Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
9 Apr

Dear Mark: Powdered Egg Alternatives and Heating Olive Oil

Say you’re a guy or gal that travels for business. With jerky, nuts and other Primal snacks in tow you hit the road resolved to do your best while away from home. You employ your best modern foraging skills at the airport, gas station and at your hotel breakfast buffet. Everything is fine and dandy until, wait, there’s something not quite right about these eggs. The consistency is a little… off. Could they be powdered eggs? Yes, yes, they could be. Does it matter? I’ll tell you what I think on this and the topic of safe cooking temperatures for olive oil in this week’s Dear Mark.

Let’s jump right in.

My job requires 90% travel. My question is twofold. All the hotels I stay in offer powdered eggs for breakfast and sometimes Canadian bacon. Are powdered eggs okay to eat on a daily basis? I do plan to purchase microwaveable bacon at a local grocer and cook it in my hotel room, having this along with two pieces of fruit for breakfast.



I would be wary of powdered eggs, as they are an especially rich source of oxidized cholesterol. In one study comparing baked goods that used powdered eggs to goods that used fresh eggs, two methods of analysis found that only the powdered egg goods had significant amounts of oxidized cholesterol. The degree of oxidation in this stuff is so severe that researchers use powdered eggs as a model for oxidized cholesterol formation in foods.

If you’ve got access to a microwave for bacon, why not microwave some fresh eggs? Grab the complimentary coffee mug, crack a few into it, add some salt, some pepper, mix it all together with a fork, then pop the mug into the microwave for 30-45 seconds per egg. Before you freak out about negative energy waves or radiation or the complete and total eradication of all nutrients within a ten foot radius, realize that microwaving actually isn’t always destructive. I don’t have any hard data on the effect of microwaving on oxidized cholesterol in egg yolks, but there is plenty of research showing the effect of microwaving on a host of other foods, and it’s fairly benign (or at least less bad than other methods, like spray-drying).

To begin, read my take on microwaving. Then, this post on the Perfect Health Diet blog, in which Paul Jaminet discusses the effect of microwaving on the flavonoids in a variety of foods, like green tea (microwaving preserves them better), onions (better than frying and boiling), dried strawberries (better than freeze-drying), purple potatoes (no pigment loss), olive oil (least amount of polyphenol loss), and a mishmash of common Chinese soup vegetables (microwaving was only beat by frying, but even then, the missing flavonoids showed up in the soup).

How about things with cholesterol? What happens to them in the microwave? Well, heating milk for five minutes in the microwave creates far more oxidized cholesterol than pasteurizing it for 16 seconds, but powdered milk ran away from both methods. While I couldn’t find anything on microwaved egg yolks, I did find an interesting paper (PDF) comparing the oxidized cholesterol content of various traditional Chinese egg dishes. Let’s check out what they found:

All preparations – Tiedan, Ludan, or Chayedan – began with a fresh chicken eggs boiled for 30 minutes (I don’t know about your methods for hard boiling eggs, but that already sounds a little long). Tiedan eggs are then removed from the shell and cooked in “boiled flavored liquid containing water, soy sauce, sugar, salt, and spices” for two hours, after which they are dried in a forced air oven at 40 degrees C for four hours. Then they repeat the whole cooking and drying process again. After twelve and a half hours of cooking time, Tiedan eggs had the most oxidized cholesterol at 240 ppm (really, you don’t say!).

After the initial boil, Ludan eggs are removed from the shell and cooked in the same boiled flavored liquid for five hours. Ludan egg oxidized cholesterol hit 182.9 ppm.

Chayedan eggshells are “cracked… slightly,” then the eggs are dumped into boiled flavored liquid (this time with tea leaves added) for eight hours. Chayedan eggs hit 136.4 ppm, the best of the bunch.

What can we gather from this? Even eggs that are cooked for hours upon hours upon hours can have less oxidized cholesterol than powdered eggs.

