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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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May 12, 2008

Dear Mark: Cooking Omegas

By Mark Sisson
22 Comments

Omega 3 EggsDear Mark,

What are your thoughts on Barry’s suggestion that there is some sort of problem in cooking O-3 enhanced eggs? I’ve seen similar things related to flax seed oil and roasted & toasted walnuts, etc. What is the bottom line on cooking with omega-3s?

Thanks to Ed and others who offered up similar questions in response to last week’s Enough Omegas? post.

Polyunsaturated fats (which include omega-3 fatty acids) are, indeed, very prone to oxidation when exposed to heat, light or oxygen. This oxidation essentially renders them rancid to some extent, and this will result in less appealing taste (and smell) as well as decreased nutritional value. Add to that the damage imposed by the resulting free radicals, and that “healthy” food has now become a health hazard.

I would never use a polyunsaturated oil for cooking, and I don’t recommend eating roasted nuts because of the oxidation risk. Polyunsaturated oils, like flaxseed oil, should be properly stored (refrigerator or freezer) and added to cold food (like my daily salad) or cooked food only after reasonable cooling. Additionally, I recommend buying polyunsaturated oils, for example, in opaque or dark bottles and using them quickly.

Omega 3 Eggs

As to the question that came up last week about cooking foods with omega-3 content like fish or enriched eggs, the answer is more complicated. Most research on omega oxidation has been done with straight oils themselves rather than whole foods (e.g. fish oil versus fish fillet). One interesting study showed the bulk of omega-3s were lost when fish oils were heated to 150 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes (only 15.9% of DHA and 18.5% of EPA retained); however, that oxidation was slashed when rosemary or oregano extracts were added to the oils (65.9% of DHA and 69% of EPA retained). Both herbs significantly decreased oxidation, but rosemary proved more effective than oregano.

And this strategy has applications beyond our own kitchens. Egg farmers who enrich their hens’ diets with omega-3 fatty acids are using the herbal principle to reduce oxidation in high omega-3 eggs. (Note about the study (PDF): the authors are Greek and the English is a bit garbled in sections, but the research itself is compelling.) This particular study observed the effects of herbal (as well as vitamin and mineral) supplementation in chicken feed and the eggs’ relative susceptibility toward oxidation. (By the way, this same study showed that chickens fed flax meal produced eggs that were high in both ALA and DHA. The digestion of the feed apparently allowed for the synthesis.) So, when it comes to cooking an enriched egg? Well, I guess it depends on the exact feed. In this case, the more you know about the farm, the better you can judge. If you get plenty of omega-3s from good supplements, as I suggested last week, choosing high omega-3 eggs aren’t a necessity. Nonetheless, it’s still useful to know what kind of feed your food is getting.

Omega 3s

One last note on reducing oxidation… Anti-oxidants like mixed tocopherols (Vitamin E) appear to reduce oxidation of omega-3s, and companies are increasingly incorporating Vitamin E in omega-3 rich (or enriched) products. Other synthetic additives apparently do the same, but I’d have less faith in their relative safety.

My bottom line? Know your eggs. Eat your herbs. As for cooking itself? Let’s just say that I’m not about to give up grilled salmon, but I’m going to make sure I don’t cook it any more than I have to. And I’ll also be sure to have a nice big salad on the side.

Thanks for your comments, and look for more on best cooking practices later this week. In the meantime, keep your questions coming!

Steve Wampler, The Beast, maxnathans Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Dear Mark: Saturated Fat

The Definitive Guide to Fats

Omega 3s: A Closer Look

Whole Health Source: Olive Oil Buyer’s Guide

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

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22 Comments on "Dear Mark: Cooking Omegas"

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Jen
Jen
8 years 4 months ago

I think it is amazing the effect that omega fish oils can have on the brain. The overwhelming good that omegas can and will do is really uplifting for someone who uses omega three with regularity. I would not use flax seed oil for any cooking, I think that taking a “shot” of the flax seed oil followed with orange juice and keeping it refrigerated seems to be the better part of valor.

Crystal
Crystal
8 years 4 months ago

My eggs are from chickens that eat grass and bugs. The yolks are dark orange and some of the eggs are double yolked. I was told that I could eat the eggs raw if I wanted to. It doesn’t sound to appetizing to me but what do you think about that?

