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    Archive for the ‘eggs’ Category

    Quiz: Labels, Claims, and More!

    testA few months back, I posted ten questions testing my readers’ label-scouring skills. I was very happy to receive great feedback on it… and decided it was time for another pop quiz, class!

    The answers are provided at the bottom of this post.  So, grab a sheet of paper and your favorite pen, and get to it.  Good luck!

    Continue Reading »


    You Ask, I Answer: Humane Eggs?

    dsc01386I had a question in regards to your recent post about cage-free and free-roaming hens.

    What about packaging that claims the hens are raised in “humane conditions” and are “roam free” but aren’t “pasture fed”?

    — Kat (last name unknown)
    Via a blog comment

    “Raised in humane conditions” is a completely useless arbitrary term, but there are two valid “seals of approval” you should be aware of: “certified humane raised and handled” and “animal welfare approved.”

    The “certified humane raised and handled” claim is given out by the nonprofit organization Humane Farm Animal Care.

    Although these hens usually spend all their lives indoors, they are not caged in or crammed together.

    “Certified humane” hens must have access to a diet free of antibiotics and hormones, enough room to perform natural actions (i.e.: flap their wings), and under no circumstances can be debeaked.

    HFAC does, however, allow farmers to trim their hens’ beaks within the first ten days of their life in order to minimize injuries.

    The vast majority of eggs carrying the HFAC seal are from hens that are roam-free but have no access to pasture.

    The Animal Welfare Institute, meanwhile, certifies eggs as “animal welfare approved” if the hens that produce them are treated according to their extensive list of strict guidelines.

    img_1232724430_14951_1242236759_mod_429_359The Animal Welfare Institute is a lot less lenient than HFAC (they mandate, for instance, that chickens have “continuous outdoor foraging access” starting at four weeks).

    This handy search tool allows you to locate establishments in your area that sell animal welfare approved items.

    The folks at Humane Farm Animal Care, meanwhile, provide this list of companies that comply with their standards.


    You Ask, I Answer: Eggs

    s_half-dozen-eggsCan you talk about eggs?

    You have mentioned before that there is no nutritional difference between white and brown, but what about all of the other labels we find on eggs these days, like free-range, cage-free, and organic?

    The cage free eggs I buy at the grocery store seem better than the regular ones (the shells are thicker and the yolks are more yellow), but sometimes I feel like it’s just a big marketing scheme.

    I have heard that cage free chickens often live and are treated the same as the caged ones, only without the cages.

    If that’s the case, the eggs shouldn’t be much different.

    What eggs should we buy and what should we look for on the packages?

    — Kristin MacBride
    (Location Unknown)

    The marketing of eggs is among some of the most confusing — and meaningless — I can think of (yes, even worse than whole grain trickery!)

    Let’s break down the most popular terms and reveal their true meanings:

    • Free range eggs are produced by hens that have access to the outdoors.  Read that again.  Free-range hens only need to have access to the outdoors.  In other words, they may simply be housed somewhere with no doors.  Or, the doors to their abode may be open for twenty minutes a day. Additionally, the “outside” only needs to offer them five feet of space.  It is not required to be a grassy field with lots of vegetation.  A dirty concrete backyard that is accessible twenty minutes a day can still fall under “free range.”
    • Cage-free eggs are produced by hens that are not in cages.  Keep in mind, though, they can still be crammed alongside other thousands of hens in a small space.  They simply are not confined by a cage.  Many “cage-free” hens have no room to walk around.  Additionally, their beaks are still cut off without anesthesia and they may be fed very low-quality feed with antibiotics, hormones, and genetically modified crops.
    • Organic eggs are produced by hens that are fed organically.  While these hens may not legally be in cages, they may suffer the fate of cage-free hens (have no more than an 8.5 by 11″ space to themselves, but just not inside a cage).  They may also have their beaks cut off without anesthesia, and never see sunlight.  This claim refers more to how the hens are fed, than to specific living conditions.
    • The same goes for eggs labeled as “vegetarian feed” or “Omega-3 fortified.” This claim ONLY refers to their feed, not to the conditions they live in.  FYI: I always chuckle when I see eggs advertised as being produced by “vegetarian” hens, since they are naturally omnivorous.