So, yes, consider microwaving your eggs (or, if you can somehow get access to high-quality, pastured eggs from a farmer you trust, just eat them or the yolks raw – but that’s a long shot when you’re on the road). It’s probably no worse than cooking them on the stove, and it’s definitely better – and healthier – than eating scrambled powdered eggs that have likely been languishing under heat lamps for several hours, exposed to heat, light, and air after having been cooked in your favorite industrial seed oil. If you’re really worried about oxidized cholesterol, you can even poach or hard boil your eggs in the microwave.

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your brilliant work!

I know you prefer coconut oil, butter and bacon grease for sautéing, but if one really wanted to use olive oil, which is better (or less bad?): extra virgin olive oil or “lite” olive oil? I’ve heard extra virgin olive oil changes chemically under high heat, so would “lite” olive oil be any better in this case?


You know, I’ve gone back and forth on this question. Most sources will say not to use extra virgin olive oil to sauté, because the complex flavors can be muted or even ruined when you apply too much heat. Since I’m a guy who will sip really good peppery extra virgin olive oil straight from the bottle, I hate to miss out on the flavor, so I can relate to this one. In fact, it used to be my steadfast position on the subject.

But then last year, I found myself defending olive oil’s much-besmirched reputation. I had seen people suggesting that olive oil was “too fragile,” would “oxidize too quickly,” or had “too much omega-6,” subtly or not so subtly suggesting that olive oil was actually a poor choice for consumption. Better than corn oil, sure, but far from “optimal.” So I had to take a closer look. I’ve always loved extra virgin olive oil, and I’ve always maintained that its healthfulness was one of big things that Conventional Wisdom really got right. And in the course of researching that post, I found compelling evidence that high-polyphenol extra virgin olive oil – the good stuff, the murky, opaque, swamp-water looking stuff  that we weren’t supposed to use for cooking – was actually incredibly resistant to heat. In fact, the peppery, delicious, complex, prized polyphenols – plus the vitamin E and the inherent stability of the monounsaturated fatty acids present in olive oil – were providing that resistance. The disappearance or marring of those delicious polyphenols under high heat simply meant that they were doing their job. They were “sacrificing themselves” to protect the whole. I think that’s pretty cool.

So yes, the extra virgin olive oil undergoes changes, but those are necessary changes that actually protect the fatty acids from further, more undesired changes (like oxidation). You lose a bit of flavor but prevent a ton of damage.

This was a roundabout way of saying that extra virgin olive oil is better in all respects (except for homemade mayo, which can be pretty intense with extra virgin). Its polyphenols make it more resistant to cooking. It tastes better. It’s healthier. It is more expensive than regular olive oil, however, so you have to be more selective with your use. Of course, I would avoid heating any oil to the point of smoking, and I wouldn’t base every meal on high-heat sautéing, no matter the phenolic content of the fat used. I hope that helps.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. When I eat out, I request fried eggs. They may be conventional eggs, and they might have been cooked with a bit of spray rather than good fats, but they will still be better than powdered eggs (and easier than cooking your own — assuming that your employer is paying for your meals while you are traveling).

    At my most common breakfast place, I know that they are cooked in bacon grease, because I have arranged that with the cook, and I get to see him doing it for me.

    Philmont Scott wrote on April 9th, 2012
    • Given that waiting time at a restaurant cooking your own fried eggs is almost guaranteed to be simpler and faster. Assuming you actually have a way to cook yourself, which is my main problem on business trips.

      Chris wrote on April 24th, 2012
  2. I’ve gotten around the taste of extra virgin OO for mayo by adding flavors like garlic or herbs like cilantro, and adding some avocado to smooth out the taste. Very yummy concoctions have developed…

    HillsideGina wrote on April 9th, 2012
    • Never thought to add avocado — that sounds pretty delicious!

      Deanna wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • You can just buy “light tasting” olive oil. It is the same as regular olive oil, just light tasting. Microwave some grass-fed butter, to melt, let it cool for a bit, and mix it in also. Use a lime instead of a lemon, and I promise you will be in heaven.

