Sunday, February 26, 2012

Japanese Eggs versus American Eggs

One of my dear Primal friends asked for a short primer on the difference between the eggs.  It's very much the same as the difference between Pastured eggs versus the standard eggs you can buy in any grocery store.  Now, if you want a scholarly lecture on every aspect of an egg there is to read, go to the University of Florida webpage here to read one (it's chock full of info and I used some for this blog).  So... without getting into all the issues and differences between free-range, cage-free, "normal", organic and organic/pastured, let's talk how the Japanese raise their chickens compared to ours.

First, go to your fridge and select one Japanese egg and one standard American egg:

Besides the fact that they sell their eggs in carton of 10 and ours in a dozen (12), you'll notice the difference in packaging.  Clear plastic (yes, it's recyclable... everything is made to recycle in Japan) versus our hugely protective cartons made of thick cellulose material.  Why?  Well, move onto the egg shells and there's the first difference.

Japanese egg on left - American egg on right

1.  The thickness of the shellYou'll notice not only does the Japanese egg have many lightly colored spots on them (different chickens, different colored eggshells), but that when you go to crack it open, you'll really have to whack it harder than the American egg.  This is due to the healthiness of the actual bird that laid this egg.  The thickness of the shell is determined by factors influencing it BEFORE it's hatched or laid.  Factors such as the age of the hen (older hens produce thinner shells), the amount of time the egg stays in the shell gland or uterus (a scared or stressed bird pushes it's eggs out faster which causes them to be thin), lighting program equivalent to daylight/natural lighting and not keeping lights 'on' when indoors, and the nutritional status of the hen (needs 'proper' amount of calcium and phosphorus in the diet for strong shells - we'll talk chicken feed later).   

 So, now you've cracked open that egg shell and realize how thick it is... no wonder why they're packaged differently!  No need to provide intense protection for something that provides it's own protection.  As a matter of fact, recently I went on the bullet train with a culture group and packed 2 containers of Japanese eggs in my suitcase.  Nope, didn't bubble-wrap them, just put them on top in the roll-along kind of suitcase for the weekend.  Everyone was worried throughout our journey that the eggs wouldn't make it intact to our destination (yep, bag was put up on the shelf above the seats, manhandled up and down staircases, buses, and into a storage room (in which I have no idea how it was placed!!)... not a single egg was broken!!  Amazing!  I'm hoping you can access the above video as it shows me breaking the shell with my thumb.  I did have to push harder for the Japanese egg.

OK... onward!  Next, look at the egg in the bowl:
American Egg and shell
 First the American egg:  We already know it was easier to crack, but look for a moment at the yolk.  It is a nice yellow-orange color with well defined albumin (white part) around it and even more runny albumin (yeah, both these eggs are a little older than I'd like). 
Japanese egg and shell

Next, the Japanese egg:  thicker shell, poor job of cracking it!  Check out the yolk!  Not only is it a darker orange, but it's retained a more spherical (round) shape.

Side-by-side, you can really see the difference between the two yolks.  White parts are fairly identical.  So, what does this mean?  Why are the yolks different colored?  There's our real second difference:

Japanese egg on left - American on right

 2.  The color of the yolk: 
Yolk color depends on the diet of the hen. If she gets plenty of yellow-orange plant pigments known as xanthophylls, they will be deposited in the yolk. Hens fed mashes containing yellow corn and alfalfa meal lay eggs with yellow yolks, while those eating white corn, grain sorghum (milo), wheat or barley yield light-colored (platinum) yolks. Natural yellow-orange substances such as marigold petals may be added to light-colored feeds to enhance yolk color.(University of Florida)
So, what causes the dark, dark orange?  You may not want to hear this, but it's bugs.  Yes, dears, bugs.  Meaning, the chicken in a pasture comes across bugs, lizards, small snakes, etc and will eat them.  That's what chickens do.  They are not vegetarians, but omnivores.  So, when you put your chicken out to pasture, they eat grass, bugs, small reptiles, anything they can get their little beaks into!  This causes them to not only have more beta-carotene (from grasses) in their diets, but meats.  This influx of natural ingredients actually changes the yolk to be full of Omega-3 fatty acids... yep, the good kind, and in the process causes the color of the yolk to be darker orange.  By letting the chickens eat what they want to eat, we get healthier!  (well, so is the offspring if hatched) 

An interesting side note on Japanese eggs, in my research for this blog, I came across an article that talked about how in some areas of Japan, they are paying MORE for very pale egg yolks.  How they are doing this is to feed these chickens rice... only rice.  Supposedly, these eggs are prized for their taste and restaurants that sell "rice omelets" are using this type of egg.  Sad...

OK... back to one last difference.  Lastly, start to puncture the yolk... go for it.  Watch what happens.  Does the yolk just burst and run all over?  Does it retain it's shape?  Well, it does if it's Japanese!  The below video shows me poking the two yolks with my fork.  The American one punctured very easily and ran all over, the Japanese, I had to push pretty hard and then it didn't run.  Why?  Partly the membranous covering of the yolk is thicker, but the yolk itself is thicker and more creamy in texture.

