Dr. Mercola Articles
This Healthy Duck Recipe Is Perfect for Any Occasion
Sun, 17 Dec 2017 06:00:00 GMT

Recipe From Pete Evans


Most people associate duck with a fancy meal with a hefty price tag. This isn’t surprising, because duck meat is prized for its rich taste, especially when the layer of fat under the skin is rendered and seared perfectly.


Cooking duck correctly can be daunting for some cooks because this requires precision and technique. However, with the proper skills, you can make a delectable duck dish that’ll be perfect for various occasions. Such is the case for this remarkable roasted duck breasts with baby cos and paleo hoisin sauce [CO1] recipe.


If you’re searching for other recipes like this that’ll offer sumptuous flavor and all-important health benefits, make sure you check out the “The Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook,” which world-renowned chef Pete Evans and I have worked on. Apart from healthy recipes, this book also offers valuable information regarding the basic tenets of a ketogenic diet.




For duck breasts


3 duck breasts (about 1/2 pound each)

Sea salt

2 teaspoons coconut oil

2 heads baby cos or romaine lettuce, leaves separated

2 green onions, cut into 3-inch-long strips, plus extra, sliced to serve

1 Lebanese cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, cut into 3-inch-long strips

Black and white sesame seeds, toasted, to serve


For Paleo hoisin sauce


Juice of 1 orange

2 tablespoons almond butter

1 teaspoon grated garlic

1 tablespoon grated ginger

2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

4 tablespoons tamari or coconut aminos

1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice

1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes or chili powder

2 teaspoons tomato paste




1.       To make the paleo hoisin sauce, place all the ingredients in a saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons of water and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for five minutes. Allow to cool, then blend until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

2.       Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

3.       Score the skin of the duck with a sharp ceramic knife [MJU2] by cutting slices diagonally through the skin and fat, about 1/2 inch apart from each other. Season with salt.

4.       Heat coconut oil or fat in a medium nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Place the duck breasts skin-side down in pan, and fry for seven to eight minutes or until well browned.

5.       Transfer the duck breasts to a shallow-sided baking tray. Roast for five to six minutes or until medium-rare. Cook for a couple more minutes if you prefer the duck breast to be well done. Allow to rest for five minutes before slicing.

6.       To serve, arrange the duck slices in lettuce cups, drizzle with some of the hoisin sauce and top with green onion and cucumber strips. Garnish with sesame seeds and extra sliced green onion.


This recipe makes 4 servings.


This Duck Breast Recipe Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Body


If you struggle with cooking duck, maybe it’s time to rethink your game plan. According to writer Brady Klopfer, most people forget that duck has a rich and dark meat covered by a thick slab of fat, making it different from chicken. When you cook duck just like chicken, the meat may become unappetizing — dry, chewy and covered with a “half-inch piece of blubber.”[1]


Fortunately, there are guides nowadays that can help you cook duck correctly and combine it with other vegetables, sauces, herbs and spices that’ll complement the meat’s flavor, just like this recipe.


How Can Duck Breast Be Beneficial for Your Health?


Duck breast is a good source of protein, as well as minerals such as iron, selenium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. You can also find B vitamins such as thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pyridoxine (B6), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12).[2],[3]  Apart from these nutrients, what makes duck special is its ability to be safely cooked to a lower temperature, unlike other types of poultry, because it doesn’t carry salmonella.


Duck meat is lean too. Most of the time, duck is considered “fatty” or “greasy” because of the layer of fat underneath the skin. However, you can remove or cook most of the fat out before serving. Slice through the skin before cooking to allow the fat to drain as the meat cooks. Meanwhile, if you’re roasting whole duck, you may pierce the skin with a fork before cooking — this is another method to drain out the fat without soaking the meat and skin.[4]


Whole ducks are available fresh on a limited basis from late spring through late winter. However, 90 percent of duck sold nowadays is frozen. Some duck breasts are also available in specialty food markets, and may be fresh.[5]


When buying duck, purchase from a source that you trust, such as a supermarket that sells GMO-free and humanely raised duck, a local butcher or a farmers market or shop. BBC Good Food advises that you choose duck meat with clear and soft skin without bruising, blemishing or tears.


