It’s the Chicken AND the Egg™: Egg Nutrition Facts
Mikelle Roeder, Ph.D. - Nutritionist, Purina Animal Nutrition LLC
Eggs are the most perfect source of protein in the world.1 Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and eggs have the best amino acid profile known — better than meat, milk and soy products. Two eggs for breakfast fulfills about 28 percent of the protein needs of the average six-foot, 180-lb. active man, and almost 40 percent of the needs of a 5’5”, 125-lb. active female — at only 140 calories.
Eggs are also rich in choline, a nutrient that is essential for fetal brain development and to help prevent birth defects. They also provide significant amounts of B vitamins, especially B12, as well as the minerals selenium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and calcium.
Eggs are a naturally occurring and significant source of vitamin D, and also a source of lutein, a compound shown to be helpful in preventing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Despite its apparent nutritional perfection, the egg can be enhanced by improving what is fed to the hen. Hens fed ground flaxseed will produce eggs with a much higher level of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an important omega-3 fatty acid, while those fed algae meal will lay eggs with higher amounts of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), another valuable omega-3 fatty acid.
Consider the egg. Vilified for decades for its cholesterol and saturated fat content, the egg is experiencing a redemption of epic proportions as further research confirms it as one of the most high-powered nuggets of natural nutrition on the planet. The timing couldn’t be more fortuitous, as the popularity of raising hens for egg production is exploding. Let’s take a deeper dive into egg nutrition facts and look closely at this culturally ancient food.
Despite its humble origin (and what could be humbler than emerging from the south end of a chicken?), the egg shines as the most perfect source of protein in the world. Protein sources are ranked in order of the completeness of their amino acid profile, relative to the needs of humans, as well as their digestibility. They are then given a score known as the “biological value.” The egg scores the highest of all proteins and is the gold standard against which all other proteins are measured.
Amazing amino acids
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. There are 20 of them, 10 of which are essential, meaning our bodies cannot make them and they must therefore be provided in our diets. Not only does the egg contain 18 of the 20 amino acids, it contains all of the 10 essential amino acids in abundance. It has the best amino acid profile known — better than meat, milk and soy products. One large 50-gram egg provides nearly seven grams of highly digestible protein. Two eggs for breakfast fulfills about 28 percent of the protein needs of the average six-foot, 180-lb. active man, and almost 40 percent of the needs of a 5’5”, 125-lb. active female — all for a grand total of only 140 calories.
Nutrients, vitamins and minerals galore
The provision of high amounts of quality protein at such a low caloric cost would be enough to make the egg an amazing addition to any diet, but it doesn’t stop there. The egg is also a rich source of choline, a nutrient that is essential for fetal brain development and to help prevent birth defects. Eggs also provide significant amounts of B vitamins, (especially B12, which is not found in plant foods unless they are commercially fortified), as well as the minerals selenium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and calcium.
Eggs are one of the very few naturally occurring and significant sources of vitamin D in our diets, and also a source of lutein, a compound shown to be helpful in addressing age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Indeed, about the only nutrient lacking in eggs is vitamin C.
What goes in…
Despite its apparent nutritional perfection, the egg can be enhanced by improving what is fed to the hen. This improvement in the nutrient profile of the egg demonstrates that not only are we what we eat, but apparently our hens, and therefore their eggs, are, too.
Hens are very good at incorporating what they eat into the developing egg. Hens fed ground flaxseed will produce eggs with a much higher level of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an important omega-3 fatty acid, while those fed algae meal will lay eggs with higher amounts of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), another very valuable omega-3 fatty acid. The greater inclusion of vitamin D in today’s poultry feeds has increased its concentration in eggs. Even the color of the yolk is influenced by pigments the hen consumes.
Poor-quality diets do not perform
This is a very important concept for people raising backyard hens for eggs. Feed them a poor diet of unfortified scratch grains and table scraps, and not only will the nutrition of the egg suffer, but the hen’s production will likely decrease and her eggshells will be thinner, contributing to increased breakage and wastage.
Many people remember their grandparents feeding chickens this way, but we now know much more about nutrition of both chickens and humans than we did back then, and your grandparents’ chickens probably had much larger areas in which to roam and forage for insects, grubs and various forbs. Your grandparents also may not have used supplemental light to keep hens laying through the winter when there are no bugs or weeds to consume consume, so the birds were resting when nutritional inputs were lowest.
Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3 feed: formulated to deliver benefits
Scientists have worked hard to determine the nutritional requirements of chickens and to develop feeds that meet those requirements. Purina® Layena® Plus Omega-3 is formulated to result in more omega-3 in the egg than the typical egg, and has a natural vegetarian formula with added vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients and without added antibiotics or hormones.
Like all Purina SunFresh® Recipe Poultry Feeds, Layena® Plus Omega-3 feed contains marigold extract for rich golden yolks, key levels of calcium and manganese for strong shells with fewer cracks, and an optimized level of Vitamin E to support a healthy immune system.
We know that we need to feed our hens properly designed, high-quality feeds if we want them to provide us with the best eggs possible. If you put it in the hen, she will put it in the egg. It is trickle-down nutrition at its functional best and answers the age-old question that it’s not the chicken or the egg, but in fact it’s the chicken and the egg.
Dr. Mikelle Roeder has worked with Purina Animal Nutrition LLC since 2001. She is proud to be working with America’s leader in backyard poultry, helping to provide your family with products supported by more than 85 years of poultry expertise from our farm to yours. Learn more at itsthechickenandtheegg.com.
1 Egg Nutrition Facts, American Egg Board, 2013