      Matthew Caton wrote on April 10th, 2012
  3. Phew…thats good to know. I grew up on olive oil and use it all the time,( my folks immigrated from Greece to Oz in the late 50’s).

    Another use for olive oil, and this may sound weird but it works on my Greek blood, is to put virgin olive oil on mozzie (mosquito) bites. Works best if applied in the first 30 minutes. It actually stops the itching and the swelling (in my case…) Give it a go…

    Zorbs wrote on April 9th, 2012
    • Studies have demonstrated that consuming oxidized fats from cooking do not cause oxidative damage to our cells. Our stomachs easily digest and break down oxidized fats and cholesterol.

      The REAL danger comes when intake of omega-6 fatty acids far outweighs your omega-3 intake.

      I don’t think olive oil is detrimental to anyone’s health, but it definitely isn’t a Paleolithic food and I don’t quite see the point of it. You can get more monounsaturated fat by eating a good grass-fed rib-eye, and that rib-eye is going to have less omega-6 fatty acids, more omega-3’s, and more CLA. Not to mention, it is packed with more vitamins and minerals.

      Matthew Caton wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • Matt, this is great info. Can you paste the link(s) to these studies on “consuming oxidized fats from cooking do not cause oxidative damage to our cells. Our stomachs easily digest and break down oxidized fats and cholesterol”? This would be great info.

        John W. wrote on June 28th, 2012
  4. I second poaching or nuking the eggs, way less scary than the powdered form for health. Some foods stand up to dehydrating and reconstituting well but it appears eggs aren’t on that list!

    Taryl wrote on April 9th, 2012
  5. I was just talking about the effects of microwaves on food with my mom yesterday… great timing!

    Becca wrote on April 9th, 2012
  6. I normally try and cook with coconut oil at higher heat and use olive oil for medium. Some things just taste better with olive oil, plus my fiance is Italian…

    Gary Deagle wrote on April 9th, 2012
  7. Mark, I appreciate that you use Grok as a starting point for science rather than just saying “If Grok didn’t do it, neither should we.” Thanks for the info on microwaving and frying with EVOO, neither of which ever did.

    Harry Mossman wrote on April 9th, 2012
  8. over at bulletproof exec. dave seems to shun microwaving for several reasons and promotes raw/ lightly cooked foods- always interesting to hear different sides of the story!

    katie wrote on April 9th, 2012
  9. I microwave eggs every work day. I melt coconut oil in a pint sized glass storage container. Carefully separate eggs and set the whole yolks aside. Add the whites to your container, cover, and nuke for 45 seconds. You can stir at the 30 second mark. Add the yolks and cook another 15 seconds just to warm. Salt and pepper to taste.

    Paul wrote on April 9th, 2012
  10. It’s sad but true that most olive oils on the market are fake. Fake? Yea, it’s probably not strictly from olives.

    How do you tell if your olive oil is real or fake?

    Put it in the fridge overnight. If it’s solid by morning then it’s real. If it’s liquid then it’s fake.

    The cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil from Costco is fake… at least here in GR, MI.

    Primal Toad wrote on April 9th, 2012
    • That’s true.
      Most “olive oils” are now actually soybean oils…with a teaspoon of actual olive oil in it.

      Sad, but true.
      There is a loop hole in the labelling law.

      Same with High Fructose Corn Syrup, now allowed to be called ‘Sugar’ on labels.

      Arty wrote on April 9th, 2012
      • Soy… that might might be a bit dangerous if its not labeled properly. It could be contributing to Breast Cancers and allergies when people think they are eating what should be a perfectly natural healthy product.

        HFCS well we all know its the same as sugar, hell it is sugar, just cheaper and everywhere but don’t worry its still just as bad for you at best.

        kiran wrote on April 9th, 2012
        • That is why I always read the list of ingredients on everything I eat. It is very sad and pathetic that these companies are intentionally trying to deceive people, but I see it all the time.

          HFCS is sugar, but those commercials are also lies. “Your body doesn’t know the difference. Sugar is sugar.”