Duck must be stored inside the refrigerator as soon as you get home. Take off wrappings and wipe the duck all over (and inside the cavities) with kitchen paper. Place the duck on a tray or plate that's wide and deep enough to contain blood or juice that might seep out. Afterward, cover the duck loosely with foil. Ensure that the duck doesn't touch any food in the refrigerator that's meant to be eaten raw, or meat that's already cooked. Whole birds and pieces of duck may keep for up to two days.


Before cooking and roasting duck, make sure it’s at room temperature first. Take the bird out of the refrigerator before cooking: at least 30 minutes for a cut of duck, or at least an hour for a whole duck. Keep the duck covered and in a cool place.[6]


Why Coconut Oil Is Crucial in This Recipe[MJU3] 


Compared to other vegetable oils and types of fat, coconut oil is and remains to be a top choice in cooking foods because of the health benefits it can provide. To begin with, coconut oil has good amounts of saturated fat in it, particularly medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), such as C6, C8, C10 and C12 fats.


These fats are metabolized differently by the body because they don’t require bile or pancreatic enzymes in order to be digested. Instead, when MCTs reach your intestine, they start to diffuse through the intestinal membrane into your bloodstream and are then transported to the liver, which is responsible for naturally converting MCTs into ketones. The liver releases the ketones back into the bloodstream, where they’re transported throughout the body.


Unfortunately, saturated fats like MCTs have been vilified because of their supposed links to rising numbers of coronary heart disease. However, research has shown that coconut oil and healthy fats like MCTs may contribute to:


·         Increasing good HDL cholesterol levels

·         Helping convert bad LDL cholesterol into good cholesterol

·         Improving heart health and lowering risk for heart disease caused by increased LDL cholesterol levels[7]


MCTs may also be readily available and used as an energy source, instead of being stored as fat. These fats can even provide your brain with much-needed energy by passing through the blood-brain barrier.


Coconut oil may also be beneficial for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and even Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) patients. Patients with these conditions have neurons that slowly die off because they have become insulin resistant or have lost the ability to efficiently use glucose. Introducing ketones in your diet, such as from coconut oil, may help these neurons to survive and thrive.


Liven Up This Dish With Cos (More Known as Romaine Lettuce[MJU4] )


Did you know that cos is actually another name for Romaine lettuce? The name was derived from the Greek island of the same name where it was believed to have originated.[8] Cos is valued for its potential to improve heart health, thanks to these nutrients:


·         Vitamin B9 or folic acid: Assists with converting a damaging chemical called homocysteine into other benign substances

·         Vitamin C and beta-carotene: Helps with preventing cholesterol oxidation

·         Dietary fiber: Combines with bile salts in the colon and eliminates these from the body

·         Potassium: Aids with lowering blood pressure levels and heart disease risk


Romaine lettuce may also:


Provide antioxidant properties: The combination of vitamin A and a carotenoid called beta-carotene may help maintain healthy mucosa, skin and proper vision. On the other hand, vitamin C can help the body defend itself against harmful free radicals.[9]

Improve bone metabolism: Vitamin K in Romaine lettuce can assist with promotion of osteoblastic activity in the bone cells and increasing bone mass.

Boost eye health: Apart from vitamin A and beta-carotene, another carotenoid called zeaxanthin may be useful for your eyes, since it’s selectively absorbed into the retinal macula latea. As a result, it can provide antioxidants and filter retina-damaging UV rays.

Protect the body against diseases: Romaine lettuce has potential in protecting the body against age-related macular diseases (ARMD), especially among older adults.


This vegetable can also help lower your risk for osteoporosis, iron-deficiency anemia, cardiovascular diseases and Alzheimer’s disease.

Prevent neural tube defects in babies: Folate-rich vegetables like Romaine lettuce are highly recommended for pregnant women because of this benefit.

Play a vital role in DNA synthesis: Folate in Romaine lettuce has a dual purpose. It’s one of numerous co-factors needed in enzyme metabolism for DNA synthesis.


Although lettuce may provide health benefits, this vegetable has fewer nutrients compared to other leafy greens. Avoid relying solely on lettuce as a main nutrient source. Instead, mix it up with other vegetables such as microgreens or sprouts that can improve your nutrition and deliver other flavors to a meal. For this recipe, consider substituting lettuce with another healthy leafy green.


About Pete Evans


Pete Evans is an internationally renowned chef who has joined forces with Dr. Mercola to create a healthy cookbook that’s loaded with delicious, unique Keto recipes, ideal for people who want to switch to a ketogenic diet. The “Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook” is the perfect tool to help get you started on your ketogenic journey. CLICK HERE to order your copy now.