3.  Quality, texture and taste:  Somewhat covered by the above is quality and texture.  The Japanese yolk is more durable and creamy than the yellow American egg's yolk.  The difference in taste is just lovely.  More full of flavor.  I just use a little cracked pepper and perhaps a few grains of sea salt and I'm good... no need to add milk or water, or whatever else you feel scrambled eggs need!! 

So, there you have it... the difference between the two different types of eggs you can buy in our commissary here in Japan.  Is it worth the expense?  YES!!  Can I find them cheaper off base?  YES!!  I can find 10 eggs for 160yen off base instead of the $3.25 on base.  However, you can also find them for a LOT more expensive at farmer's markets.  Just know that the ones at the farmer's markets are FRESH... the ones in a store still may be produced by chickens in barns never seeing the light of day.  So, given the choice, I'll take the 20 at the farmer's market for 400yen!!  :)  ENJOY!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The struggle not to have a BORING blog!!

Recently, I received feedback on this blog... not positive.  But, not negative either... more constructive criticism: 
Hey, you used to write great, but the last several posts have been kinda boring. I miss your great writings. Past several posts are just a little out of track! come on!
I realized that although it stinks to have negative feedback (and one of the only comments I've ever received, too!), it was needed.  I've been posting less frequently, and when I do, they're... well, fillers.

I'm assuming the blogs this person enjoyed more was those with information and content on the Paleo/Primal lifestyle.  (if I'm wrong, please let me know!! I want to attract readers, not bore them away!)  So, in effort to do that, I'd like to share what's happening here in Japan.  Being so far away from "home" means that people need more support over here, support that doesn't necessarily come from the books, but is accessible.  So, my friend, who has renamed himself (and his blog) as the Reluctant Primalist, and I started a support group.  In doing so, we are becoming the 'go to' people here at Yokota.   However, that places a LOT of responsibility on us to 'get it right' or find answers for these people in a timely (like FAST!!) manner.

So, recently, I've had some excellent questions regarding switching to Paleo/Primal lately and this, hopefully, will give me more interesting fodder for my blog.

1.  There is a gluten allergy test.  Did you have it?  If so, was it hard to get an order from the doctor and what was the result?  Yes, no, no, and no result... Just kidding!!  YES, there are laboratory tests that you can have to show whether you're allergic to wheat/gluten or celiac.  However, they're not all the time conclusive.  If you're interested, the antibody blood tests mainly used to diagnose celiac disease, but can also suggest just an immune response, are:
  1. Antigliadin antibodies:  This test screens by finding IgA antibody and IgG antigliadin antibody.  Unfortunately, this test is only accurate for 20 - 50% of all true celiac sufferers, and this is the most widely prescribed test!
  2. Transglutaminase antibody:  Transglutaminase is a muscle protein that can be uncovered by gluten damage to the intestinal lining.  By measuring this antibody in the bloodstream, you can gauge the autoimmune response happening in the intestinal tract.  This test is 86 to 89% accurate for identifying celiac disease.  
  3. Endomysium antibody:  The endomysium antibody also identifies an intestingal tissue protein that triggers an antibody and autoimmune response.  This test is the newest test and appears most accurate in identifying more than 90% of celiac cases.  
  4. HLA DQ2, HLA DQ8:  (This is NOT a blood test)  Though not antibodies, these are genetic markers for HLA (human leukocyte antigens) that over 90% of celiacs have in their intestinal biopsy.  A little controversial within the celiac versus gluten-sensitive world. 
  5. Rectal Challenge:  (NOT a bloodtest)  This involves placing a gluten sample into the rectum and seeing whether an inflammatory response is triggered.  VERY accurate, but is a 4-hour long test... so, not very fun.  
  6. Small Intestine Biopsy:  Through an endoscope (a tube they snake down from your mouth, to your stomach and the first part of your small intestine, the jejunum), they perform a biopsy (tissue sample is cut using small clippers) and look at the tissue under a microscope to see if there is damage, an inflammation, or presence of antibodies. 
So, there you have it... all the possible tests per Dr. William Davis in Wheat Belly paraphrased for your reading pleasure!  In answer to my friend's question, yes had the biopsy last year which showed horrible amounts of inflammation... however, the surgeon figured that was due to my poor health and his desire to take out my gallbladder... never even suggested a gluten response!  Blood tests?  Nope, didn't have any and can't now as I'm off gluten for 6 months and they'll be negative.  As far as "Is it hard to get the order from the doctor" part of the question... the way I feel about that is that it's only hard IF the physician is close-minded and you aren't they type to question their decision.  I'm the type who fights for myself (I've had to learn to be that type, though), and feel that if YOU think YOU might have sensitivity, then ask for the blood tests.  However, if you just want to 'try' being gluten free and you FEEL better off of it... then, there's your answer.  You may not have full-blown celiac disease, but there certainly is some type of gluten response happening.  For me?  I prefer gluten-free life as opposed to that sick state with IBS symptoms since teen years... 

