Not So Eggstraordinary

The Harvard Physician Health Study I (1982-1995) was designed to test the benefits and risks of aspirin and beta carotene, respectively, in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer.  Twenty-two thousand male physicians between the ages of 40 and 84 bad_eggyears old residing in the US participated in the study.  The results demonstrated that low dose aspirin decreased the risk of a first myocardial infarction by 44%, which led to widespread recommendations for adults at risk of myocardial infarction to take a low dose aspirin daily.  Beta carotene was found to have no effect in the prevention of cancer.  However, in one of the many secondary findings, this study also linked egg consumption (≥ 1 egg/day) to Type 2 diabetes [Djousse Diabetes Care], heart failure [Djousse Circ], and premature death (mortality) [Djousse AJCN].

One 50-63 g egg (corresponding to large to jumbo size) contains approximately 200 mg of cholesterol.  The American Heart Association’s Nutritional Committee recommends less than 300 mg cholesterol per day, or if your LDL cholesterol level is ≥ 100 mg/dL, then less than 200 mg cholesterol/day.

However the most recent Dietary Reference Intakes published by the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, and Food and Nutrition Board Dietary Reference Intake report indicates that “the body can synthesize its needs for saturated fatty acids and cholesterol from other sources” and “There is an incremental increase in plasma total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations with increased intake of saturated or trans fatty acids or with cholesterol at even very low levels in the diet.  Therefore, the intakes of each should be minimized while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.”  It took numerous links to find this recommendation, though, because the egg industry has been promoting the benefits of eggs for decades.  I agree with T. Colin Campbell that it’s no wonder the public is confused about dietary recommendations.

Based on the Harvard Physician Study I association of egg consumption to diabetes [Djousse Diabetes Care], heart failure [Djousse Circ], and mortality [Djousse AJCN], and findings from a pooled analysis of prospective studies in women suggesting a possible modest increase in breast cancer risk with egg consumption [Missmer et al], it is worthwhile to consider reducing or eliminating your consumption of eggs.  Success with one or two egg substitutes will provide enough confidence to experiment with the huge range of inexpensive (and healthier) egg substitutes available.

One egg is between 3 and 4 T in volume, which is the same as 45 to 60 mL, or just under 1/4 cup.  Therefore egg substitutes range in volume from 3 T to 1/4 cup.  The choice of egg substitute depends on the function of the egg in the recipe.  When the egg is serving as a binder or thickener, appropriate substitutes may be mashed potatoes, cooked rice, oatmeal, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, nut butter, silken tofu, or tomato paste.  When the egg is primarily providing moisture, use fruit, fruit puree, or non-dairy yogurt, and increase the cooking time to account for the increased density.  When egg is acting as an emulsifier (helping things bind that wouldn’t normally bind), use silken tofu.  When the egg is functioning as a leavener, also add 1/4 t baking powder to whatever substitute you have chosen.  And finally, when egg is providing color, include a pinch of turmeric.

Egg_Substitute

 

Replacing more than two eggs in a recipe (like quiche) will change the integrity of the recipe, so pureed silken tofu is recommended.  When making a cake with more than two eggs, try using 1 T white vinegar, 1 T water, and 1 teaspoon baking powder for each egg.  To replace one egg white, dissolve 1 T plain agar powder into 1 T water and beat to mix.  Chill for 15 minutes, then beat again.

These egg substitutes aren’t fool proof and it does take some experimentation to figure it out.  The binding function can be particularly tricky- for example, it’s hard to make a veggie burger that holds up on an outdoor grill.  But it’s worth the effort to find the right egg substitute for each recipe- you are worth it, and your health will definitely benefit from eliminating eggs from your diet.

Here are a few simple recipes to give you experience with an egg substitute in something you’ve probably made before.  The brownies and muffins are great for when you don’t have time to make them  from scratch.  The French toast recipe requires no additional work than regular French toast.  Homemade mayonnaise is much easier than I ever expected and much cheaper than the store bought versions- it makes the Kale Potato Salad recipe a breeze for picnics and summer potlucks.

 

Brownies (from a box)

Certain name brand brownie mixes do not contain milk, such as Ghirardelli Double Chocolate.  Substitute the egg with 1 T ground flax seeds or chia seeds mixed with 3 T water and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  If you’d like low fat brownies, replace the oil with the same volume of pureed fruit, such as applesauce.  Once the egg substitute has thickened, add to the brownie mix and bake as directed, increasing the baking time if needed.

For the hard core, sugar free vegans out there, black bean brownie recipes are quite the craze recently.  I’ve tried a couple of recipes but haven’t been impressed.  These are next on my list to try though as I’ve enjoyed some of Chocolate Covered Katie’s other recipes.