Pete has had numerous noteworthy contributions to the culinary world. He has not only cooked for the general public, but he’s also cooked a royal banquet for the Prince and Princess of Denmark, a private dinner for Martha Stewart, and even represented his hometown at the gala GʼDay USA dinner for 600 in New York City.


Pete’s career has moved from the kitchen into the lounge room with many TV appearances including Lifestyle channel’s “Home” show, “Postcards from Home,” “FISH,” “My Kitchen Rules” and “A Moveable Feast.”

 [CO1]AP style doesn’t capitalize the recipe title within the text. It’s only capitalized as part of a headline and as the title just before the recipe is presented.

 [MJU2]Doc’s recommendation for knives in general


How Fasting and Minimizing Lectins Can Benefit Your Health
Sun, 17 Dec 2017 06:00:00 GMT

By Dr. Mercola

Dr. Steven Gundry’s book, “The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in ‘Healthy’ Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain,” which spent 13 weeks on The New York Times best sellers list, reveals the deleterious effects of lectins on health. I’ve previously interviewed him on this topic. Here, we continue that conversation, while also delving into a few other complementary strategies, including the importance of vitamin D for autoimmune diseases and the benefits of fasting.

“Certainly, when the book began to get traction, it clearly started to bother a lot of people … As a general category, a lot of them fall into the low-fat vegan community. The ‘grains and beans are the cornerstone of a healthy diet. How dare you question what everybody knows?’ … I’m not against [grains and beans].

In fact, I’ve got a bean recipe in my book. All I’m saying is that we have to be very cognizant of the lectin content in grains and beans, and that there are ways to destroy lectins. Pressure cooking the beans makes them perfectly safe if you want to eat beans,” he says.  

Testing Reveals the Impact of Lectins on Health

Gundry isn’t guessing when he talks about the health effects of lectins. He’s done a tremendous amount of research in his clinic over the past 17 years, and measures the effects of lectins on biochemical pathways using laboratory testing. This way, he’s been able to determine, scientifically, what the responses are. Gundry explains:

“When I resigned my position as professor and chairman of cardiothoracic surgery at Loma Linda University 17 years ago … I decided to make my practice a research project. Everyone who came into play with me, I asked them to let me have a few tubes of blood … every three months [which are sent] off to labs that I think are doing cutting-edge work.”

One of the many things Gundry has looked at is the effect of supplements, and the differences quality makes. Here, the proof is in the blood work. “I could even tell when people were changing brands of supplements based on their blood work,” he says. Over the years, Gundry amassed files on thousands of patients, and as time went on, increasingly better tests became available allowing him to assess inflammatory responses in a number of different ways.

“I didn’t do this with an agenda. I didn’t have a grudge on my shoulder against lectins. If I could eat mashed potatoes, french fries and phenomenal French bread every day, I’d probably be a happy guy. I would probably be a lot sicker, like I used to be, but I have nothing against these things.

It’s just that as the data came forward from thousands of people, very distinct patterns emerged. Reproducible patterns. I could reintroduce [lectins] and watch the immune system get turned on again. Then I could remove some of these factors and watch the immune system calm down. There was clearly a cause and effect,” he says.

Human Body Has Self-Defense Mechanisms Against Lectins, but Few Are Healthy Enough to Benefit From Them

From my perspective, it is clearly rational to recommend a lectin-free diet to patients with autoimmune conditions, and many autoimmune specialists do. Gundry recently submitted a paper which was accepted for presentation to the American Heart Association EPI Lifestyle Scientific Sessions for March 2018, showing 90 of 102 patients had complete remission of all biomarkers for autoimmune disease by removing lectins, and all within a six-month period.

Interestingly, while lectins can trigger inflammation, they’re often found in vegetables that also contain beneficial micronutrients and polyphenols. So, how do you achieve a healthy balance of nutrition, and do you really have to stay on a lectin-free diet forever? According to Gundry, lectins are nowhere near as problematic if you’re healthy, as your body has built-in defense systems against lectins.

“We have an amazing mucosal system that can bind lectins. We have acid in our stomach; it’s pretty good about breaking down proteins. We have an amazing microbiome, much of which enjoy eating lectin proteins. We have all these defense systems,” he says. The problem is that few people these days have fully functioning defense systems, thanks to the overuse of antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, proton pump inhibitors and poor diet.

