(This post is in partnership with Burnbrae Farms)
Most everyone I speak to has heard of omega 3 fats.
They know omega 3 fats “are good for you” but like a lot of things in nutrition, there’s still a lot of confusion about this important nutrient.
I get asked questions about what omega 3 fats do, why they’re so important, and what the best food sources are?
And more importantly, confusion reigns supreme when it comes to the different types of omega 3 fats (yes, they’re not all the same) which leads to miscommunication and understanding by professionals and the public alike.
Omega 3 fats are promoted for their health benefits, and rightfully so, and while most understand that fish and seafood are good sources, people are also pleased to know they have options; omega 3 enriched eggs absolutely play a role in helping Canadians get their daily dose of these superstar fats.
This post will break it all down for you; a review of the many health benefits of omega 3 fats for everyone of all ages, answering the question “How DO they get the omega 3 in the eggs?”, and ways to easily incorporate them into your diet.
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What are omega 3 fats?
There are three types of fats (or fatty acids) that are of interest in human nutrition:
- Saturated fats
- Monounsaturated fats
- Polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs)
- Omega 6s
- Omega 3s
PUFAs are comprised of omega-6s and omega 3s.
Although we can all synthesize saturated fats and most monounsaturated fats from the protein and carbohydrates that we eat, we can’t make our own omega 6 or omega 3 fats but rather must obtain them from our diet. Because of this, both omega 6 and omega 3 PUFAs are considered essential fatty acids (1, 2).
Types of omega 3s
The three main omega-3 fats are:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA):
- found in hemp, flaxseeds, chia seeds, soy, walnuts, pecans, and enriched eggs
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA):
- Found in fish, seafood, algae, and to a lesser extent, omega-3 enriched eggs
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA):
- Found in fish, seafood, algae, and omega-3 enriched eggs
Food sources of omega 3 fats
Although it’s common to say that ALA omega 3 is found in plants and EPA and DHA are found in animal foods, the truth is, ALA is found in both plant foods AND animal foods which is why deficiencies of ALA are very rare.
The recommended intake of ALA is 1.1 g per day for women, and 1.6 g for men; an amount that is easily obtained from a diet based on a variety of minimally-processed, wholesome foods. Where Canadians are missing the mark is with their EPA and DHA requirements.
A 2014 report from Statistics Canada, as part of the Canadian Community Health Survey, found that the vast majority of Canadians are not getting enough EPA and DHA omega 3s (3).
EPA and DHA are what you need
One of the most confusing parts of the omega 3 discussion is how ALA, EPA, and DHA are all grouped together and used interchangeably. While ALA, EPA, and DHA are all omega 3 fats, they’re distinct enough as are German Shepherds and Yorkshire Terriers despite both being dogs.
FUN FACT: after EPA is converted to DHA, we used to think that DHA could be converted back to EPA but we now know it doesn’t. Getting foods with both EPA and DHA is crucial for optimal health (4, 5, 6).
ALA can be converted to EPA which is further converted to DHA, and some animals, like chickens, do it reasonably well. Humans on the other hand, not so much. This is why getting EPA and DHA from foods is the only reliable way to increase levels of these superstar omega 3 fatty acids in your body.
Omega 3 enriched eggs
People often ask me how do they get the omega 3 fats into eggs? It’s amazingly easy. Because chickens can convert ALA to EPA and DHA, increasing the ALA content of chicken does the trick. Burnbrae Farms Naturegg Omega 3 enriched eggs are produced when hens are fed a special diet that’s rich in ground flax seeds.
Some of Burnbrae Farms’ eggs and egg products offer even more. Naturegg Omega Plus eggs are different than their regular omega 3 enriched eggs by taking the amount of EPA, and especially the DHA to the next level.
In addition to ground flax seeds, the addition of fish oil to the hen’s diet, as well as, other premium ingredients, including added minerals, means that these eggs have much higher levels of nutrients like DHA, lutein and vitamin D3.
|Burnbrae Farms product||Serving size||DHA||EPA||ALA (and all other omega-3)||
Total omega 3
|Regular large eggs*||2 large (106 g)||76 mg||0 mg||0 mg||76 mg|
|Naturegg Omega 3||2 large (106 g)||150 mg||30 mg||620 mg||800 mg|
|Naturegg Omege 3 Free Run||2 large (106 g)||150 mg||30 mg||620 mg||800 mg|
|Eggs2Go Omega 3 Hard Boiled Eggs||2 medium (88 g)||140 mg||25 mg||435 mg||600 mg|
|Naturegg Omega PLUS||2 large (106 g)||250 mg||50 mg||500 mg||800 mg|
|Naturegg Omega PLUS Liquid Eggs||126 g (equivalent to 2 egg serving)||250 mg||250 mg||100 mg||600 mg|
*Canadian Nutrient File
What about the omega 6s?
In case you’re wondering about the PUFA omega 6, we are getting more than enough of it because it’s much more prevalent in the Canadian diet so there’s no need to put any effort into getting that fat. In fact, some experts argue that we are getting too much omega 6s. And there’s evidence that getting too much of these fats throws of the important omega 6 to omega 3 ratio.