    Is it possible to consume eggs from hens that had a decent life?  Yes.

    The keyword you want to look for is “pasture fed.”  These hens exclusively eat worms, insects, and vegetation found outdoors.  The only caveat is that these eggs are only available at local farmers’ markets.

    Although slightly pricier than other eggs, they are more nutritious.  Studies have found that pasture-fed eggs offer more Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and beta-carotene than eggs produced in any other ways.  This is, partially, by the way, because of their omnivorous diet.

    Eat Wild is a wonderful website for all things pasture-fed.  Click here to see where you can find pasture-fed eggs in your state.


    You Ask, I Answer: Egg Yolk

    I heard somewhere that you should keep the yolk when eating eggs as you don’t absorb the protein without it.

    I know the yolk has the highest concentration of protein but I always assumed that egg whites are also a source of protein, albeit less than a whole egg.

    Can you clarify?

    — Lori (last name withheld)
    Ottawa, Ontario

    Although egg yolks contain some protein (approximately 42% of an egg’s total protein content), egg whites contain more.

    Additionally, whereas egg yolks are a mix of protein and fat, egg whites are almost entirely made up of protein.

    You do not need to eat egg yolk in order to absorb the protein in egg whites.

    That is not to say the egg yolk is useless. It’s a wonderful source of folate, vitamin A, choline, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.


    You Ask, I Answer: Ostrich Eggs

    Do ostrich eggs offer the same nutrients as eggs laid by hens?

    — Joelle Numberg
    (city withheld), AZ

    Let me guess — this question was inspired by this week’s Top Chef episode?

    For those of you who don’t watch that wonderful Bravo reality show, contestants were asked to reinvent classic American dishes, and one not-too-methodical participant decided to make a quiche with ostrich eggs despite never having cooked with them.

    This move led to her elimination at the end of the episode.

    So, apart from destroying reality show contestants’ runs, what else do ostrich eggs offer?

    The main selling point is that they are significantly lower in cholesterol — and a bit lower in saturated fat — than their chicken counterparts.

    Keep in mind that one ostrich egg is equal to two dozen of the chicken variety, so you must always remember to divide.

    The 2,000 calories contained on a single ostrich egg isn’t at all outrageous when you divide by 24 and get 83 calories — a mere six more calories than your standard chicken egg.

    Vitamin and mineral composition is nearly identical, although ostrich eggs offer lower levels of vitamin A and slightly more magnesium.


    You Ask, I Answer: Omega-3 Fortified Eggs

    What is the process exactly in adding Omega-3 to eggs?

    How is this done?

    I know the eggs are “fortified” but what does this mean?

    — Lori (last name unknown)
    Via the blog

    Before I get to your actual question, this is a good time to point out the difference between fortification and enrichment.

    When enriching a food or ingredient (for instance, white flour,) food manufacturers are adding back nutrients that were already present in that food or ingredient prior to processing.

    Fortification, meanwhile, entails the addition of one or more nutrients that are not inherently part of that food or ingredient.

    Similarly, adding higher quantities of a nutrient than what is naturally present in a food or ingredient also falls under the “fortification” umbrella.

    As far as Omega-3 fortified eggs, it is very simply done by adding food sources of Omega-3 to chicken feed — usually fish oils or flax.


    Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing: Nana’s Cookies

    Who doesn’t love cookies? Particularly soft, chewy ones saturated with chocolate chips?

    I’m willing to bet you do.

    I also have a feeling, though, that you watch your cookie consumption, since you know they are empty calories.

    Delicious, sure, but nutritionally void.

    What if I told you I had a tasty, chocolate chip vegan cookie made with whole wheat flour and oats?

    Let me tell you more about it.

    It has no refined sugars, white flour, dairy, eggs, cholesterol, hydrogenated oils, or trans fats.