          Now that is some grain-fed bull****.
          While sucrose, and HFCS are practically the same, there are huge differences between other sugars.

          For instance, lactose is a sugar, a disaccharide, that breaks down into two monosaccharides, glucose and galactose. Lactose is only broken down by the enzyme lactase. Galactose must be converted into glucose, most probably by the liver, and glucose can go into the bloodstream without a visit to the liver.

          The way your body treats and reacts to the sugar, lactose, and the way your body treats and reacts to HFCS are completely different.

          Isn’t it also amazing to think how much our taxpayer money went to that intentionally deceptive commercial? Our government subsidized that deceptive advertisement.

          If we look on the bright side of things, that isn’t the worst thing they’ve ever done. They put grains at the base of the old food pyramid.

          For more informative reading, visit my website.

          Matthew Caton wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • Say it ain’t so! Dang it, now I’ll have to go refrigerate my Sam’s Club organic evoo just in case. Good tip, though, Toad!

      Tina wrote on April 9th, 2012
    • No. No, no, no, no.
      I’m fridging my EVOO as I type, but as it is from Costco, I am already sad. Don’t expect they would be different in Texas than Michigan.
      Further information requested from anyone who knows:
      What is this law loophole, and any recommendations on brands that are ‘real’?

      Sabine wrote on April 9th, 2012
      • They can call it olive oil because there is olive oil in it. Just not that much. They still have to list the ingredients, so if you are in doubt you should read the ingredients.

        Matthew Caton wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • They would still be required to list the Canola or other oils on the ingredient list. Couldn’t you simply read the ingredients?

      FoCo wrote on April 9th, 2012
      • Sadly, it doesn’t work out that way. Some “olive oil” is first sent to Italy where they have less strict labeling requirements. It’s presented as olive oil there even though it’s a blend then it’s bottled as pure olive oil from Italy and sent to the states for sale. Nice, right? I buy my olive oil from organic farms in the US only. If I do buy from a local store, I put it in the fridge and make sure it doesn’t separate just to be sure. I recently purchased some from Trader Joe’s that seems okay.

        Jen wrote on April 9th, 2012
        • This must be the reason why I once bought EVOO that supposed to have originated in Italy, and it tasted like absolute crap. From Wholefoods no less. I never understood why? I though maybe their olives sucked?

          I ended up buying Lebanese EVOO from a middle eastern store that tasted amazing. Since I’m home for now, my dad has a bunch of olive trees and we take our olives to a local olive press and make our own EVOO, which tastes delicious.

          If you’re used to it, you can always tell the real stuff from the taste.

          Wafaa wrote on April 10th, 2012
    • Toad, have you contacted Costco?

      I found this UC Davis analysis that found that at least the bottles they picked up in California were really Extra Virgin Olive Oil:

      Hillside Gina wrote on April 9th, 2012
      • I have not contacted them. I learned this little trick from Sally Fallon while watching her 5.5 hour lecture for WAPF.

        I believe it to be true.

        I think this is huge too. A lot of us are “afraid” to cook with olive oil. I am one of them. I’ve learned recently that its probably ok at a low to medium heat. But, if its not real olive oil then, well, it’s probably damaging and NOT good!

        Primal Toad wrote on April 9th, 2012
    • What’s your source? I found several sites that say that this is a myth. Just search ‘Hardening Proves Extra Virgin Status’.

      Natalie wrote on April 10th, 2012
      • My source is the WAPF. I first learned about this from Sally’s 5.5 hour long lecture.

        I can’t find any articles on that site that state this but I am sure there is one.

        Primal Toad wrote on April 11th, 2012
        • I can’t think that this is a hard and fast rule. See this:

          I have Nourishing Traditions and read WAPF, but not all the information there is absolutely true. And they believe in doing things like eating sprouted and fermented grains, which Mark shoots down pretty well here. WAPF is not the bible of nutrition.

          HillsideGina wrote on April 11th, 2012
  11. What about freeze dried eggs? This isn’t the same thing, is it?

