Ontario egg farmers offer a diverse range of egg varieties to cater to different consumer preferences. Among these options are omega-3 eggs, a type of specialty egg rich in healthy omega-3. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid that helps to promote heart health, brain function, eye health, skin health, joint health and more. Many individuals seek out omega-3 eggs to enhance the nutritional content of their daily diet.
Omega-3 eggs are produced by feeding hens a diet enriched with omega-3, typically from flaxseed. Although uncommon, some hens may also be fed fish oil in addition to flaxseed as a way to add omega-3 fatty acids to their diet.
While omega-3 eggs generally taste similar to standard white and brown eggs, there have been occasional instances where some people notice a slight fishy taste or smell.
In general, the taste of an egg can be influenced by a hen's diet. Even if hens are not fed fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids naturally possess a fishy aroma. As a result, a mild fishy taste or smell can be created by the omega-3 in the eggs.
If you do notice a fishy taste or smell, don’t be alarmed. It is a natural occurrence and does not mean your egg has gone bad. If you are turned off by the fishy aroma, try using the eggs in an egg recipe. The various seasonings and ingredients in our diverse bank of recipes will help to mask the fishy taste and smell of the omega-3.
What are omega-3 fatty acids?
Omega-3 fatty acids are a group of essential polyunsaturated fats that play crucial roles in maintaining overall health. "Essential" means that our bodies cannot produce these fatty acids on their own, so we must obtain them from our diet.
There are three main types of omega-3 fatty acids:
Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)
This is an omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in plant-based sources, such as flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, and some vegetable oils (like canola and soybean oil). Our bodies don’t use ALA, but ALA can be converted by the body into other omega-3 fatty acids, specifically EPA and DHA, although the conversion rate is limited.
Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
This is an omega-3 fatty acid commonly found in marine sources, particularly fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, and anchovies. EPA is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is associated with various health benefits, particularly for heart health.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
Like EPA, DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid found primarily in fatty fish and seafood. DHA is especially crucial for brain health and is a major structural component of the brain and retina in the eye. It is essential during pregnancy and early infancy for proper brain and eye development.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for several important functions in the body, including:
Supporting heart health
Omega-3s can help reduce triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of abnormal heart rhythms. They are associated with a decreased risk of heart disease.
Brain and cognitive function
DHA is crucial for brain development and function, and omega-3s are believed to support cognitive performance and memory.
Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce inflammation in the body, which is linked to various chronic diseases.
DHA is a major component of the retina in the eye, and adequate intake of omega-3s is associated with a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration.
Omega-3s may help reduce joint pain and stiffness in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.
Want more information about omega-3? Try these resources:
What are omega-3 eggs?
Omega-3 eggs are specialty eggs enriched with omega-3 fatty acids, and they are usually produced by feeding hens a diet that includes flaxseed. Flaxseed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and when hens consume this diet, they transfer these beneficial fats to the eggs they lay.
While humans are not very efficient at converting alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) from plant-based sources like flaxseed into the essential EPA and DHA that our bodies need, hens are surprisingly gifted at this process. As a result, omega-3 eggs are a great source of both EPA and DHA, making them a nutritious option for those seeking to increase their intake of important omega-3 fatty acids.
What causes chicken eggs to smell fishy?
It is reasonable to expect that hens fed a diet containing fish oil may produce eggs with a fishy taste. However, even hens that are not fed fish oil may still produce eggs that have a fishy smell and taste. That is because omega-3 fatty acids–no matter whether in flaxseed or fish–have a fishy aroma and flavour. It's simply a characteristic of omega-3.
Are fishy-smelling chicken eggs safe to eat?
Although fishy eggs may sound like a cause for alarm, they are safe to eat. The fishy smell in eggs is often associated with omega-3 enriched eggs, which are produced by feeding hens a diet enriched with flaxseed or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids. As a result, the eggs may absorb some of the fishy aroma naturally present in omega-3 fatty acids.
