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Are Egg Yolks Like Cigarettes?

August 16, 2012

Lots of people often ask me why I don’t eat eggs.  The incredible, edible, egg?  Thought to be a cornerstone of a healthy diet and active lifestyle?  Not so much.  Here’s a little more evidence to explain why I don’t.  From The Huffington Post:

Egg Yolks, Smoking Clog Arteries Similarly, Says Study


Is a diet rich in whole eggs nearly as artery clogging as smoking? That’s the premise of a new study, published Aug. 14 in the journal, Atherosclerosis.

Dr. J. David Spence, a professor of neurology at Western University in Canada found a relationship between egg yolk consumption and the development of atherosclerosis, a condition that contributes to heart attack and stroke risk in which plaque accumulates along the walls of the arteries. The connection was similar to one between smoking and arterial plaque that was calculated in the same study, he and a team of researchers found.

Spence’s research team surveyed 1,231 middle-aged male and female patients who had been referred to a vascular prevention clinic at the London Health Sciences Centre’s University Hospital after suffering a stroke or a “mini-stroke.”

A healthy breakfast? Not really.

The team measured subjects’ carotid wall thickness, and compared that with answers about egg yolk consumption, smoking, exercise habits and other lifestyle factors. They did not have the data to look at overall dietary patterns, according to Spence.

The researchers calculated egg yolk consumption and cigarette consumption in the same manner, and found that the top 20 percent of egg consumers had narrowing of the carotid artery that was two-thirds that of smokers. The finding is particularly surprising, as cigarettes are known to cause immediate and profound damage to vascular health.

But some critics of the study are concerned with the comparison between egg yolks and cigarettes. While both are harmful, they cause harm in different ways.

“Smoking has a direct effect on blood vessels and development of plaque, whereas with eggs, it’s really an indirect effect: Eggs are part of the diet and the diet has an effect on overall blood cholesterol,” said Dr. David J. Frid, a staff cardiologist in preventive cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic. “A high level of blood cholesterol can lead to arterial plaque, but there are so many factors that can affect your cholesterol above eating eggs. There’s the rest of your diet, whether you’re overweight, whether you exercise, genetics.”

Instead, Frid suggested that eating a lot of egg yolks could represent an overall intake of high-fat, high-cholesterol foods. People who report eating a lot of eggs may consume unhealthy fare like sausages or grits along with them; those who eat egg whites only are particularly mindful of their saturated fat and cholesterol intake across the board. “The eggs could be a marker of people who have poor diet, rather than an actual characteristic,” he says.

Dr. David J. Gordon, special assistant for clinical studies at the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences at the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute, agreed.

“This study does not address other dietary factors known to influence cardiovascular risk, such as saturated and trans fat, or dietary fiber,” he wrote in an email to Healthy Living. “It is difficult to pinpoint the effect of one specific food or nutrient without considering the other components of a person’s diet.”

But egg consumption isn’t entirely unhealthful, research suggests. One major study found that egg eating was associated with a rise in serum HDL levels — the good, protective kind of cholesterol — along with LDL levels, which clog arteries. Eggs are also a good source of vitamin D, according to Frid.

But Spence asserts that these findings are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of cholesterol. “The cholesterol level you wake up with in the morning, has nothing to do with diet,” he told HuffPost. “It’s determined by how much cholesterol your liver produces.”

And that’s not the cholesterol you should worry about either, he argues. Instead, the rise in cholesterol that follows a meal causes immediate inflammation, which in turn contributes to plaque build-up and the narrowing of the arterial wall.

Arterial plaque builds up when blood vessels become irritated and inflamed — a normal occurrence for everyone, though some conditions like diabetes make the inflammation more frequent and more profound — the body’s repair response generates plaque, explained Frid. The nicotine and tar ingested from cigarette smoking inflames blood vessels, encouraging plaque accumulation. Dietary cholesterol, meanwhile, helps dictate how much plaque will build up, he said.

The takeaway?

A single egg yolk, at 200 mg, has two-thirds of the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute’s recommended daily cholesterol intake for healthy individuals who don’t have heart disease, diabetes or high LDL-cholesterol. That organization recommends limiting whole eggs to four per week. Meanwhile, smoking, like excessive dietary cholesterol consumption, is a risk factor for poor cardiovascular health.

While atherosclerosis is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke, and dietary cholesterol is associated with atherosclerosis, there is no research that shows a direct relationship between dietary cholesterol, and heart attack and stroke.