    Erin wrote on April 9th, 2012
  12. You can also hard-boil eggs in the microwave using aluminum foil. Just wrap the egg in foil and immerse in a cup of water. The water keeps the foil from arcing and the foil keeps the microwaves from cooking the inside of the egg (and exploding!) Just watch it to make sure the water doesn’t boil off and expose the foil. Cook for a similar amount of time that you would with just hardboiling them. I would use 7 minutes and then let it sit for a few more.

    Mitch wrote on April 9th, 2012
  13. Don’t forget the in-room coffee maker. Most places have them. Simple place the eggs in the carafe, run a clean run of boiling water through the maker over the eggs, let them set in the hot water ten minutes for hard boiled or 5 for soft.

    Rocco Privetera wrote on April 9th, 2012
    • Brilliant!!! Thanks for the tip!

      Stephanie wrote on April 9th, 2012
      • My son says Rocco is so McGyver! You have changed my families eating habits when we are on the road with this one little tip!!!!

        Stephanie wrote on April 9th, 2012
    • Awesome.. I might even run coffee through it! I’ll test it out Primal Con later this week.

      Lars T. wrote on April 9th, 2012
      • ummmm coffee eggs

        kiran wrote on April 9th, 2012
    • Rocco you rock, this is great!

      WildGrok wrote on April 9th, 2012
  14. Whenever frying w/ EVOO, I always add a spoonful of coconut oil (Nutiva is my fav); the sat fat in the EVCO protects the EVOO.

    Jeffrey of Troy wrote on April 9th, 2012
    • I’ve been doing this, too, hoping it would help and figuring it couldn’t hurt.

      Tina wrote on April 9th, 2012
  15. Am I the only one who didn’t know about this loophole with EVOO labeling?? Thank you, once again, government stooges who can be easily swayed by lobby groups and marketing departments for “foods”…

    Trish wrote on April 9th, 2012
    • I honestly had no idea either. You just can’t trust labels! Might be the next thing to change after the GMO labeling issue.

      Mark Washburn wrote on April 9th, 2012
  16. Extra virgin olive oil can be used for occasional sauteeing? Color me happy! I have sometimes used it thusly in spite of worrying about the oxidation issue but have moderated the temperature to make sure I never hit anywhere close to the smoking point. Glad to know that there is evidence out there that this is okay.

    Tina wrote on April 9th, 2012
  17. Olive oil buyer beware! The non-profit U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention lists olive oil as the most commonly adulterated food item in its latest food rankings. Discover Magazine recently had a post on this:

    Carol wrote on April 9th, 2012
  18. I recommend getting a hot plate and take a small pot with you if at all possible to boil or fry your own eggs. If you’re driving this sounds more tenable. If you’re flying, perhaps not so much. But you have to consider your long term health, energy etc., so it might be worth it either way.

    Dirt Man wrote on April 9th, 2012
  19. When it comes to travel food, if you’re stopping at the grocery store to pick up bacon why not see if they have some prepared boiled eggs? Whole Foods in Chicago definitely does, you might need to ask but I’m sure you could find them!

    drea wrote on April 9th, 2012
  20. Red. Palm. Oil. Tastes great, cooks hot, good for savory dishes where coconut oil doesn’t work. Just get a reputable brand.

    (Before anyone jumps all over me that i’m killing rainforests and monkeys, I get mine from our local vegetarian/vegan food co-op where every item is vetted. You can find ethical palm oil)

    Zac Hunter wrote on April 9th, 2012
  21. “The disappearance or marring of those delicious polyphenols under high heat simply meant that they were doing their job. They were “sacrificing themselves” to protect the whole.”

    They…they were sacrificing themselves?!


    Steven wrote on April 9th, 2012
  22. I’m also a fan of the bag of hard boiled eggs that you can pick up from whole foods or trader joes. They are also organic, cage free and can make it easier to maintain your healthy lifestyle while on the road or everyday!

