortified with flax goodness through flax fed to laying hens. These eggs contain the essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic (ALA), plus two other omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA).
Omega-3 enriched eggs provide about 12 times more omega-3 fatty acids than regular eggs, based on an average omega-3 content of 0.5 grams in omega-3 enriched eggs versus 0.04 grams in regular eggs¹.
What is especially important for vegetarian diets, is the eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) + docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) content of these eggs. When hens are fed flax seed, the richest plant source of alpha-linolenic fatty acid (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. Morris1, in a paper written for egg producers, states:
Recommended Adequate Intakes of omega-3 fatty acids
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) published recommended intakes of essential fatty acids in September 2002, acknowledging the essential nature of ALA in the human diet and the contribution of all omega-3 fatty acids to human health. The IOM is a nonprofit organization that operates under the umbrella of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. It has set recommended intakes for calcium, iron, and B vitamins, along with other vitamins and minerals, and, in this recent report, for macronutrients like protein, carbohydrate, and fat. The IOM’s recommended intakes were developed in cooperation with Health Canada and will replace the Canadian Recommended Nutrient Intakes (RNIs).
In its 2002 report, the IOM recommended certain intakes (called Adequate Intakes) of ALA for infants, children and adolescents, and adults, the first time a North American agency has made a recommendation for this essential omega-3 fatty acid.
Note that an Adequate Intake was set only for ALA. Adequate Intakes were not set for EPA and DHA. The reason for this is that, strictly speaking, ALA is the only true “essential” omega-3 fatty acid in our diet. Remember, an essential nutrient (like ALA) is one that must be obtained from foods because our bodies cannot make it. Because EPA and DHA can be made from ALA, they are not considered “essential” nutrients in the strictest sense. [When EPA and DHA are called “essential fatty acids” in the medical literature, the authors usually mean that EPA and DHA are “important” or “vital.”] Accordingly, the IOM set recommended intakes for ALA and indicated that other omega-3 fatty acids in our diet (like EPA and DHA) can contribute to the recommended ALA intake.
Omega-3- enriched eggs help meet Adequate Intakes for ALA
One omega-3- enriched egg provides on average about 0.34 grams of ALA and 0.13 grams of EPA + DHA. By itself, an omega-3- enriched egg provides a significant portion of the Adequate Intakes of ALA for all age groups. For young children under the age of 3 years, for example, one omega-3- enriched egg provides half (49%) of the Adequate Intake. For boys and men, one omega-3- enriched egg provides roughly one-quarter (21-28%) of the recommended Adequate Intake. For girls and women, an omega-3- enriched egg provides about one-third (31-34%) of their Adequate Intake of ALA.
If eaten on a regular basis, an omega-3-enriched egg makes a substantial contribution to omega-3 fatty acid intakes. Because of their increased omega-3 fatty acid content, omega-3 enriched eggs contain more polyunsaturated fatty acids than regular eggs. While the omega-3 content may vary substantially between different brands, the caloric value and protein and fat content of omega-3 enriched eggs are similar to that of regular eggs. Some omega-3 enriched eggs contain slightly less cholesterol than regular eggs.
1. Flax Council of Canada. 2003. The novel egg: Opportunities for flax in omega-3
egg production. Winnipeg: Flax Council of Canada.