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Humpty Dumpty had a Great Fall

In the past two months since I’ve had the opportunity to fully embrace a whole-foods plant based diet, I’ve loved getting questions from friends and coworkers.  Yesterday, a woman who fits both categories looked up with a curious expression and asked

“So, you don’t eat any eggs?”

“Nope.”

“But how?  I don’t think I could live without eggs.”

Let me introduce you to two new staples in our pantry:  flax eggs and chia eggs.

Chia seed eggs have a fun viscosity too them … they gel up and bind together.

The concept is pretty simple, and if you google it you’ll find several blogs that have recipes and instructions.  But it’s not difficult.  Simply mix one tablespoon of either flax meal or ground chia seeds with 2.5-3 tbsp of water.  Stir it a bit.  Let it sit for a few minutes.  And voila!  You have a plant-based “egg”.

You can substitute this for eggs in most recipes for baked goods.  (reality check:  you cannot make a reasonable souffle or an omelet out of these.  There are recipes for plant-based versions of these foods, but the flax or chia egg really shines in recipes like pancakes, muffins, bread, or cookies in which the egg is in more of a supporting rather than a starring role.)

Right now, eggs are enjoying a bit of a resurgence in popularity after many years of a bad reputation due to high cholesterol.  Eggs have also gone hipster.  Do you want Omega-3?  Pasture-raised?  Organic?  Cage-free?  Brown?  White?  Non-GMO?  All-natural?  My friends, there are a lot of folks marketing the improved nutritional content and health benefits of the humble egg.  But let’s compare the nutritional profiles of one large chicken egg vs. these easy and cheap plant-based eggs (nutrition information source:  www.nutrition.gov).

 Chicken Egg (1 large)Flax EggChia Egg
Ingredients1 egg1 tbsp flax meal
2-3 tbsp water
1 tbsp ground chia seed
2-3 tbsp water
$$$ cost per one egg
$0.19 - $0.58$0.04$0.25
Total Calories72
3550
% calories from fat59%58%
57%
% calories from protein35%17%14%
% calories from carbohydrate
6%25%29%
Fiber01.5g3.5g
Protein6.28g1.50g
1.69g
Fat4.75g2.25g
3.14g
Cholesterol186g
0.000.00
saturated fatty acids1.563g0.00g
0.340g
mono-unsaturated fatty acids1.829g
0.500g0.236g
polyunsaturated fatty acids
0.956g1.50g2.414g

So what can we learn from our comparison?

So let’s go back to the idea of the hipster eggs.  In essence, these are products designed to increase the nutritional value of the egg, balancing out against its negatives (like saturated fat and cholesterol).  But wouldn’t it be easier to simply eliminate those negatives?  The wording from the FDA — again, because it is Federal the language must satisfy a wide diversity of opinions — is not “to balance out saturated fats, eat more mono- and polyunsaturated fats”.   They are clear about using the word replace.  Avoid saturated fat, eat more mono- and polyunsaturated fats.     Rather than balancing out a slice of pound cake with an omega-3 supplement capsule, I’ll continue to make baked goods for my family that skip the cholesterol and saturated fat, but none of the flavor.

If you’re intrigued by this idea and haven’t tried making flax or chia eggs previously, let me encourage you to dive in!  Take your favorite recipe and replace one or two of the eggs with a flax or chia egg, and see how the recipe is altered.  Be brave and experiment – it’s just cooking, not defusing a bomb.  I tried to make one of our traditional family favorites — dutch babies — with plant-based eggs.  Total fail.  But with every fail I learn a little something, and cooking techniques that seemed odd or difficult at first are quickly becoming second nature.

Here’s to you and your health!

 

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