“Carotid plaque area, which was the primary measurement in this study, is a surrogate outcome for cardiovascular events; but, an association with this surrogate measure cannot be directly equated with risk of stroke or myocardial infarction,” wrote Gordon.

Egg Yolks, Smoking Clog Arteries Similarly, Says Study – The Huffington Post


Vegan diet giving Matt Watson his best shot at MLS

August 15, 2012

Yet another athlete giving a vegan diet a shot.  I don’t know much about MLS (or club “football” in Europe), but it seems to me like out of any major sport, a plant-based diet and soccer would be a perfect fit.  Turns out the reigning MVP of the MLS has been plant-based for 20 years!

Vegan diet giving Matt Watson his best shot at MLS.

Some athletes, like Oakland A’s relief pitcher Pat Neshek, turned to veganism because of an enlightening experience.

In 2007, Neshek read The China Study — which details the connection between nutrition and disease — and instantly cut out meat and dairy.

For others, it’s ethical reasons. Or medical.

Tennis star Venus Williams changed to a vegan diet in 2011 in an effort to combat the auto-immune disease Sjogren’s Syndrome.

Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Matt Watson simply wanted to try everything possible to stick in Major League Soccer.

“I had a terrible diet,” said Watson, a 27-year-old from Redditch, England, who spent four seasons with the second-division Carolina RailHawks, including time under current Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie.

“I ate a lot of Chick-fil-A,” he said, referring to the American fast-food chain.

“It’s like fried chicken, burgers, french fries. Virtually every day after practice I’d get that, or Chinese food. Too much Coca-Cola. I’ve got a sweet tooth, so tons of cookies and sugary stuff.

“I think at the level I was playing at maybe you can get away with it. But here, I wanted to give it my best shot, so I thought I’d give it a try. This might be my only chance to play in MLS.”

Watson had a teammate in Carolina, goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald, who was a vegan. The two also played indoor together for the Baltimore Blast and Fitzgerald had been prodding Watson to change his ways.

“I used to give him stick,” Watson admitted. “But I thought I’d give it a try for a week.”

And that week has turned into months, and Watson — who was also affected by the documentary Forks Over Knives — doesn’t see turning back.

“I actually instantly felt better,” he said, “which might be obvious when you have a diet of Coca-Cola.”

Watson started six of the Whitecaps’ first nine games this season as Rennie favoured an athletic, disruptive midfield to establish a defensive foundation.

While Watson struggled at times in possession, he certainly didn’t lack energy. He can run for days. (Carl Lewis is the most famous vegan athlete).

Watson hasn’t played since May 5, hampered by an ankle sprain, but he’s fit again and could see time this week.

There are things Watson misses. Like Cadbury’s chocolate, and burgers. Team barbecues, he said, can be a source of considerable envy.

He gets his protein from beans, quinoa and tofu. The Whitecaps work with Dana Lis, a SportMedBC dietitian, who’s hooked Watson on Vega protein shakes.

Watson’s wife is not on board. Neither are his kids, which makes life a little tougher.

But the hardest part might not be missing meat or milk chocolate, or dealing with dinners at home, but rather putting up with the ribbing from some of his teammates.

“I just take the abuse,” Watson said. “It’s mainly Barry [Robson] calling me names, a little girl or whatever. And Brad [Knighton]. Brad is Captain America.”

There’s one man’s opinion, though, that means a lot more to Watson. Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario, who plays for D.C. United, was MLS MVP last season.

De Rosario has been meat-free for 20 years; he was a vegan for 10 and has since started eating fish.

“That’s not bad company to be in,” said Watson. “If he can do it, it can’t be that detrimental.”


Read more:

Fish Sticks and Green Beans, but Plant-Based

August 14, 2012

My wife loves the fish filet at McDonalds, and has loved it her entire life.  Unfortunately for her, I never let her go there (except for one time in Vegas), so seeing a post from Lindsay Nixon at Happy Herbivore about her tofu fish filet definitely piqued my interest.  We decided to give it a try last night, but seeing as we didn’t have any bread in the house, we decided to turn the recipe into “fish sticks” instead of the filet.  Here’s what we did, adapted from this recipe from Lindsay.

Reminds me of my old college “white trash” meals, except healthy, vegan, and delicious!

Tofu Fish Sticks


  • 1 14 oz package firm tofu, pressed (I use the Tofu XPress, but you can press it overnight between two plates with something heavy on top)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (I had whole wheat panko breadcrumbs and they worked pretty well, but I think I’m going to try again with regular whole wheat crumbs)
  • 1 tbsp kelp granules (you can buy this in the Asian section of Whole Foods)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or soy, rice, etc.)