    Its first and second ingredients are whole wheat flour and rolled oats, respectively.


    If you took the bait — read carefully.

    Nana’s Vegan Cookies are available nationwide, and described by their creator as “extremely healthy”.

    I have tried them myself and can vouch for their flavor. They are absolutely delicious. Chewy, moist, flavorful, and better than most conventional cookies.

    When I truly want to indulge in a sweet treat, I pick one up.

    “Indulge? How bad can they be? They don’t have any of the ‘bad stuff’,” you may think.

    Well, a 3.5 ounce cookie (the only available size) delivers:

    • 410 calories
    • 320 milligrams of sodium
    • 22 grams (5 1/2 teaspoons) of sugar (in the form of fruit juices)
    • 3 grams of fiber

    From a caloric, that’s equal to 7 regular Oreo cookies!  In fact, that same amount of Oreo cookies only delivers 0.8 fewer grams of fiber than this cookie.

    I find that people tend to automatically equate vegan, dairy free, fruit-juice sweetened, and whole grain with “healthy”, when that isn’t always the case.

    Remember that fruit juice is, essentially, sugar water, and our body metabolizes it very similarly to sucrose (table sugar).

    My rule of thumb? Cookies are not supposed to be health foods.

    Sure, a cookie without trans fats and composed of whole grains is a slight improvement, but it is still a cookie.

    Therefore, treat it as such. Enjoy it, savor it, but always consider its calories discretionary.


    You Ask, I Answer: Vitamin A

    I know this is going to sound weird, but I kind of have an aversion when it comes to eating anything orange or red.

    Even if it’s supposed to be red (like a tomato), I still get freaked out.

    Does this mean I’m not eating Vitamin A?

    Paula (last name withheld)
    St. Louis, MO

    I’m sorry to hear about your aversion, especially since you’re missing out on delicious foods like watermelon, strawberries, red peppers, and raspberries!

    The good news is, your vitamin A intake is not affected, since green vegetables are also a good source.

    Half a cup of cooked broccoli provides 24 percent of the daily requirement, a half cup of cooked peas will give you 34 percent, half a cup of cooked kale contains an excellent 177 percent, and a half cup of spinach packs a mighty 229 percent!

    Dairy items also contain vitamin A, although in lower amounts.

    A cup of milk fortified with vitamin A contains ten percent of the daily requirement, an ounce of mozarella cheese provides a mere three percent, and an egg contributes approximately seven percent of the daily requirement to your diet.

    The most concentrated source of vitamin A is animal liver. A mere ounce (53 calories’ worth) of beef liver holds 178 percent of a day’s worth!


    You Ask, I Answer: Protein/Biological Value

    I’m trying to determine how to increase my protein intake.

    The only animal product I eat is salmon 2 or 3 times a week, and I don’t eat very much dairy. I do eat mostly whole grain products and plenty of fruits and vegetables, but my diet is probably quite lacking in protein.

    I’ve been considering adding whey protein powder, casein powder or pasteurized, organic egg whites to my diet in the form of shakes/smoothies to boost my protein intake. I’m avoiding soy protein isolate because the jury seems to still be out on the health risks of non-whole food soy products.

    As far as drinking skim milk, I’m not a huge fan. I’m definitely not lactose-intolerant, but it tends to cause me to produce more mucous than usual in my airways (I’m asthmatic).

    You probably can’t provide any specific personalized advice, but any feedback regarding the benefits and drawbacks of adding whey protein, casein protein or pasteurized egg whites (aren’t egg whites considered to be the perfect protein or is that food industry hyperbole?) to an otherwise protein-deficient diet would be appreciated.

    — Steve W.
    Boston, MA

    Although I do not know what your eating patterns are, I seriously doubt your diet is “protein-deficient” if you eat salmon 2 or 3 times a week and have a diet rich in whole grains.

    In fact, it is extremely rare to see protein deficiencies in developed countries.