“Our defense system in the West has been decimated, so we’re seeing more of the effect of what these lectins can do … Everybody’s a little bit different, but … once we get the gut back in shape [and] solve the leaky gut problem … then it’s time to — if you want to reintroduce dietary lectins — start with small vegetables; peel and deseed them if you want to. Certainly, pressure cooking solves the problem for most people. But I … actually urge people to start reintroducing dietary lectins,” Gundry says.

If You Have Autoimmune Disease, Lectins Can Be Disastrous

People with autoimmune diseases, on the other hand, may indeed have to stick to a lectin-free diet on a more or less permanent basis. This includes people with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome, the latter of which is the most common cause for dry eyes. A commonly prescribed treatment for dry eyes is the drug Restasis, which is actually an immune-suppressing drug used for heart transplants.

“If you have dry eyes, please ask your doctor to do the autoimmune test for Sjogren’s syndrome,” Gundry says. “There are two of them. They’re easy to obtain. You’ll be surprised how many people with dry eyes are positive for Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease [that] comes from the gut.” Other common autoimmune diseases that fare better on a lectin-free diet are mixed connective tissue disease, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and micro colitis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and multiple sclerosis (MS).

When Saturated Fats Do More Harm Than Good

Interestingly, while I typically recommend a high-fat diet for most people, there are instances where (otherwise healthy) saturated fats can do more harm than good — until you’ve healed your gut and get healthier. As explained by Gundry, if you have leaky gut from a disturbed microbiome and eat a lot of lectins, saturated fats may actually worsen your health by allowing lipopolysaccharides (LPSs) to piggyback on the fats through your intestinal wall.  

LPSs are dead bacteria or, more specifically, the cell walls of dead bacteria, but your immune system treats them as living bacteria and mounts immune defenses against the perceived invaders. Recent research cited by Gundry found that children with juvenile MS who ate more vegetables had far slower disease progression than those who ate a high saturated fat diet. Gundry explains:

“If you have intestinal dysbiosis, if you have a mixture of saturated fat-loving bugs and simple sugar-loving bugs, which is the [result of the] standard American diet, you’ve got a setup for having a bunch of LPSs in your gut. You’ve got a setup for an intestinal wall that’s constantly being broken by lectins. I think that this is really one of the main reasons that MS and the other autoimmune disease get a total hold.”

The Importance of Vitamin D

Aside from a lectin-free diet, Gundry also recommends higher than normal vitamin D levels for his autoimmune patients, who typically have low levels even when getting plenty of sun exposure. For this group of patients, he typically recommends a vitamin D level between 70 and 100 ng/ml.

To reach this level, some patients may need to take 25,000 to 30,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D3 per day for months at a time. In fact a new paper proves that T cells in autoimmune patients are resistant to the immune suppression power of vitamin D, and these people may require very high doses to dampen the immune system.

I have enormous respect for Gundry’s clinical acumen, but my review of the literature does not convince me that it is necessary to go above 80 ng/ml, albeit that might be splitting hairs. Clearly, I have been over that level with sun exposure alone so it is possible to get levels that high naturally. However, getting levels that high from the sun and from oral doses are two different things, as many of the epidemiological benefits observed with higher vitamin D levels may be due to other wavelengths like the near-infrared in sunlight.

Gundry continues: “The most I’ve ever had to have a person take is 45,000 IUs a day to get their vitamin D levels up to 70 ng/ml.” He has purposely kept his own vitamin D level above 120 ng/ml for the last 10 years.

“I learned this from a couple of patients about 10 years ago when we were actually quantifying levels above 100 as toxic. Their vitamin D levels were about 270 ng/ml — a man and a woman in their 70s. I was flabbergasted. I looked at them and said, ‘Why aren’t you dead?’ They said, ‘What?’

I said, ‘You have toxic levels of vitamin D.’ They said, ‘Who says?’ I said, ‘Well, everybody says. Conventional wisdom says you ought to have these incredible neuropathies. How long have you been doing this?’ They said, ‘All of our lives. Vitamin D is incredibly important.’ So, I’ve been pushing vitamin D on my autoimmune patients. Quite frankly, once the gut is sealed, their vitamin D level requirements go down quite dramatically.”

