What kind of eggs do you buy?

There are so many options. Regular white eggs are a bargain at under $2 a carton. There are brown eggs, but you have to read the cartons to figure out what’s going on: some are organic or cage-free, some are omega-3 fortified, and then there are some labeled free-range. These brown eggs tend to be pricier, but how do we know which ones to choose?

The first thing to know is that the color of the egg depends on the breed of chicken. Their genetics determine the pigment that will be deposited before the egg is laid. Most of the time, chickens with white ear lobes produce white eggs, and chickens with red ear lobes produce brown eggs. But this is not always the case, and there are blue or green eggs that can also be laid. The main point here is that just because an egg is brown does not mean it is necessarily healthier for you.

Organic eggs come from chickens who are fed organic feed, meaning it is not treated with any pesticides or fertilizers. But, organic does not mean free-range. They can still be caged. It also does not indicate whether chickens are fed corn or grass or something else; just that no chemicals are added to their feed. This means these chemicals will not be passed onto us, which is a good thing.

Caged chickens

These could be considered free-range chickens:

Free-range or cage-free eggs come from chickens who are allowed to roam and are not kept in cages their entire lives. However, this is not very closely regulated. Chickens could be cage-free but kept in a barn all day. Or maybe they are packed into one tiny area so even though they are not in cages, they have very crowded living situations. Also, free-range or cage-free makes no indication of what these chickens are fed. Some eggs are labeled “organic free-range,” which is a better choice.

Free-range grass-fed chickens

Recently I bought farm fresh eggs from Denver’s year-round indoor farmer’s market. These eggs come from grass-fed chickens who are allowed to roam freely their entire lives in large, grassy outdoor spaces. Grass-fed chicken eggs are much more nutrient-dense than other types of eggs. They have about 4 times more vitamin D than the original white eggs you buy in the supermarket, and one thid less cholesterol. They have less saturated fat, more vitamin A, more vitamin E, more beta carotene, and double the amount of healthy omega-3 fats. The color of the yoke from a farm fresh grass-fed egg is indicative of the health of these chickens and all the nutrients they receive. These chickens are in the sunshine all day and get plenty of vitamin D, which is vital to health (read about it here).

My Nutrients teacher took a picture of an organic cage-free egg from a local health food store, and then took a picture of one of her farm fresh grass-fed eggs, and brought them in for us to see. The yoke of the organic cage-free egg was much more pale and dull than the bright, orange-yellow yoke of the farm egg. I tried a similar experiment at home. My camera is broken so these are all taken with my iphone, so the quality isn’t the best but you can sort of tell the difference.

Eggland’s Best cage free eggs

Eggs from a local Colorado farm's grass-fed chickens

Find out if there are any local farms that produce eggs from grass-fed chickens in your area. Often they sell their eggs at independent grocery stores or farmer’s markets. Other times you may have to meet them somewhere in the city to purchase your eggs. If this is not possible, try to buy grass-fed, organic, free-range eggs whenever possible. They are rich in nutrients and taste so much better!

Another tip: many people eat only the egg whites, because they want to avoid the fats found in the egg yokes. However, an egg is a whole food, and like all whole foods, must be eaten as such in order to get all of the health benefits. The nutrients in the whites work with the nutrients in the yoke to properly digest and absorb into your body. Without both components, some nutrients will be lost. If you are on a low-fat diet, I recommend just eating half the egg (white and yoke), rather than the entire white and no yoke. Also keep in mind that the fats in the egg yoke are wonderful fats that our bodies need and utilize to be fully balanced. It’s the processed foods and sugars that make us gain weight, not something from a food as perfect as an egg!


English Muffins

Eating English muffins in the morning brings me back to my childhood. Sitting in my great-grandmother’s light blue dining room, table set with her best china, sliver and cloth napkins, waiting anxiously for her to bring in each tray of food: strawberries tossed in sugar with a side of cream; homemade bran muffins topped with a soft, generous cube of butter; freshly-squeezed orange juice; and of course a fluffy white toasted English muffin, again slathered in warm butter. It was the perfect breakfast and my mouth still waters thinking about it.

