by Jeff Clemetson, Editor
Eggs have been described as nature’s perfect food because of our body’s ability to easily digest the proteins in eggs. The proteins in eggs are easily converted to build muscle and are an essential part of any diet for those who live an active lifestyle and want to stay in shape.
Of course, there are people who have seen the abuses of the poultry industry and in the name of health and environment have forgone eggs as part of their diet. And they’re right – the eggs produced in poultry factories do carry health risks due to the way the eggs are farmed with antibiotics, added hormones and the unnatural food given to a bird that should be eating bugs and worms from the ground. With the growing trend of the vegan diet, it is no wonder that industry titans the likes of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and PayPal founder Peter Thiel have invested heavily in a new food venture called Beyond Eggs, which produces a plant-based egg substitute. Vegans will likely rejoice at the fact there is a new egg substitute available to them, but they’d be wrong to do so – and here’s why.
Although Beyond Eggs seems like a great and healthy idea – use plants to make a proteinish substance to replace a key ingredient in many recipes in order to satisfy the growing vegan population – it will eventually be less healthy than eating a natural egg. Unlike Beyond Eggs’ formulaic mix of binders and plant extracts, eggs are a whole food. Ironicly, the highly-processed Beyond Eggs product is now being sold in test markets at Whole Foods stores in California and will soon be added to vegan “health” foods and may eventually replace eggs in a lot of the commercial foods sold at supermarkets. Think Twinkies and other already processed foods now made with one more process.
Another problem with the Beyond Eggs product, and in protein substitutes in general, is that they are almost exclusively made from GMO crops which are soaked with chemicals while growing. Although the plants and processes used to create Beyond Eggs is still an industrial secret, we do know that over 90 percent of soy products are made from GMO soy beans. Soy has been marketed as a healthy substitute for protein-rich foods like milk and meat for decades now and the results are not good. According to physician and author Dr. Joseph Mercola, diets that are high in soy products can lead to “malnutrition, digestive distress, immune system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility — even cancer and heart disease.” A lot of these problems can be linked to the high levels of carcinogens like glyphosate found in GMO crops, but even organic soy has saponins, soyatoxin, phytates, trypsin inhibitors, goitrogens and phytoestrogens which decreases nutrition in the body.
There are of course ways to get proteins without eating meat or dairy. Kale and broccoli are both high in protein and so are nuts. Unfortunately, according to the USDA Agricultural Research Service, to get the same amount of protein as say a 4 oz steak, you’d have to eat 9.5 cups of raw uncooked broccoli and unlike the steak which would contain all of your daily recommended essential amino acids, the broccoli would only give you half of what you need. You’d have to eat 19 cups of broccoli to equal the nutrition found in one 4 oz piece of steak. That’s a lot of broccoli, likely grown with pesticides and chemical fertilizers, to eat just to make up for eliminating natures best source of protein from your diet.
To make up for the lost amino acids associated with giving up eggs, meat and dairy , people often take supplements and vitamin pills. Without meat, eggs or milk, vitamin B12 will have to be taken as pill supplement as it is only found in animal products. Vitamin supplements are widely available but not very well regulated so you must be aware of which companies are reputable and which ones are not. Of coarse, the best thing to do would be to eat a whole food like beef liver or clams which have the highest levels of B12 or any meat, fish, eggs, poultry or milk which also contain high levels of this important vitamin.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that vegan and vegetarians have to eat meat, or even that it is silly for them to choose those diets. I understand the motivation behind those choices. When I look at what factory farming has done to the treatment of animals, it makes me sick to the stomach. The way most animals are harvested these days is so unnatural that the food produced is loaded with hormones and chemicals and is deficient in the nutrition it should have. However, since the advent of GMO crops, vegetables are not much better in the damage their production brings to the planet. Also, as the organic food movement has picked up over the years, there have been many ranchers and poultry farmers who have returned to more natural and humane practices, making meat, eggs and milk without the health risks associated with factory farming.
When it comes to a healthy and nutrient-rich diet, nothing beats eating whole foods. Replacing an egg with a processed plant or a piece of fish or steak with a slab of tofu may take into account one’s feeling toward the treatment of animals but does not necessarily address a person’s adequate nutrition. Remember, the more you replace a whole food with a processed one, no matter how good your motivations may be, you are taking the food market further from the family farm and putting it more squarely in the hands of food processors.