The reason for this may have to do with the fact that bacteria in the small and large intestines act as signaling messengers for stem cells that replete enterocytes, which are constantly shed and replaced. Vitamin D is essential for stem cell proliferation in this area. If you have low levels of vitamin D, they do not proliferate well. In most autoimmune diseases, the gut barrier is decimated; hence, these stem cells need additional help.

Low Vitamin D and Elevated Parathyroid Hormones Often Go Hand in Hand

He also recommends taking vitamin K2 when taking high-dose vitamin D to avoid kidney calcification and other problems associated with vitamin D toxicity, and he measures serum calcium to ensure a proper balance.

“One of the things that were fascinating to me early on was that people with low levels of vitamin D almost universally had elevated parathyroid hormones, which of course leach calcium out of bones. As I kicked people’s vitamin D levels up, their parathyroid level came down. When I see people with elevated parathyroid hormone, I don’t immediately go looking for parathyroid adenoma anymore. I push their vitamin D up.

If by pushing the vitamin D up, their parathyroid hormone comes down, problem solved. I can tell you that many people who are on a stable dose of vitamin D and then either forget it or they’re traveling and they stop taking it and come back for a blood draw, that even though [they only dropped from 70 to 50 ng/ml], all of a sudden, their parathyroid hormone starts [becoming elevated].”

The Many Benefits of Fasting

Gundry is also an advocate of fasting, both intermittent fasting and longer water fasts, which I’ve recently embraced myself. I now do a five-day water fast on a monthly basis, and since I was used to doing 20-hour daily intermittent fasting, I really had no hunger at all. Most struggle with hunger pangs by Day Two or Three.

This is easily avoided by working your way up to the point where you’re fasting 20 hours a day for at least a month before you try a longer water fast. I personally do not know of any more powerful metabolic intervention than fasting. Gundry agrees, saying:

“We have an amazing repair system that goes to work when you’re fasting. Not the least of which is [letting] your gut rest. It’s probably one of the smartest things that any of us can do — putting the wall of your gut at rest, not having to absorb nutrients, not having to deal with the constant inflow of lectins or toxins. But I think more importantly, it gives [your body] a chance to finally do some serious cleaning of your brain …

Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s have a unifying cause, and that is the brain is defending itself against perceived threat, a lot of which are LPSs. If you put your gut at rest and don’t have LPSs coming into your system, and the longer you can maintain that, realistically, the better off you are.

As Jason Fung would say, intermittent fasting is great; doing a modified calorie-restricted diet is great, but it technically is so much easier to just stop eating … The second level of my modified food pyramid is “Don’t eat anything.”

Importantly, fasting activates autophagy, which is your body’s way of taking out the trash. Surgeons will typically excise lipomas (soft rubbery bulges beneath your skin that develop when fat starts to grow in soft tissue), but fasting will actually get rid of lipomas without any surgical intervention. Fasting will also trigger the regeneration of stem cells.

Remarkably, whereas low-calorie dieting will cause morbidly obese people to develop skin folds that must be surgically removed after significant weight loss, this typically does not occur when you’re water fasting. Your body actually eliminates the excess loose skin as you go along, because your body is in such efficient regeneration mode.

Even having as little as 200 or 300 calories a day is enough to abort the autophagy process, though, which is why I now do a complete water fast. For me, it’s been a game changer. The mental clarity it provides is truly profound. Now, if your insulin is high when you start a water fast, you may experience hypoglycemia, which can trigger severe headaches. Gundry suggests taking coconut oil or MCT oil several times a day to counteract this.

That said, if you’ve been doing 18- to 20-hour daily intermittent fasting for some time, you’re not likely to have an insulin sensitivity problem and won’t crash once you begin your water fast. Should you develop either intractable muscle cramps or flu-like symptoms while fasting, know that both of these are symptoms of sodium deficiency. Your body’s sodium requirement actually increases when you’re fasting, so make sure you take some high-quality unprocessed salt every day to avoid these side effects.

It’s Never Too Late to Regain Your Health

As noted by Gundry, it’s never too late to turn your health around. One of his patients started seeing him when she was 85 years old. She had coronary heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and hypertension. Now age 96, she’s “a vivacious fireball who’s dating an 80-year-old and dyes her hair red.”