Now we have so many options when it comes to English muffins. There were Thomas’ originals, and now they’ve added whole wheat, lite, high fiber. Then Oroweat introduced their line of English muffins and most recently came up with double fiber English muffins. And I noticed last week that they now sell Rudi’s Organic products in discount grocery stores, from tortillas to bagels to English muffins. If you shop at an organic grocery store, you may have tried Ezekiel products or another local brand.

So, which ones are best?

Unfortunately, not the Thomas’ originals. (But, if I am ever offered one that is lightly toasted and smothered in warm butter, I can assure you I will not turn it down – in honor of my Grammie, of course!).

The whole grain English muffins are a good option. Any bread product made from whole grains will have a higher nutrient content and keep you full longer than regular white bread (make sure it’s “whole wheat” and not just “wheat” – there is a difference). Every grocery store offers a whole grain variety of English muffins, so you should have a few options.

Beware of English muffins labeled light, low-fat or sugar-free. These foods are often more highly processed, have added fake sugars or flavors, and can be stripped of their good, healthy nutrients along with the fat or sugars. I know at one point Oroweat products were under scrutiny for having high fructose corn syrup, but since then they have removed this ingredient. However, you never know what they might come up with next.

This is not always the case, but read the labels and if there are too many strange ingredients, go for the regular. Regular whole wheat English muffins are still fairly low-calorie and low-fat.

Oroweat has some products that have become popular recently, like their 100-calorie sandwich thins. I’ve had these before, and they are definitely “thin” – thinly sliced but also thin on taste. They have some protein and fiber, but that’s about it. Instead of buying these, save your money and enhance your health by following this tip for sandwich bread.

Oroweat and Thomas’ are owned by the same company, Bimbo Bakeries USA.

Another option at most grocery stores is Rudi’s Organic English muffins. These seem to have similar nutrients to the Thomas’ and Oroweat whole wheat English muffins, but probably use higher quality ingredients. I haven’t done a taste test, but I’m willing to bet the Rudi’s Organics taste a little fresher. This guy seems to think so, and he even mentions that Rudi’s ingredient list is much shorter than Oroweat’s, which is a sign of a more nutrient-dense and higher quality food.

Lately we’ve been eating some Ezekiel products – tortillas and English muffins. I think the company is actually called Food For Life, but they also have that Ezekiel name on them and most refer to them as Ezekiel. Anyway, all of their products are made from organic, freshly sprouted live grains (not flour). Sprouting the grains increases nutrient content greatly, and also helps with digestion. It preserves the enzymes, making it easier for our bodies to break down the grains. Those with mild gluten sensitivities may be able to tolerate Ezekiel breads because of this. Also, they use filtered water and do not add any conditioners, additives, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. If you are looking for an English muffin that is highest in nutrients, go for the Ezekiel products. They may also be something good to try with your kids if you suspect they have a mild gluten allergy. Ezekiel English muffins will probably cost an extra dollar or two, depending on current specials at the store. But give them a try and maybe you’ll become a convert. These can be found at most local health food stores, such as Whole Foods, Vitamin Cottage, Sunflower Market, or others.

This morning we had cinnamon raisin and they were delicious. Don’t forget to top your English muffins with some healthy fats, either butter or a nut or seed butter, to help you stay full longer and increase your nutrient intake and absorption at breakfast.


Beets: Health (and other) Benefits

It was brought to my attention that I neglected to include any information in yesterday’s post about the health benefits of beets. This is too important to let slide so here they are:

Beets actually have the highest sugar content of all vegetables, which is one reason they make such a good choice for homemade baby food. Babies will be drawn to the sweetness and the bright colors.

Beets are very high in folate, magnesium, potassium, fiber and vitamin C.

As many of you mothers know, folate is a very important nutrient during pregnancy. 1 cup of boiled beets provide about a third of your daily recommended folate intake. Folate helps ensure normal tissue growth for your baby, and is required for spinal column development.

