Are Eggs Gluten Free?
Eggs are an incredibly nutrient dense food. They are a good source of protein and fat as well as B vitamins and choline… but are eggs gluten free?
Since chickens eat grains, some people wonder whether eggs are gluten free. However, there is no research that suggests that any glutens or grains are found in eggs. It’s important to note that the gastrointestinal tracts of chickens are designed to digest grains as food. Their bodies are equipped to process grains (alongside bugs and other forage) appropriately. Bottom line – eggs are gluten free.
However, because of modern farming practices, not all eggs are healthy. Add to this the fact that many egg products and substitutes have clouded the issue. That being said, there are some considerations for eating eggs as part of a healthy gluten free diet that I want to address. We’ll discuss those below.
What is Gluten?
But first, for those new to our site, a quick overview. Gluten is a name for a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, barley, oats, corn, and rice. Because these proteins have the ability to help foods hold their shape and bind together, they are commonly used in baking and food processing. To the contrary, you may notice that many gluten free breads and baked goods are more crumbly in texture and fall apart more easily than their gluten-containing counterparts. People with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity cannot tolerate gluten in any form, and can become ill as a result of consuming gluten containing foods.
How to Know if Your Eggs are Gluten Free
As we discussed, eggs are inherently gluten free. If you are buying a carton of eggs off the shelf, don’t worry if you don’t see a “gluten free” label on them. As long as they are whole unprocessed eggs, you can feel safe eating them. However, if you are considering eggs as part of a product or dish that includes eggs among a number of other ingredients, it is important to evaluate it carefully before eating. Always read food labels and ask questions at restaurants to ensure that you know exactly what is in your dish, and to assess the risk of cross contamination.
For example, one popular breakfast restaurant puts a bit of pancake batter into their egg dishes to affect the texture. Even a seemingly simple dish like scrambled eggs that you may assume to be gluten-free is not! Another example is a restaurant that fries eggs that it puts on a breakfast plate or salad on the same grill that it toasts its buns. Even though you are getting just an egg, it can easily become cross contaminated with the crumbs from the bread.
Beware of Egg Substitutes
Many processed egg substitute products are full of GMO ingredients to include sugar, soy, and potato. Many also contain food gums that can challenge the digestive tracts of those with gluten sensitivity. For a natural egg replacement, see the recipe below.
How to Choose Eggs
While eggs are an incredibly nutrient dense food, not all eggs are created equal. Healthy eggs come from free range chickens that get plenty of time outside to forage for bugs and other naturally occurring food, and that are supplemented with organic feed as needed. When buying eggs from the grocery store, look for free range, organic options. You might also consider supporting a local farm where chickens generally are less overcrowded, and get adequate sunshine and exercise by naturally grazing outdoors. Never forget that the health of the bird directly reflects on the quality of the egg, and research proves it.
Mass scale production egg farms have overcrowding issues. The birds rarely if ever see the light of day. They are fed a diet largely consisting of genetically modified grains contaminated with chemical pesticides. A research study published by Cambridge journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems compared pasture raised chicken eggs with conventionally farm raised eggs and found major nutritional differences. Pasture raised eggs had twice as much vitamin E, 2 ½ times more omega 3 fats, and 38% more vitamin A than conventionally farmed eggs.
Another study found that chickens raised outdoors on pasture had two to three times the level of vitamin D in their eggs than conventional chicken eggs. In addition, Mother Earth News analyzed the nutritional value of farm raised vs. commercially raised chicken eggs and found similar findings. They also found that pasture raised eggs contained almost 8 times more beta carotene, and almost ½ the cholesterol
So when asking yourself whether or not buying free range (pasture raised) eggs is worth the additional cost, consider the nutritional value of the eggs.
Nutritional Myths that Eggs are Bad for You
We’ve all heard it before – cholesterol is bad for you and since eggs are high in cholesterol, you should stay away from them. In truth, though, cholesterol really doesn’t increase your risk for disease and it doesn’t contribute to heart disease unless an individual has hyperlipoproteinemia, a genetic form of hypercholesterolemia
Eggs are actually one of the best sources of high-value protein and are a great addition to a vegetarian diet. They contain B vitamins and have essential amino acids that help the body to heal, repair, and maintain muscle mass. The cholesterol in them helps with the production of sex hormones in both men and women and new studies are showing that it may even help maintain long term memory.
Gluten Free Egg Recipes
If you are looking to add eggs to your diet and want to do so at home in your own kitchen. Check out some of our favorite ways to use them.
Eggs are commonly used as a binder in dishes like meatballs (try our Warrior Meatballs!) and meatloaf (check out our turkey and beef based recipes). We also use eggs to bind our Sweet Potato Tots and our Speedy Salmon Cakes. Note that these types of recipes also typically use breadcrumbs to help bind them. We use our Warrior Breadcrumbs, but be mindful of any dishes like these that were prepared by someone other than you – they may have gluten-containing breadcrumbs!
Note that if you want to substitute an egg in a recipe, you can make a flax egg. Mixing one tablespoon of flaxseed with 2.5 tablespoons of water and allowing it to sit and rest for about 5 minutes will result in the equivalent of one egg in a recipe.
The bottom line
Eggs are naturally gluten free and an incredibly nutritious food and I encourage including eggs in your diet. However, I recommend that you use caution when eating them outside of the home, as eggs are easily cross contaminated with gluten. The best way to prevent ingesting gluten through eggs is to read labels carefully and ask plenty of questions of the restaurant or person who prepared the dish.
If you feel like you may have a gluten intolerance, take our gluten sensitivity test and find out so you can start healing and feeding your body what it needs!