“It’s not rocket science. It really isn’t. There are some fundamental principles that anybody can put into action and change your life. I tell people, ‘You’re probably going to hate me for a couple of weeks, but then you’ll probably start liking me.’ Except for my critics. They’ll never like me,” Gundry says.  

How Can You Tell if Eggs Have Expired?
Sat, 16 Dec 2017 06:00:00 GMT

By Dr. Mercola

The date typed on store-bought food containers often refers to either a “sell by” or expiration date. However, if the food in question happens to be eggs, and you throw them out based on the assumption they’re no good past that date, you’re likely pitching perfectly good eggs. With a little experience, you can hone your skills at determining by sight and smell whether or not foods such as meats, vegetables and herbs are still fresh and healthy to eat as opposed to past their prime.

With eggs, though, it’s a little more challenging. The date on egg cartons is often a tactic food manufacturers use to get you to buy them more often, so knowing how to test your eggs at home to determine their freshness save you quite a bit of money. The Food Product Dating section of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says state-by-state egg laws may prohibit “sell by” dates, and adds:

“Many eggs reach stores only a few days after the hen lays them. Egg cartons with the USDA grade shield on them must display the ‘pack date’ (the day that the eggs were washed, graded and placed in the carton). This number is a three-digit code that represents the consecutive day of the year starting with January 1 as 001 and ending with December 31 as 365.  When a ‘sell-by’ date appears on a carton bearing the USDA grade shield, the code date may not exceed 30 days from the date of pack.”1

To clarify, the date on cartons indicates when eggs were laid, not the date you bought them. You might be surprised to find that eggs you may have assumed by carton dates to be “expired” are more often than not still perfectly good to eat.

Assess Your Eggs With a Float Test

The float test for egg freshness is very simple: Simply place your raw eggs into a bowl of cold water and watch what happens. Here’s what the eggs will tell you:

  • When they sink straight to the bottom and lay flat on their sides, they are very fresh and excellent for frying or scrambling, but not so great for hard-boiling.
  • Eggs that stand on one end or ‘tilt’ to one side on the bottom of the bowl are a few weeks old but still good to eat, and perfect for hard-boiling.
  • Eggs that float are no longer fresh and shouldn’t be eaten, either hard-boiled or any other way.

According to Food Hacks: “To give you an idea of (how) old an egg actually is, look at the ‘packed by’ dates on the carton, which are in Julian date form by the ‘sell by’ dates. Julian dates range from 1 to 365 days, and since most companies pack their eggs shortly after they’re laid, it’s a good indicator.”2

Giving eggs the float test for freshness works because eggshells are porous, meaning a tiny bit of air can get through, so fresh eggs, which have more air in them, sink to the bottom of the bowl. But there’s a little more to that story. What’s Cooking America explains further:  “Eggs that tilt so that the large end is up are older, and eggs that float are rotten. The tilting is caused by air pockets in the eggs that increase in size over time as fluid evaporates through the porous shell and oxygen and gases filter in.”3

Other Ways to Test Eggs’ Freshness

While some will tell you that holding a raw egg up to your ear and shaking it will reveal whether or not it’s fresh (as a sloshing noise may mean it’s no good), that’s probably an unreliable method. Many egg producers recommend a technique called “candling,” which the University of Illinois Extension Incubation and Embryology explains:

“Eggs are candled to determine the condition of the air cell, yolk and white. Candling detects bloody whites, blood spots or meat spots, and enables observation of germ development. Candling is done in a darkened room with the egg held before a light. The light penetrates the egg and makes it possible to observe the inside of the egg.”4

To reiterate, candling is simply shining a bright light — a flashlight will work just fine — next to an egg to observe its contents. It can also detect spoilage, which would necessitate removing it immediately to ensure it doesn’t explode and contaminate other eggs. Experienced candlers in egg hatcheries can ensure the proper development of an egg before it produces a chick.

Fresh eggs have a tiny amount of air space and a barely visible yolk. An older but still good egg has a larger air space and slightly darker yolk. It’s nearly bad when the yolk is much darker and spotty, with slight striations through the entire egg. In spoiled eggs, the yolk is mixed in with the white and is no longer round.

Another simple DIY candling system described by 104 Homestead5 involves a solid-color wastebasket with a bright light inside it. Over the top, place a piece of cardboard with a hole cut into the middle (smaller than an egg). When an egg is placed over the hole and the light, it becomes somewhat translucent.