  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or better yet, use a Silpat.
  • Take your pressed tofu and slice it lengthwise right through the middle on the side, so essentially you have 2 thinner “sheets” of tofu. Keeping the two pieces together, slice about 5 “sticks” across.
  • Mix the breadcrumbs and all the spices together in a shallow bowl.
  • Put the almond milk in a bowl as well.
  • Dip each tofu stick in the milk, then roll it in the batter and place it on the baking sheet.
  • Bake the tofu sticks for 25 to 30 minutes, until sufficiently crispy.

No fish sticks are complete without tartar sauce, so here’s a vegan version, courtesy of my lovely wife.

Tartar Sauce


  • 1/2 cup fat free Nayonnaise (or vegenaise)
  • 1/4 cup dill relish
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried dill


  • Mix all together. Be sure to taste (we usually just eyeball this) and adjust accordingly.

We also decide to steam up some green beans, squeeze some lemon juice on top of them, and sprinkle some Old Bay on them as well.  Paired with a mixed green salad, it was a perfect meal!

Quick “Asian-Style” Spinach Salad For Lunch

August 13, 2012

I was looking through Healthy Girl’s Kitchen’s excellent list of oil-free salad dressings this weekend and came across this “Asian Low-Oil Dressing” which looked interesting.  I decided to whip it up and put together a salad from what I had on hand, and it turned out amazing.  It’s low oil, which means only one teaspoon of sesame oil in the entire batch for some flavor, which from a fat and processed food standpoint is completely negligible in my book.  There’s definitely all sorts of other stuff you can put in this salad (it’d be awesome with kelp noodles), but use this as a starting point and let your imagination go crazy.


1 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons orange juice (I used the juice from the can of mandarin oranges)
1 teaspoon sesame oil, toasted
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 package Trader Joes organic baby spinach
2 persian cucumbers, diced
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 package pre-steamed edimame, shelled
1/2 bottle of hearts of palm, sliced
2 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup sprouted mung beans, rehydrated in hot water for 3o minutes
1 package of “Sea Tangle” sea vegetables from Whole Foods, rinsed and drained
1 small can of mandarin oranges
It took me and the wife about 15 minutes to make and it was light yet filling.  Perfect for a ridiculously hot summer day in Los Angeles.

Olympian vegetarians! – from the

July 31, 2012

Here’s a cool article from the Guardian about famous vegetarian athletes.  I’ve always been a huge fan of Bode Miller and had no idea he was a plant eater!


Olympic vegetarians: the elite athletes who shun meat



Lizzie Armitstead isn’t the first athlete to achieve Olympic success on a non-meat diet. We raise a glass of vegetarian champagne to some of the best.


Lizzie Armitstead was just 10 years old when she told her parents she wanted to become a vegetarian. Yesterday, she won Great Britain’s first medal of the Olympic Games, taking silver in the gruelling 87-mile road cycling race, no less.

I was brought up as vegetarian from birth and have been a long distance runner for most of my adult life. One of the most common misconceptions I’ve come across is that vegetarians are pallid, gentle creatures who would recoil in a tough sporting arena. Despite the fact I was breaking school records on the track, people still questioned my diet’s ability to make me strong.

I spent six months last year living and training with some of Kenya’s greatest long-distance runners, for my book, Running With the Kenyans. The athletes (from the Rift Valley) were not strictly vegetarian, but ate very little meat, which is usually reserved for special occasions such as weddings or funerals. Although there were occasional non-vegetarian meals served in the athlete training camps, we lived mostly on a diet of rice, beans, ugali (a dough made of maize flour and water) and green vegetables. The list of gold medals the Kenyan athletes have won on the track is almost endless. (On a personal note, I returned home to run a marathon in under three hours.)

However, most nutritionists are still unconvinced of the benefits of a vegetarian diet for elite sportspeople. While it can mean a diet low in saturated fat, which is good, it requires athletes to be more vigilant about their intake of protein, iron and vitamin B12. “It is hard work,” says Linia Patel, a sports nutritionist at the British Dietetic Society. “It can be done, of course, but I take my hat off to those who do it.” 