The magnesium in beets helps increase calcium absorption, which is important for prevention of osteoporosis. I think I’ve mentioned before that without proper levels of magnesium, calcium is not absorbed and therefore you do not get the health benefits associated with it. Many people eat plenty of calcium but not enough magnesium, so still suffer from calcium deficiency.

The vitamin C in beets is beneficial in many ways, including the prevention and treatment of asthma symptoms and supporting healthy structure of capillaries.

Beets are known to help protect against heart disease and certain types of cancers. Like many other brightly-colored fruits and vegetables, beets contain high amounts of antioxidants. These help to eliminate toxins from the body inside the liver (the body’s primary detoxification organ). Toxin buildup is what eventually leads to cancer and other disease. Some studies have even shown that beet juice can slow down formation of tumors in the body and inhibit cell mutations in the stomach. The antioxidants are also helpful in prevention of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Many of you have expressed interest in more information about cholesterol. Consumption of beets is associated with a lowering of cholesterol, lowering of triglyceride level and blood pressure, and increase in HDL (good) cholesterol. If you or someone in your family has high cholesterol, beets may be a good food to add to your shopping list.

Golden beets have a milder taste than red beets, but are very similar. My mom has become famous in the St. Paul area for a golden beet recipe she has perfected. Maybe, if we’re lucky, she’ll share it with us soon! Another great golden beet recipe, which even Ed, the beet-hater, liked, is just a simple salad consisting of any type of greens, roasted or boiled golden beets, goat cheese (the more the better), all topped with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of herbs.

Home Remedies?

Beets detoxify the blood and renew it with minerals and natural sugars. This may be why beets were traditionally used to treat fevers. Beets are also good home remedies for constipation and digestive disorders, and beet greens are sometimes used on wounds to aid in healing.

Speaking of beet greens…

The beet greens contain high amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C. Only eat them if they look healthy. They will keep for 4-5 days in your fridge in a plastic bag. Use them as you would any other type of greens. This morning, I put them into my smoothie along with avocado, banana, flax meal, tofu and kefir.


About 30% of our sugar today comes from sugar beets (the other 70% from cane). Beets are harvested, the sugar is diffused out of the vegetable, and goes through a refining and crystallization process to turn it into sugar.

Other Uses?

Meet Daniel:

Daniel lives in St. Louis, and brought to may attention an alternative use for beets. Apparently, the Gateway to the West has been receiving some snow lately, and the salt they are using to de-ice the roads is not working. They have tried adding beet juice to the salt, and have seen some success. They are using a byproduct of the extraction of sugar from sugar beets, which is a thick, syrupy molasses. This sticky substance helps keep salt confined to the roads for longer time periods, resulting in more melting of the ice. It’s a rather new technique that is mainly used in the Midwest. So to all my St. Louis readers, I’d watch out for sticky shoes, boots and pant hems if I were you!


Recipe: Beet Soup

I am on Twitter, as I've mentioned in the past. And I am pretty obsessed with it, because I follow amazing food bloggers, my favorite Denver restaurants, and other people who are interested in holistic nutrition. From all of these people, I learn so much about health, nutrition, food and cooking. If you're not on Twitter, I highly recommend signing up. There is so much out there to learn!

Yesterday I came across a tweet from a girl I follow, @TheBlissfulChef. She has a wonderful blog here, but happened to be guest blogging here for @GreenBlossoms.

Have I confused you yet? Not if you're a fellow tweeter!

Anyway, the recipe looked like something I wanted to try: Beet Soup. I know that Ed hates beets. I once made a golden beet salad and he ate it up and seemed to have changed his mind on beets, but I think the large amounts of goat cheese topping the beets may have had something to do with it.

So, knowing I was about to cook something my husband wouldn't like, I bundled up and walked through the [extremely beautiful] snow to Whole Foods to stock up on beets, carrots, dill and bay leaves.