2.  How much food to eat?  I'm trying to cut back on carbs and only eat meat and veggies.  But, how much?  I'm not feeling full!!    In both Paleo and Primal lifestyles, we don't cut calories or food portions.  We eat until we are not hungry anymore.  If you look at the "Paleo Plate" (instead of the "My Plate" from the USDA), you'll see 1/2 of the plate is animal-based protein/fat and the other 1/2 is non-starchy veggies.  If you're still hungry after filling your plate like the picture, perhaps you need more fat and protein to get your body releasing more leptin and causing you to 'feel' full.  Where you see the "water", sometimes I place a 1/2 avocado there and spice it up with balsamic vinegar and cracked pepper.  Also, take a GOOD look at how much veggies you're putting on that plate!  That's at least 2 servings, if not 3 servings of veggies, and MOST Americans have 1 veggie serving that doesn't even count as a serving.  So, PILE those veggies high!!  How about 4 good broccoli 'trees' and a heaping salad of spinach and weeds (what we call all those extra lettuce types in my family).  Try it, THEN tell me you're not feeling full... 

Questions?  More questions?  Feel free to ask... I'll answer them, might take me a while to do the research, but I'll answer them!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sick while Primal...

Well, I fail more when I'm sick.  That's the first thing I have to say about being Primal/Paleo and being sick.  How did I fail?  Well, I ate chocolate... lots of chocolate!

I got up yesterday after feeling pretty terrible the two days prior and the night prior started my nose running like an open faucet.  I should say I didn't get up... not until 1130 when I realized I hadn't given Cheyenne her shot of insulin!!  I had woken up at 7am to wake my teen for school and feed the dogs.  Then went back to bed and snoozed... long and hard.  That was good, because the moment I got up again, the faucet turned on and I was wiping and blowing and wiping and blowing... 2 and a half tissue boxes later was bedtime!! 

Breakfast?  Nope... did turn lunch into breakfast by cooking a quick scramble of 3 Japanese eggs (read this like "pastured" eggs as that's how they take care of their birds here) and eating them on the couch curled up in my blanket with a tissue stuck up a nostril and another glued to the corner of my eye.  I watched TV... and watched more TV... and watched more.  Have I told you about Hulu??  Its the one way I can watch TV shows from back home on my terms, where and when I want.  Typically, I'll watch on the iPad while running on the treadmill.  Well, it's been a while since I was last able to run (that alone would take another blog!!), but I also haven't been walking on the treadmill either.  So... I had a LOT of shows saved up.  Watched them ALL yesterday.  Yep, ALL...

So, how did I fail?  I got a sugar craving.  Strange... didn't realize that's what it was... I just caved to my inner girl and ate dark chocolate covered macadamia nuts... a whole box.  (fortunately, the Japanese packaging IS less than American, but it was still a BOX)  Then... about 12 dark chocolate covered almonds.  Yeah, you could argue that it was 'kinda' Paleo since they were DARK chocolate and almonds/macadamia nuts, not peanuts.  OK... so it wasn't a complete fail... but too much sugar!!  Dinner?  Well, that ended up being carrots dipped in this awesome homemade hummus by a Greek friend of mine who brought it over with some tea as she was quite concerned for me.  Now, typically, I don't eat hummus... it has chickpeas, and they are technically legumes.  However, it made for a wonderful dinner!  I really wasn't too hungry (guess chocolate is filling... maybe the nuts were...), and they hit the spot.  Drank the lovely herbal tea she'd brought, too. 

So... how did I feel this morning after cheating on my diet/lifestyle?  Fine... actually, much better.  So, now I'm thinking that the "fail" was more of my body yelling at me for certain needs.  I think that even more so when I look at what I ate today... just listened to my body.

What did I eat today?  Well, again slept in too late, so for lunch I eyeballed the steak I had sitting in the fridge that was supposed to be last night's dinner, but didn't get made.  I also was running low on my lard.  So... I fried up a whole package of bacon, poured the excess grease into a jar running it through a coffee filter first, then fried up the steak in the left over bacon grease.  OH. MY. GOSH.  THAT was amazing!  I only put pepper on the steak.  Typically, I'd smother it in onions and mushrooms and something else... but WOW.  Definitely needed that red meat!!  Noshed on a few pieces of bacon and ate a fruit salad made from a green kiwi, a gold kiwi, and 1/2 apple... sprinkled in some diced dates and sliced almonds and yummy!!  Drank more herbal tea and I'm done for the day. 

So, yes, it'd have been nice to have chicken soup or something more "typical" for a head cold, but gosh... eating what I craved probably filled some kind of primal needs within my sick body.  So... Fail?  Well, yeah, if that was a "normal" day... cause eating that way would stunt my weight loss/muscle gain goals... but Fail for a sick day?  Nah.  That would be if I ate my old stand-bys:  cream of wheat, oatmeal or pancakes. 

Don't be so hard on yourself... tomorrow is another day, and since I'm feeling even better as today goes on, I know I'll be back to my "normal" eats tomorrow!!