Mike OD - Fitness Spotlight
8 years 4 months ago

I think as long as they are not high heat stir fried, you will be fine. When in doubt…I cook my eggs low and slow.

Ed
Ed
8 years 4 months ago

Thanks for this post, Mark. I guess this means that the tub of Smart Balance, which says “great for cooking, frying, baking …” is not to be believed. Oh well. I have been cooking my O-3 eggs in the usual way for quite a while now, and I can’t detect any difference in taste compared to regular eggs.

Donna
Donna
8 years 4 months ago

I saute with almond oil, it’s refined for high heat, that’s what i use.

@Crystal,just a suggestion, perhaps throw a raw egg in the blender W/ berries or a banana. Just a thought.

Steve
Steve
8 years 4 months ago

I eat 3 eggs each morning from an amish co-op a few towns away. If I cook them over-easy like I always do and don’t break the yokes until I eat them, does that take away the nutriants?

I don’t think I can eat them raw like Rocky.

Crystal
Crystal
8 years 4 months ago

Yes, I tried that Donna. A little slimy but…. alright.

Mark L.
8 years 4 months ago

About 5 days a week for over a year, I have used 2 raw egg yolks in my yogurt smoothies. Before adding the egg whites to my smoothies, I heat the egg whites a tad which is supposed to neutralize the avidin in them which binds to the B-vitamin biotin.

I don’t want to eat eggs Rocky style either, but I blend the eggs for just 5 seconds with the hope that I keep more of their nutritional value.

JC
JC
8 years 4 months ago

i’m pretty sure that the yolk is one of natures richest sources of biotin so it is not necessary to heat the white as long as you consume the yolk, raw egg whites (sans yolk) can cause biotin deficiencies (it’s ok if they’re cooked as in a body builder style white omelette)

JenS
8 years 4 months ago

How do chia seeds’ EFAs hold up during baking? There are plenty of recipes for chia muffins and the like, but now I’m wondering if they’re on the wrong track.

Margaret
8 years 2 months ago

Please note that the LSU Fish Oil study that you cite used temperatures of 150 Centigrade (not Farenheit) which equals 302F. Also, it’s only the omega-3 polyunsaturated fats that are so easily oxidized. Corn oil and soy oil are high in omega-6 PUFAs and are quite stable.

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[…] Cooking Omegas […]

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[…] Cooking Omegas […]

Przepisy
7 years 8 months ago

lol its alfa&omega! nice photos of eggs 🙂

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[…] (no more than 160 degrees F). I’ve always recommended eating raw commercial nuts and seeds (to avoid possible oxidation from commercial roasting practices), but I’d even go a step further and soak your seeds before […]

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[…] Cooking Omegas […]

Mike K
Mike K
4 years 11 months ago
For all you people asking questions about eating them raw and sticking them in smoothies etc, if you pop the yolks of the eggs you are allowing it to oxidize when oxygen hits it, so it is not a good idea to be doing this, (e.g. drinking raw or smoothies or yogurt) I have been trying to find a way to eat them without having it oxidize at all so that way the cholesterol hasn’t any effect to my body. The only thing I can think of is by hard boiling them, that is what I have been doing, but… Read more »
MarkA
MarkA
4 years 2 months ago
Recent sous vide cooking techniques have produced the 148-degree egg. Heat water to 148F and let it sit for a little while to make sure the temperature is stable. Add whole, room temperature eggs to the water and let them cook at 148 for about an hour. The result is a perfect, creamy custardy soft-cooked egg with a completely different texture than a soft-boiled egg cooked briefly in boiling water. You can bump the temperature up a degree or two to set the white a little firmer, but don’t go too high or the yolk will solidify. I’m guessing there’s… Read more »
Honey
4 years 1 month ago

Dear Mark when cooking an egg in it’s shell, to me it doesn’t seem logical that any oxygen would enter… So I think oxidation of omega-3 eggs is highly unlikely. We can cook our eggs. Frying is a bit of a different story though. What do you think?

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[…] actually be harmful to cook with Omega 3 fortified eggs. Mark’s Daily Apple blog post about Cooking Omegas discusses this topic in further […]

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[…] Dear Mark: Cooking Omegas […]

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2 years 8 months ago

[…] and in the fridge, or a cool dark place, and I bet it’ll stay fresh even longer. I’m still wary of doing any heavy duty sauteeing or high heat grilling using macadamia oil as the primary fat, but it looks to be pretty stable as […]

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