 

Muffins (from a box)

Certain name brand muffin mixes do not contain milk, such as Duncan Hines Simple Mornings Blueberry.  Substitute the 2 eggs with 2 T ground flax seeds mixed with 6 T water and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.  If you’d like low fat muffins, replace the oil with the same volume of pureed fruit, such as applesauce, banana, or pumpkin.  Once the egg substitute has thickened, add to the muffin mix and bake as directed, increasing the baking time if needed.

 

French Toast (adapted from Rebar)

1 loaf multi grain or whole wheat bread

1 banana

2 c non dairy milk (vanilla, if available)

1/4 t nutmeg

1/4 t cinnamon

1.5 t arrowroot powder or organic cornstarch

1/4 t salt

Blend all ingredients (except bread) until smooth and pour into a large shallow bowl.  Pre-heat the pan or skillet very well and spray or brush with oil.  Dip the slices of bread into the batter, drain, and place on the hot skillet.  Cook until golden brown, flip, and cook on the reverse side.  Serve immediately or transfer to a cooling rack (to prevent the slices from becoming soggy) until ready to serve.  Leftovers freeze well with wax paper in between slices.  To reheat, toast each slice, flip it over, and toast again.

 

Mayo (adapted from The Candle Cafe)

1 c soy milk, unflavored and unsweetened

2.5 c safflower oil (if you substitute, use a very neutral flavored oil)

1.5 T cider vinegar

1/4 t dry mustard

1 T agave nectar

1 T sea salt

dash of freshly ground pepper

Place the soy milk in a blender and with the blender running, slowly drizzle in the oil.  Continue adding the oil until it is all absorbed.  Stop the blender and add the remaining ingredients.  Blend quickly to incorporate.  Makes about 3 cups.

This is a fool proof recipe and a great base for variations, like adding chipotle, cajun, or wasabi seasonings.  Unfortunately the fat content is extremely high, so use sparingly (or when convincing others that a whole food, plant based diet is tasty).  Another mayo recipe that takes a bit more work (not as foolproof) but is very low fat and quite versatile was developed by Bryanna Clark Grogan, a powerhouse in the vegan cookbook arena

 

Kale Potato Salad (adapted from Snarky Vegan)

6-8 medium sized gold potatoes, chopped

2 c kale, stems removed [link to video] and chopped or torn into small pieces

1 onion, diced

3 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 – 3/4 c vegan mayo

1 T yellow mustard

1/4 c sweet pickle relish

salt or garlic salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes, chop the kale, and mix the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.  Make sure the flavor of the mayo mixture is just right before you add it to the potatoes, as it’s easier to adjust now.  Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the chopped kale to the potatoes and stir.  Fold in the mayo mixture.  Serve immediately or chill.

 

References

Djoussé L, Gaziano JM. Egg consumption and risk of heart failure in the Physicians’ Health Study. [abstract]  Circulation 2008; 117:512-6.

Djoussé L, Gaziano JM. Egg consumption in relation to cardiovascular disease and mortality: the Physicians’ Health Study. [abstract]  Am J Clin Nutr 2008; 87:964-9.

Djoussé L, Gaziano JM, Buring JE, Lee IM. Egg consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in men and women. [abstract]  Diabetes Care 2009 Feb; 32(2):295-300.U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.

Missmer SA, Smith-WArner SA, Speigelman D, et al. “Meat and dairy consumption and breast cancer: a pooled analysis of cohort studies.” Int J Epidemiol 31 (2002):78-85.

2012. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 25. Nutrient Data Laboratory Home Page, http://www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/ndl

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/fordsbasement/7057824683/

Spring Cleaning

If warmer weather has roused your desire to spring clean or declutter, turn some of that energy to your diet.  Not needing to be warmed by food as the temperature increases, I find it easier in spring and summer to increase my consumption of raw veggies and salads.  My favorite approach is to focus on what I should be eating instead of what I should not be eating.  It turns out that this is one of the recommended approaches in Kelly McGonigal’s book The Willpower Instinct.  The ability to turn your “I won’t” into an “I will” diverts your focus from prohibiting your bad habit by replacing it with a new, healthier habit.

Joel Fuhrman must have been aware of this strategy when he issued his holiday challenge for 2012, encouraging participants to each day eat:

  • At least one large salad
  • Generous amounts of cooked green vegetables, beans, onions, and mushrooms
  • At least 3 fresh fruits, especially berries, to satisfy your sweet tooth
  • 1-2 ounces of raw nuts and seeds

For me, this checklist mentality works well as a reminder of what foods to focus on and is also helpful as a meal and snack planner.  Don’t know what to shop for?  Look at the list and fill your fridge and pantry with Fuhrman’s G-BOMBS (greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries, and seeds), an acronym to remember the most nutrient-dense, health-promoting foods.  We’ll focus on the G for greens today, and more specifically on kale.