Yet as Armitstead has shown yet again, vegetarians continue to rise to the very top of their sports. She follows a long line of Olympians who have managed to excel without “eating corpses”, as she herself puts it. In honour of her medal, here are a few other great vegetarian Olympians:

Paavo Nurmi

vegetarian olympiads: Paavo Nurmi 1924 Olympic GamesPaavo Nurmi. Photograph: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty

One of the greatest distance runners in history, the ‘Flying Finn’ won nine gold medals in long-distance running events during the 1924 and 1928 Olympics, including the 1,500m and 5,000m on the same afternoon in Paris in 1924.

Murray Rose

Known as the ‘Seaweed Streak’ because of his vegan diet, Australian swimmer Rose won four Olympic gold medals in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics. He was a vegan from from childhood.

Edwin Moses

vegetarian olympiads: Edwin MosesGold medalist Edwin Moses. Photograph: Bob Thomas/Getty Images

Twice the Olympic 400m hurdles gold medallist, Moses went on one of the most incredible winning streaks in the history of sport when he won 122 successive races between 1977 and 1987, breaking four world records along the way.

Bode Miller

One of the greatest American alpine skiers of all time, Miller has won five Olympic medals, including gold in Vancouver in 2010. He was raised as a vegetarian on an organic farm in New Hampshire.

Carl Lewis

vegetarian olympiads: Carl Lewis 1991Carl Lewis crosses the line in 1991. Photograph: Getty Images

Carl Lewis wasn’t a vegetarian when he won four gold medals in Los Angeles in 1984, but turning vegan later in his career only seemed to help. In 1991 he won the 100m at the world championships at the age of 30 in a world record. It was, he has said, his greatest race.

Emil Voigt

The last British man to win a long-distance gold medal at the Olympics, in 1908 in London, Voigt was a former Guardian writer as well as a dedicated vegetarian.

Christopher Campbell

The wrestling arena is no exception when it comes to vegetarian winners. Campbell missed his chance at Olympic gold in 1980 through the US boycott of the Games – he won the world title in 1981 – but he managed to come back in 1992 to win bronze in Barcelona at the ripe old age of 37.

Martina Navratilova

martina navratilova 100 womenMartina Navratilova in action in 2004. Photograph: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty

Although she lost in the quarter finals in her only Olympic appearance in Athens in 2004, Navratilova is one of the greatest tennis players in history, winning 18 Grand Slams, including an incredible nine Wimbledon titles.She is a strong advocate of vegetarianism.

The Chicago Diner: Great Plant-Based Eats in the Land of Polish Sausages

July 20, 2012

Having only passed through Chicago until a few weeks ago, I’ve always pictured the city to be incredibly meat-centric, like that awesome SNL skit “Bill Swerski’s Superfans” where Chris Farley (RIP, you genius) complains that he’s got a “polish sausage lodged in the lining of my arc.”    Da Bears!  Well, it turns out there’s actually some solid vegan/vegetarian places to check out in the city. My wife and I happened to have an extra day in the city this past Monday, so we headed to the famous and long-running (“Meat-Free Since ’83) Chicago Diner for lunch.  The wife had actually done a brand redesign project in college using them as a subject, so she’d been wanting to try it for a long time.

It was pretty cool to feel like we were in a regular old-school diner but have a huge menu of vegan/vegetarian options, and the food was really really good.  Here are some photos of our meal:

Classic signage outside.

Steamed gyoza for an appetizer.

I had the “Soul Bowl,” with quinoa, tofu scramble, sautéed greens, mashed sweet potatoes, and black beans. Incredibly satisfying and delicious!





Vegan Athletes Taking Over The News!

July 9, 2012

Aside from the ever-present endurance athletes like Brendan Brazier, Scott Jurek, and Rich Roll, I usually have to dig and search for news about plant-based athletes in mainstream sports, but this weekend was very, very different.  First, Serena Williams (supposedly following a raw vegan diet) wins Wimbledon singles and then wins doubles with her also supposedly raw vegan sister, Venus.  Pretty big deal.


And then, NFL running back Arian Foster announces he’s gone vegan (although only for a week so far).  It’ll be really interesting to see what happens with his performance this year – I’m betting he’ll be quicker, faster, and able to recover more quickly from each game, but you never know in the NFL.  Not surprisingly, he’s been receiving a whole lot of backlash from fans and writers about this diet change – will he go soft now that he doesn’t have “muscle-building” meat in his system?  Has everyone forgotten that Tony Gonzalez, the most prolific Tight End ever to play the game and famous for going over the middle, has been vegan for years?  Here’s what I’m wondering – If Foster comes back and puts up huge numbers this season, will other skill players follow suit?  Will we see Larry Fitzgerald drinking a green smoothie during a postgame interview?   Only time will tell.  What do you think?