    In the rare chance that your diet needs more protein, this does not mean you need to start chugging down protein shakes. Something as simple as spreading two tablespoons of peanut butter on toast or adding beans to a salad will increase your protein intake.

    Think about this. To determine how much protein you need, take your weight in pounds, divide it by 2.2, and then multiply THAT number by 0.8.

    So, if you weigh 160 pounds, you divide that by 2.2 and get 72.7. Multiply that by 0.8 and you determine that you just need 58 grams of protein a day. Now, there is a 200% window that, among other things, accommodates for people with SLIGHTLY higher protein needs (i.e.: long-endurance athletes).

    So, if you need 58 grams but end up consuming 75 grams (it’s very easy to overconsume protein), you are still in the “safe” zone.

    It is VERY easy to get 58 grams — even without ever biting into a piece of meat, chicken, or fish. Whole grains are high in protein, as are beans and legumes (particularly meat alternatives seitan and tempeh).

    In terms of eggs being the “perfect protein”: there is something known as “biological value,” which tells us how well a certain protein is absorbed and used by the body. Egg protein has the highest biological value of all the proteins, meaning that almost none of it is wasted in your body.

    For more information, please take a look at my Small Bites newsletter dedicated to protein.

    By the way, click here to read what I wrote about the lactose-mucus myth.


    Don’t Judge An Egg By Its Color

    Have you ever wondered why you can purchase eggs in white or brown varieties?

    More importantly, did you give any thought to why brown eggs are slightly more expensive than their paler counterparts?

    The theories are rampant. “White eggs have been dyed,” some people conjure. “Brown eggs are more natural and wholesome,” others explain. Some people equate brown eggs with organic wholesomeness and pick up a dozen instinctively, not even considering taking twelve white ones home.

    Alas, as in life, preferences based solely on color are short-sighted and based on nothing but assumption.

    The REAL reason why some eggs are white and others are brown? It all depends on the color of the chicken that hatches them! Simple as that. Nutritionally, they are identical.

    Fun fact: Araucana chickens — indigenous to northern Chile — have a bluish tint to their feathers and — you guessed it! — lay blue eggs. Martha Stewart actually raises some at her farm in Westport, CT.

    What about the price factor, though? Brown eggs are always just a tad bit more expensive than white ones.

    Puzzling question, simple answer. It all comes down to the simple laws of economics. Brown chickens are larger than their white counterparts, so they require more food. Hence, their eggs sell at a slightly higher price.


    Say What?: Script Check, Please

    Yesterday night I finally got around to watching The Bourne Ultimatum.

    While the fast-paced, loud action scenes were definite attention-grabbers, one thing that stuck with me as I walked out of the theater was a scene where a character orders a “heart-healthy omelette with goat cheese and peppers.”

    At the end of that scene, another character at the table leaves in a huff and states, “enjoy your egg whites,” confirming my belief that “heart-healthy omelette” was another word for “egg-white omelette.”

    I find this so captivating because it is a nutrition mistake I see people making all the time — ordering “heart-healthy” items and then sabotaging them.

    Adding goat cheese — or any cheese, for that matter — to an otherwise fat-free omelette is ridiculous. A mere ounce of goat cheese contains thirty percent of a day’s worth of saturated fat (the heart-unhealthy fat).

    Meanwhile, an omelette made with two whole eggs and no cheese contains 15 % saturated fat!! In other words, a regular omelette with two vegetables is, hands down, heart-healthier than an egg white and cheese one.

    A better solution for those of you seeking heart-healthy omelettes? Add healthy fats like avocado or seafood to your omelette, or ask the waiter to have your heart-healthy omelette cooked in vegetable oil, rather than butter.

    Besides, as I mentioned several months ago, including yolks in your omelette isn’t as bad as you might think.


    Five Diet Faux Pas

    Are you sabotaging your own healthy eating? You might be, if you’ve fallen prey to these five common diet mistakes.

