Have you ever asked yourself why egg yolks are yellow? And what's the difference between eggs with yolks that are pale yellow, deep yellow, or even orange? There are some very interesting answers to this question. And the answers all point out to how nutritious and important egg yolks are to our diets.
The egg yolk has been on the wrong end of a lot of bad press for the past three decades. That's because yolks contain cholesterol. But that's not all they contain. Far from it. Nevertheless, the cholesterol connection had demonized egg yolks to the point that many people literally throw the yolk out and eat only the whites. This practice is not only useless, it's downright stupid. It's useless because studies have shown that simply eating cholesterol does not raise your cholesterol. One study had medical students eat 50 eggs per day for three days and was able to show that their cholesterol levels did not change one bit. It's stupid because egg yolks are loaded with nutrition that we need.
Where does the color of an egg yolk come from? It comes from a class of antioxidants called carotenoids. The main carotenoids in egg yolks are lutein, zeanthin, and canthaxanthin. You have heard me talk many times before about the importance of these protective substances for vision, brain, and prostate health. But carotenoids not only give the yolk its yellow color, they also prevent the oxidation and destruction of fragile, vital substances such as the vitamins and amino acids in the egg.
The carotenoids find their way into the yolks through the chickens' diet. Corn, weeds, vegetables, and grass are high in carotenoids. So if you feed your chickens a diet high in these foods you will get a deep yellow and even an orange color to the yolk. On the other hand if the chickens are fed a poor diet, the yolks will be pale. Looking at the color of egg yolks is rooted in history. Pale yolks were always a sign of sick hens, worm infestation, or poor feed. Only healthy, well-nourished hens have healthy looking yolks.
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So all you have to do to determine if the eggs you are eating are healthy is to make sure they have a deep yellow or orange color, right? Wrong.
Some egg producers add in color additives in the hens' feed in order to make the yolks more yellow or orange. So when you buy eggs let me suggest that you make sure the container states clearly that there are no additives to the feed the hens get. But that's not the only thing you should know about egg yolks.
Egg yolks are loaded with many of the important nutrients that we don't get enough of in other foods. These include critical sulphur containing amino acids; the B-vitamins B1, B2, folate, and B5; the brain nutrients choline and lecithin; the minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium; and all the fat soluble vitamins (K, E, A, and D). In fact, egg yolks are one of the few foods naturally containing vitamin D.
So, let me recommend that you do like I do. Eat one to two eggs every day. And for God's sake, please don't throw away the yolk!
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD