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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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April 09 2012

Dear Mark: Powdered Egg Alternatives and Heating Olive Oil

By Mark Sisson
74 Comments

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.

Yours,

Kirk

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?

Jean

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.

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74 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Powdered Egg Alternatives and Heating Olive Oil”

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  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.

    1. 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.

  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…

    1. 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.

  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…

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  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!

  5. I was just talking about the effects of microwaves on food with my mom yesterday… great timing!

  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…

  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.

  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!

  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.

  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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

    2. 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!

    3. 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’?

      1. 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.

    4. They would still be required to list the Canola or other oils on the ingredient list. Couldn’t you simply read the ingredients?

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

    5. 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:

      olivecenter.ucdavis.edu/news-events/news/files/oliveoilappendix071510.pdf

      1. 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!

    6. What’s your source? I found several sites that say that this is a myth. Just search ‘Hardening Proves Extra Virgin Status’.

      1. 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.

        1. I can’t think that this is a hard and fast rule. See this: http://www.oliveoilsource.com/page/freezing-olive-oil

          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.

  11. What about freeze dried eggs? This isn’t the same thing, is it?

  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.

  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.

      1. 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!!!!

    1. I’ve been doing this, too, hoping it would help and figuring it couldn’t hurt.

  14. 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”…

    1. I honestly had no idea either. You just can’t trust labels! Might be the next thing to change after the GMO labeling issue.

  15. 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.

  16. 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: http://bit.ly/IgtsH8.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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)

  20. “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?!

    ;_; NEVER FORGET

  21. 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!

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

    Lovely.

  25. 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!

  26. 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.

  27. 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…

  28. 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.

  29. 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…

    http://raymondvalentine.blogspot.com.au/2008/10/eggy-weggs-id-smash-em.html

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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!

  33. 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?

  34. REI Immersion Heater, google it. Put raw egg in coffee mug, cover with water, slip in Immersion Heater and soft boiled egg in about 10 minutes. So easy to travel with.

    The only downside is the unit MUST be immersed in water when plugged in and CANNOT be taken out of water while plugged in otherwise it shorts out.

  35. The method I use for making hard boiled eggs (in the shell) is to put cold eggs into cold water and then raising the temp just to a boil. As soon as the water starts to boil, I turn the heat off and cover the pot. The eggs sit in the hot water for 20 minutes and then I put the pot in the sink and run cold water into the pot until the eggs cool off. Eggs hard boiled this way have fresh whites (not rubbery) and fresh yolks – moist and bright yellow not dry and greenish.

    I don’t know the actual amount of oxidation, but based on the general appearance of the eggs they seem less cooked and fresher – while still being nicely hard boiled.

  36. Hooray on the olive oil. After trying a number of cooking fat alternatives I’ve gone back to olive oil for most of my moderate heat cooking, because I cook a lot of medeterranean style dishes and I just plain like the flavor.

  37. I am on the road 90% of time and am challenged too! Trying for a primal breakfast I ate the powered eggs and meat only. Always wondering about the eggs.Thanks for the info. Most hotel breakfast bars also have hard-boiled eggs.Other things I do – hard boiled eggs and heat & serve bacon at local grocery. Also, not great but I will order just a scrambled egg and piece of sausage at Micky D’s.

  38. California olive oil is supposedly 100% olive oil. My bottle of Olivista EVOO passed the fridge test, but 365 Organic did not, sadly. I hear Spanish OO may be safer, as well.

  39. Is powdered egg the same thing as egg protein powder or are these two separate things??? I can’t tolerate dairy so use an organic egg protein every so often. Is this ok to use?

  40. I travel for work constantly and always have this problem. Depending on the trip details (hotel amenities) and how long I’ll be away, I usually plan out my meals and snacks, bring most with me and pick up what I need at the store when I arrive. I’ll switch out one of my carry-ons for a small cooler and pack it full. When I get to the airport I fill up a gallon Ziploc bag with ice and get on the plane. I try to stay in hotels that either offer a fridge/microwave set-up or a small kitchenette. Some hotels have small fridges available for guests that need to keep medicines cold and I’ll ask if one’s available. If that’s not an option, I’ll pick-up a small disposable cooler and keep everything on ice (not great for the environmentally conscience but works if you’re in a bind).

    If it’s a short trip I’ll pre-cook a lot of items (eggs [hardboiled & scrambled], meat) and pre-wash and prep fruits and veggies. If it’s a longer trip, I’ll bring a lot of frozen meats and my small George Foreman grill and make it in my hotel room. I’ll also pack my suitcase with items that can’t be brought on the plane (almond butter, paleo mayo), dry goods (nuts, packets of tuna), utensils (fork, spoons, good cutting knife, cutting board, food containers, cold packs for the cooler, sponge, dish soap). If it’s an item that needs to be kept cold (paleo mayo) I have a small soft cooler that I use and put cold packs in it and stick it in my suitcase.

    I’ve been doing this for over 3 years and I travel at least once a month. It does require checking a bag (and using a larger suitcase than normal), some pre-planning and doesn’t necessarily allow for a lot of variety in food choices, but it works.

  41. Just a thought…
    Since eggs oxidize when exposed to air and eating oxidized anything is bad. What happens to the preferred oil of your choice when it is heated or left with air in the bottle.