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Eggs from Pastured Hens Better for Your Eyes

A new report reveals that eggs from hens raised on pasture are higher in lutein and zeaxanthin than eggs from chickens raised in confinement. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are natural substances similar to beta-carotene that protect your eyes from cataracts and a common cause of blindness called "macular degeneration." They may also protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Commercial egg producers add synthetic colorants to their feed to mimic the bright yellow yolks of eggs from pastured hens, A widely used additive is "canthaxantin." Canthaxantin can cause eye problems in humans. Farmed-raised salmon and trout are also fed canthaxantin to add more color to their pallid flesh. Due to public outcry, labels on farmed Atlantic salmon must now include the words "artificially colored" or "color added," in inch or larger letters. The same cautionary remark should be added to most egg cartons.

Where can you find eggs from pasture hens? Most of the premium or "natural" eggs in your supermarket are not from chickens raised on pasture. The term "cage-free" simply means that the hens are free to roam on a barn floor; typically, the hens have no access to grass. Organic eggs come from chickens fed organic ingredients. Typically, they, too, are raised in confinement. The same is true for chickens fed "vegetarian" feed. Grass makes the difference. It is rich in the natural carotenoids that are important to your health. You will find eggs from pastured hens at your local farmer's market and from producers listed in

(Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2006, 54, 2267-2273.)


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