    Leaving Out the Yolk

    THE MISTAKE: Getting an omelette sans yolk deprives you of vitamins (folate, vitamin D) minerals (zinc, phosphorus, calcium) and carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin). Additionally, an egg-white omelette (which is naturally fat-free) will not satiate you as well as one utilizing the entire egg. The longer you remain satiated, the fewer calories you consume.

    HOW TO SOLVE IT: Rather than getting an egg white omelette with cheese (a source of saturated fat and sodium), go for a regular omelette with three or four different color vegetables.

    Fearing Fat

    THE MISTAKE: Ordering salads or steamed vegetables and accompanying them with fat-free dressing is a waste of nutrients! Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble and, therefore, need to be consumed with fat in order for our bodies to absorb them.

    HOW TO SOLVE IT: Replace fat-free dressing with an oil (preferably olive) based vinagreitte. If you absolutely love the taste of a certain fat-free dressing, add avocado, almond slices, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds to your salad.

    Forgetting Fiber

    THE MISTAKE: Snacking on rice cakes, pretzels, and crackers might sound healthy, but they aren’t your weight-loss allies. The reason? They are missing fiber, which is essential for a feeling of fullness.

    HOW TO SOLVE IT: Include high-fiber snacks into your diet: boiled edamame, fresh fruit, red pepper strips with hummus, plain popcorn, and high-fiber crackers (ie: Kavli, Triscuit Finn Crisp, etc.)

    (Artificially) Sweetening The Deal

    THE MISTAKE: Sugar-free pudding, ice cream, candies, sodas, and chocolates contain fewer calories than their regular counterparts, but they are still mostly devoid of nutrition. Plus, since the artificial sweeteners used are hundreds of times sweeter than regular sugar, often leading to more cravings.

    HOW TO SOLVE IT: Instead of replacing highly caloric sugary items with ones made with saccharine or Splenda, substitute them with real food. Replace a diet popsicle with an actual piece of fruit. You’ll get more nutrition — and real taste!

    Leaving Exercise Out of the Equation

    THE MISTAKE: Eating fewer calories isn’t the one and only diet solution. For optimal weight loss and maintenance, you should engage in physical activity at least three times a week. Remember, our bodies need to work hard (aka, burn calories) to sustain muscle.

    HOW TO SOLVE IT: If you are only doing cardio, add a 15 or 20 minute weight-bearing workout. Not only are you helping your bone density, you’re also helping your body shed the pounds faster.


    All-Star of the Day: Eggs

    After a nasty smear campaign in the early 90’s that shunned it to forbidden land, the egg is finally gaining back the respect it deserves.

    Eggs’ bad reputation stems from the false belief that foods high in cholesterol raise our blood cholesterol. Although an egg is certainly very high in cholesterol — a large one provides 71% of the 300 milligrams of cholesterol we are allowed on a daily basis — this shouldn’t be reason to worry. It’s actually saturated fat — found in meats and whole dairy products — that raises our bad cholesterol.

    A large egg contains approximately eight percent of the saturated fat we are permitted, which is not too high, especially considering its wealth of nutritional bonuses.

    The majority of their nutrition is found in the yolk, which, ironically, is the part people fear since it contains all the fat (egg whites are pure protein). However, what many people don’t know is that the yolk contains a special kind of fat that prevents fat and cholesterol from building up in our livers. Pretty nifty, huh?

    The yolk also provides a tremendously high amount of choline — a nutrient our body can not produce on its own that is vital for brain health.

    And, at just 80 calories a pop, eggs provide 7 grams of protein. Even better, the protein in eggs is the absolute best (yes, even better than meat, chicken, or pork) because it is 100% bio-available. In other words, our bodies are able to use it all (for instance, we only absorb 79% of protein from chicken, meaning that 21% is considered waste and excreted).

    For clarity’s sake, the brown and white varieties are nutritionally identical. The color of an egg simply depends on the breed of hen that is laying it.

    The best way to eat an egg is as simply as possible — hard-boiled and chopped into a salad is a great way to add a wealth of nutrients and not a lot of calories.


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