The presence of a fishy smell in omega-3 eggs does not necessarily indicate that the eggs are spoiled or unsafe to eat. If the eggs have been stored properly and are within their expiration date, they are likely safe to consume. However, if you notice any other unusual odours or signs of spoilage, such as a sulfur or rotten smell, or if the eggshells are cracked or damaged, it's best to discard them.
If the fishy smell is bothersome to you, you may consider trying eggs from different brands or sources, as the intensity of the aroma can vary. Additionally, cooking the eggs can help reduce the fishy smell, and you can use them in various dishes where the taste and smell are masked by other flavours in the dish. We recommend trying these recipes from getcracking.ca/recipes.
What is omega-3 and what's the big deal about it?
Omega-3 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, one of the essential fats our body needs to help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of blood clots and heart disease. Omega-3 fat can't be made by our bodies so we need to get it from the food we eat.
Omega-3 also has a wide array of other health benefits, including the ability to improve overall eye health, skin health, joint health and brain function.
Is the amount of omega-3 in the eggs worth the extra money these eggs cost?
Omega-3 eggs are more expensive than standard eggs–often about a dollar more. If you're not regularly eating other sources of EPA or DHA omega-3 fatty acids (like fish) or taking an omega-3 supplement, eggs are an economical way to get some of the omega-3 your body needs. The omega-3 is in the yolk, so be sure to eat the whole egg!
How much omega-3 is in an omega-3 enriched egg? How much do I need?
There is about 0.4 g of omega-3 fat in an omega-3 egg. That's about four times the amount found in a regular egg.
Two omega-3 eggs provide 50 to 70% of your daily omega-3 needs. (According to Canada's Food Guide, one serving of Meat and Alternates is two eggs.)
Are omega-3 eggs low in cholesterol?
Omega-3 eggs contain similar amounts of cholesterol as regular eggs, which is around 186-200 milligrams per large egg.
The primary difference between omega-3 eggs and regular eggs lies in their omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 eggs are produced by feeding hens a diet enriched with sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed. As a result, the eggs contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
The increased omega-3 fatty acid content in omega-3 eggs is what makes them nutritionally distinct and sought after by consumers looking to enhance their omega-3 intake without relying solely on fish as a source. These fatty acids offer various health benefits, particularly for heart and brain health.
Can't I just eat flaxseed myself to get omega-3?
Yes, adding flaxseed to your diet can help increase your omega-3 intake; however, flaxseed is not nearly as efficient as fish, omega-3 eggs, and omega-3 supplements in providing the EPA and DHA our bodies need. This is because plant-based sources like flaxseed and chia seeds are a great source of an omega-3 fatty acid called ALA that is not used by the body. Flaxseeds do not contain the DHA and EPA that our bodies need. As a result, our bodies must convert ALA to EPA and DHA for it to be beneficial for our overall health, which is done inefficiently.
Interestingly, hens are able to convert the AHA in flaxseed to DHA more readily. Their eggs have between 75 and 130 mg DHA, depending on the type of omega-3 egg, which makes omega-3 eggs more effective at providing humans with beneficial omega-3s than flaxseeds.
If you’d still like to consume flaxseeds as a source of omega-3, there are several ways you can incorporate them into your diet:
You can eat whole flaxseeds, but keep in mind that the outer shell is tough and may pass through your digestive system without being fully broken down. To improve absorption, you can grind the flaxseeds in a coffee grinder or blender before consuming them. About a tablespoon (15 mL) of ground flaxseed will give you the recommended amount of omega-3 your body needs for the day.
Ground flaxseeds are easier to digest and allow for better nutrient absorption. You can add ground flaxseeds to smoothies, yoghurt, cereal, oatmeal, salads, or baked goods like muffins and bread.
Flaxseed oil is another option. You can use it as a salad dressing or drizzle it over cooked vegetables, but keep in mind that flaxseed oil should not be used for cooking, as it has a low smoke point and can break down at high temperatures.