Archeological evidence suggests that ancestral diets provided omega 6 fats in a 1:1 ratio to omega 3s while the ratio today is about 16:1 (7). Improving the omega-6:3 ratio is an important first step to reducing inflammation, as well as, the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, retinal and vision problems, and cognitive decline. Increasing your intake of EPA and DHA is one of the easiest ways to improve your ratio.
EPA and DHA for health
EPA and DHA have long been researched for their role in health. In fact, any health message you’ve heard about omega 3s is really referring to EPA and DHA and not ALA. They’ve been associated with lower rates of most chronic diseases such as macular degeneration, some cancers, cardiovascular disease including stroke, sudden cardiac death, and high blood pressure.
Of them all, DHA is vital during pregnancy and during infancy, especially during the first two years of life. As a structural fat, DHA ensures the normal development of baby’s brain, eyes, and nerves.
While there’s no official RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance), for DHA, years of research has given has a fairly good idea for general health:
- Children (ages 1-18): 100-150 mg DHA/day
- Adults: 250-500 mg DHA/day
Bridging the gap between what most Canadians are getting and what they need is as easy as adding omega 3 eggs; two Naturegg Omega 3 eggs have 180 mg DHA + EPA, while two Naturegg Omega PLUS eggs have even more; 300 mg of DHA+EPA.
Getting more omega 3s with eggs
Burnbrae Farms Naturegg Omega 3 eggs have got to be the easiest and tastiest ways to get your omega 3s every day.
I remind people that if they’re not regular fish eaters but are already eating eggs, then substituting omega 3 enriched eggs will allow them to increase their omega 3 consumption. They don’t have to change any habits, routines or change their diets in any difficult way; just swap the eggs that they’re eating.
Considering the current recommended intake of omega 3 fats for adults is 250 to 500 mg per day, two Naturegg Omega 3 eggs with 180 mg of EPA+DHA or Naturegg Omega PLUS eggs with 300 mg will help you hit the target. This is even easy for children who have lower needs! These eggs are good for the whole family.
PRO TIP: Use omega 3 enriched eggs anywhere you’d use regular eggs. You’ll be able to sneak in the preferred omega-3 fats EPA & DHA without any effort
I also get asked if the heat from cooking destroys the fat? Not at all! The fats are just as stable in eggs are they are in other foods rich in omega 3s such as fish and seafood.
Eggs are easy to use for anytime meals; breakfast, lunch dinner and yes, even snacks. Use omega 3 eggs to make scrambled, hard or soft boiled, omelets, frittatas, egg sandwiches, in salads and more. Eggs are also a great option for kids who don’t enjoy fish.
When I’m making scrambled eggs, I’ll use two omega 3 enriched and add some extra pasteurized egg whites for extra protein and volume. You can easily find egg whites in a carton at the grocery store.
For recipe ideas, go to Burnbrae Farms – Our Recipes
Naturegg Omega 3 eggs are a responsible choice
What might surprise people is that eggs have a low carbon footprint for food that delivers perfect protein. In fact, eggs are classified with soy and nuts and other plant proteins as low in Green House Gas Emissions by the World Resources Institute, 2018.
Omega-3 eggs are available from hens raised in a variety of systems including Free Run, Nestlaid and conventional.
Although fatty fish like salmon contain more omega-3 fat than enriched eggs per serving, eggs are a highly accessible, affordable and environmentally-friendly option that is easy to prepare and incorporate daily into our diets.
Omega 3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat (PUFA).
There are three main omega 3s of interest as it relates to human health: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
Because your body cannot produce them itself, you need to get them from your diet every day. Of the three, ALA is easily obtained from both animal and plant foods which is why deficiencies are rare. Most people need to increase their intake of EPA and DHA for the best health.
Experts agree that the estimated average daily requirement for EPA+DHA is between 250 and 500 mg per day; most Canadians get much less than this.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to eat omega 3 eggs; enriched with ALA from flax and/or EPA and DHA from fish oils. Omega 3 enriched eggs are an excellent source of all three of the essential fatty acid ALA, EPA and DHA.
If you’re wondering about the different omega 3 egg brands on the market, Burnbrae Farms is a producer of high-quality and innovative omega 3 egg products.
Their Naturegg Omega 3 has 180 mg of EPA+DHA per 2 large egg serving. They also have ready-to-eat, peeled, omega 3 enriched hard-boiled eggs also with 180 mg of EPA+DHA per 2 medium egg serving; what could be easier than that?
Two innovative products are their Naturegg Omega PLUS products; shell eggs and liquid eggs. Both offer higher amounts of EPA+DHA; 300 mg total for 2 large eggs, and 500 mg for a 1/2 cup serving of the liquid version, as well as, other nutrients such as vitamin D3 and lutein.
Is the higher price worth it? Omega 3 enriched eggs are more expensive than regular eggs. It’s important to remember though, that they offer a lot more of several key nutrients, not the least of which is the omega 3 fats EPA and DHA that are not only crucial for optimal health but are two essential fatty acids that most Canadians are not getting enough of.
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Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on digestive, gut, mental health. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.