    Alby wrote on April 9th, 2012
  23. Now I can’t help but think that if I’m slow cooking a bone broth or some meat for hours, how oxidized is all that cholesterol?? Uh oh!

    SophieE wrote on April 9th, 2012
  24. PBers are so resourcful. Thanks for the egg cooking tips,I travel 2 weeks a month and I get so tired of the same old garbage hotels offer at breakfast.

    BOGEY wrote on April 9th, 2012
  25. Want another REALLY good reason to make your own eggs, even when traveling?

    Remember all those thousands of recalled eggs a couple summers ago? They got destroyed, right?

    Wrong. They were sent to “breaking plants” to be turned into liquid and dried eggs. They’re in the food supply now.

    They don’t have live salmonella anymore, after being pasteurized and cooked the heck out of, but the dead salmonella and its waste products remain.


    Mamachibi wrote on April 9th, 2012
  26. We use a lot of extra virgin olive oil to cook, but I’m really hoping to find coconut oil and animal fat :)

    Thanks Mark for the great post!

    Nikhil Hogan wrote on April 9th, 2012
  27. I’ve read on Russell Blaylock’s newsletter that if you add curcumin or turmeric to Extra Virgin Olive Oil before or during the heating process that it keep it from oxidizing. This is what I do.

    Valorie wrote on April 9th, 2012
  28. I travel with a little hot plate and a small skillet and lid. Take a small cooler and you can cook anything. Also, canned salmon, canned artichoke hearts. Avocado…

    beverly wrote on April 9th, 2012
  29. this article mentions kirkland(costco) organic as a good brand of olive oil

    michelle wrote on April 9th, 2012
  30. When I used to travel extensively for work, I brought along a small electric hot water pot. They’re cheap and efficient. You can easily hard boil eggs in it.

    Natalie wrote on April 9th, 2012
  31. Everyone interested in olive oils should download both the UC Davis reports on EVOO, the original 2010 and now the April 2011:

    And Kirkland Costco Organic was top rated….

    Sgt.Gator wrote on April 9th, 2012
  32. hey – great (and simple) olive oil/coconut oil recipe – used virgin OO and had great taste:

    ravi wrote on April 9th, 2012
  33. HI from Down Under, here you can buy a small microwave safe egg poacher that does two eggs in 2 mins. You have to pierce the yokes and put a teaspoon of water on each egg and then microwave. I used to do this every day, to avoid the sticking of my eggs to the frypan…. that was before I knew I could eat my eggs drowning in butter. Surely you can get them in the US? Here is a pic I found on the internet…

    Jane wrote on April 10th, 2012
  34. I found out about Olive Oil fraud about six weeks ago and have been researching ways arounds it. Several sources mentioned that Spanish Olive Oil is the least likely to be adulterated and Italian is the most likely. That trick to put olive oil in the fridge does seem to pan out, and makes sense considering the high fat content. I put in 365 100% Italian Olive Oil in the fridge and the it did not change consistency at all. I am still looking into it though.

    Tori kean wrote on April 10th, 2012
  35. Interesting and relevant post, once again. I have a very picky gut and I was wondering why I didn’t do well after eating those “funny tasting eggs” at hotels. I was thinking it was from cross-contamination. Now I just think my gut has an uncanny ability to detect fake food–it sends me a clear message about what not to eat.

    DThalman wrote on April 10th, 2012
  36. A silicone steamer (covered) works great for microwave cooking while traveling. Lightweight and easy to clean.

    The refrigerator test for olive oil is not foolproof.

    NoGlutenEver wrote on April 10th, 2012
  37. A tip for icrowaved scrambled eggs:

    Add a tablespoon of water per egg.

    Perfect and moist scrambled eggs every time. Stir at least once in the cooking time. Add a cheese string for gooey goodness!

    Camille wrote on April 10th, 2012
  38. What’s the safest way to cook steak then? Because I typically (Every night) heat my cast iron pan to the point of smoking using extra virgin olive oil. This is no good to do?

    xfinite wrote on April 10th, 2012

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