I changed Chef Christy's recipe only slightly by adding extra vinegar, extra lemon juice, and also some grated ginger. I think it was my attempt to mask the taste of beets so Ed would eat the soup, but they were good additions. Also, I saved all the beet greens so I can juice them for breakfast. There are so many important nutrients in the beet greens so please don't throw them out! You can put them into smoothies, on salads, or sautee them with your eggs in the morning.


1 tbsp olive oil

2 carrots, chopped

2 red beets, peeled and chopped (I used red and golden beets)

6 cups water

1 cup red lentils, washed and drained

3 bay leaves

Juice of 1 lemon (I used 2)

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Dash of pepper and sea salt

Sour cream or yogurt and chopped dill for garnish

Heat oil in large soup pan over medium flame. Add carrots and beets and a pinch of sea salt and saute for 3 minutes. Add water, lentils, bay leaves, and another pinch of sea salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, partially covered, 25-30 minutes.

Remove bay leaves. Puree in small batches in blender and return to pot. Stir in vinegar, lemon and pepper.

Serve warm or cold, garnished with sour cream or yogurt and chopped dill.

Note: Take the instruction to "puree in small batches in blender" very literally. My first "batch" was too large, and let's just say I am still finding red speckles on my kitchen walls, and our kitchen rug may or may not be on its way to the cleaners... (luckily it's an oriental rug, so the red blends right in!).

I served the soup warm, with plain low fat yogurt and dill. We ate it with the shitake, cremini and oyster mushrooms we got Saturday morning at Denver's indoor farmer's market (delicious!). Ed thought the soup was okay, not great. But, he doesn't love beets. I love beets and loved the soup. And I found it very satisfying to have a dinner that consisted of three different veggies - carrots, beets and mushrooms. I was completely full and satisfied for the rest of the night! If you like beets, I definitely recommend the recipe.

Thanks Christy for providing such a nutritional recipe!

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread…

…is unsliced bread.

For the past six months or so, we’ve been buying unsliced bread from places like the Whole Foods Bakery (and occasionally, when we’re lucky, from Denver Bread Company… if only they weren’t all the way across town!). And rather than having them slice it for us, I request it unsliced. I have come to realize that unsliced bread has some great benefits.

Benefit #1: You get to determine the size of your slice. Sometimes you may want an ultra-thin slice of bread to accompany your vegetable omelet. Other times you may be in a hurry so you can slice off a thick piece and spread some nut butter on it and take it to go. Kids usually need thinner slices; athletes may want thicker. Texas toast or tea sandwiches? You can do both with a loaf of unsliced bread.

Benefit #2: It stays fresher. The first time the inside of the loaf is seeing air is when you slice it right before you eat it. This allows you to have the freshest bread possible. It is also good for small families, like mine. We are only two, and we travel often. Therefore, it takes a long time for us to finish a loaf of bread. So in order to keep it from going bad, I often slice the loaf in half and freeze one of the halves. Unsliced bread freezes better.

Benefit #3: You can eat the end pieces earlier. Ed and I both love the end pieces. Which is rare, I know. Usually there is that one weird guy who loves end pieces and everyone else gladly lets him eat them, but in our house we fight over them. When you have an unsliced loaf, you can take the entire loaf out of the bag and choose which end you want to slice from. You can have a double-end piece sandwich without making a mess!

Benefit #4: This one ties back into #1 – you save money when you buy unsliced bread. YOU, not the bread company, are in control of how many slices you get out of your one loaf. You can slice thin and stretch the loaf. Why only get 10 sandwiches out of the loaf when can really get 15?

Buying fresh bread and freezing it is not a bad option. My parents buy great bread from this guy in St. Paul, MN. They buy a dozen loaves and freeze them, which makes life a little easier. Ed and I went to the Denver Urban Homesteading indoor farmer’s market (it’s at 2nd and Santa Fe, for those of you who live in Denver) on Saturday morning and got a fresh loaf that tastes better than anything we’d buy at the grocery store. It was about $1 more expensive, but since it comes unsliced I know I can make it last longer than a regular loaf.

This is just a small tip that can make a big difference in both your health and your wallet!