Back to the checklist mentality for a second – if I’ve hit the ‘required’ foods and am still hungry, I can incorporate something less desirable.  When I haven’t eaten through the checklist, I try to plan better for the next day- all the while my taste buds have adjusted to another day without white flour, sugars and sweeteners, excess oil, and animal products.

Kale is quite the sexy health food, having gained popularity recently as a super food.  In each 1 cup cooked serving, kale contains 111 mg absorbable calcium, which is equivalent to that in 1 cup of calcium-fortified orange juice and more than the absorbable calcium contained in 1 cup of milk.  Kale also contains significant amounts of beta-carotene, Kaleselenium, and vitamins C and E.  In addition to being an outstanding antioxidant, kale is part of the family of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, and collard greens.  People who eat generous amounts of cruciferous vegetables have remarkably low cancer rates.Barnard and Reilly

Cruciferous vegetables affect the hormones that influence the progression of hormone-dependent cancers by changing the way estrogens are broken down and eliminated.  Normally, estradiol (a potent estrogen in women) is converted to 16 α-hydroxyestrone, a hormone that encourages the growth of cancer cells.  However the cruciferous extract indole-3-carbinol causes the body to convert more estrogen to a different estrogen called 2-hydroxyestrone, which has anticancer actions.Bell et al

Two common types of kale that you should be able to find at your farmers’ market or grocery store are lacinato or dino kale, which has flat firmer leaves, and curly kale.  Most kale recipes can be used with either type, I usually choose based on availability and desired texture.  To strip or destem the kale, hold a leaf by the stem upside down in your hand.  Cup the thumb and index finger of your opposite hand at the top of the stem and pull downward in a quick, smooth motion.

 

Monster Green Smoothie

½ c pineapple chunks, frozen

1 c seedless grapes or sliced apple

1 banana, sliced and frozen

2-4 leaves of destemmed kale, depending on size

1 c water

Blend all ingredients together, adding more water if needed to thin consistency.  Serve immediately.  Makes 2 one cup servings.

This is a very sweet smoothie, which is great for green smoothie novices.  Spinach has a more neutral taste and can be substituted for the kale.  This recipe is very versatile and should be played with to find your favorite combinations, eventually increasing the ratio of greens to fruit.

Kale Chips

Once kale has been washed, dried, and destemmed, tear the leaves into chip-sized pieces.

Oven:  Preheat oven to 300’.  Arrange kale on wire rack in a baking sheet, on parchment paper, or directly on a lightly sprayed baking sheet.  Spray the kale with EVOO and sprinkle with salt.  Bake for 15-20 min, turning the chips over once, until the chips are crispy.  Remove from oven and let cool as the chips will continue to crisp.

Dehydrator:  Arrange kale on trays.  Spray the leaves with EVOO and sprinkle with salt.  Dehydrate at 145’ for 2-3 hours, rotating the trays at least once and turning the chips over if necessary, until chips are crispy.

There are many variations of kale chips, so like the smoothie recipe, this one is very versatile.  Add in ideas: nutritional yeast, BBQ seasoning, chipotle, oil and vinegar, garlic, chili and lime.

 

Massaged Kale Salad

1 bunch of kale, destemmed and torn into pieces

1 lemon, juiced

1 can of beans, rinsed and drained (white beans or garbanzos recommended)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 avocado, diced

1 tomato, diced

Salt to taste

In a medium bowl, add half of the lemon juice to the kale and massage it with your hands until the kale has reduced in size by half.  Add rest of ingredients.  Can be eaten immediately or refrigerated to allow flavors to further develop.

 

Sauteed Kale with Raisins and Pine Nuts

1 bunch kale, destemmed and torn into bite sized pieces

1 can of white beans or garbanzos

¼ c pine nuts

4 cloves garlic, minced

¼ c golden raisins

1T olive oil

Heat olive oil in large sauté pan over medium heat with pine nuts and garlic.  As they begin to brown, add kale and raisins, stirring often.  Once kale has wilted (5 min or so), add beans.  If additional liquid is needed, add ¼ c water or dry white wine.  Once kale is desired texture, remove from heat and serve.

 

References

McGonigal, Kelly. The Willpower Instinct : How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It. 2012

Barnard ND, Reilly JK. The Cancer Survivor’s Guide. 2008

Bell MC, Crowley-Nowick P, Bradlow HL, et al. Placebo-controlled trial of indole-3-carbinol in the treatment of CIN.  Gynecol Oncol. 2000; 78:123-129.

Kale Picture: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/20/Boerenkool.jpg