The ‘Plate and Sniff’ Test

As fragile as they are, some eggs can crack slightly, and you may not know how long it’s been that way or if it might be spoiled. One way to tell is to break the (slightly) cracked eggshell onto a plate. Fresh eggs contain a rounded, bright yellow egg yolk and the white part stays firm and fairly contained without spreading much.

Older eggs have a flatter yolk and the white, known as the albumen, is quite a bit more fluid, so it spreads more. That detail is a hint to why older eggs are better to use when hard-boiling eggs; the shell is easier to remove because the membrane separates from the eggshell easier. If you can’t tell by looking at it, a good sniff will reveal its freshness as fresh eggs don't smell much like anything. Eggs on the not-so-good side may be detectable right away, and a spoiled egg may have you holding your breath.

What Makes Differences in Egg Color?

So, what makes some raw eggshells brown, white or even greenish? The difference between brown and white eggs, as the featured video explains, is simply a matter of the color of the hen laying them. White eggs are generally laid by white hens. Brown eggs are most often laid by red, brown or otherwise dark-feathered hens.

Here’s another little-known fact: Look at the hen’s earlobes. That, too, helps indicate the color the eggs will be. White earlobes on a chicken usually indicate white eggs; red earlobes usually indicate you’ll get brown eggs. That said, not all brown chickens produce brown eggs.

According to Michigan State University’s Extension site6, all eggs start out being white. Eggs that are something other than white (on the outside) have pigments deposited on them as they travel through the hen’s oviduct, which takes approximately 26 hours, and the shell takes about 20 hours to form completely.

Ameraucana chicken eggs have the pigment oocyanin deposited on them as they travel through the oviduct, which permeates the eggshell and results in a blue egg. Brown eggs have had the pigment protoporphyrin deposited on them as their shells were formed, so only the surface of the egg is tinted. In Olive Egger chickens, a brown pigment overlays a blue eggshell, which produces a green egg.

In addition, hens that produce brown eggs are often larger than the white hens that lay white eggs. Dark-feathered chickens often produce larger eggs simply because they tend to eat more, especially when compared to chickens of any color raised in CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations.

Many people who run home-grown egg-producing operations choose darker-feathered chickens for their backyard flocks because they reflect the “heritage” or “heirloom” breeds your ancestors may have raised. They’re also fed what CAFO chickens are not: a natural diet of green plants, seeds, insects and worms.

What Factors Influence the Nutritional Value of Eggs?

It’s generally not the color of the chicken that determines whether or not its eggs will be nutritious, but the way the chicken is raised. You may have noticed that the cheaper the egg, the more anemic-looking the yolk is and the thinner the shell. It’s not surprising that the eggs of free-range pastured chickens have much darker yolks and the eggs have a richer, more delicious taste. The cheapest eggs to buy are usually white, and white chickens are cheaper to feed when they’re raised in CAFOs, which:

  • Are often unsanitary
  • Are often obscenely overcrowded
  • Usually feed their chickens genetically engineered (GE) corn and soybeans. Chicken feed may also include items like chicken feathers and animal parts
  • Routinely feed the chickens antibiotics to help prevent the spread of disease

Sadly, package labeling does little to help consumers buy the most nutritious eggs. In fact, packages may use phrases like “pasture-raised,” “free-range” and “cage-free,” but be aware that current laws allow these terms even if the chickens never saw the light of day or stepped foot in a pasture. If you can find a local store offering high-quality, pastured, local eggs, even if you have to pay a little more or drive a little further, it’s worth it.

You’ll get more nutrition from pastured eggs and avoid the residual effects of undesirable substances CAFOs typically use to increase production. While growth hormones are banned in U.S.-based chicken operations, specially formulated feeds and pharmaceuticals bulk up fast production along with the chickens.

Is Eating Eggs Healthy?

There still may be doctors out there telling you to avoid eating eggs, maintaining they contain dangerous cholesterol that may increase your risk for heart disease. It’s based on the faulty premise that fat is bad for you, but it depends on the type of fat. Healthy fat from eggs (as well as olive and coconut oil, almonds and avocados, for instance) is actually essential for health. In addition, healthy egg nutrients include lecithin, folate and vitamins A, D, B2, B6, B12 and K, which are important and powerful antioxidants.

Eggs are versatile, tasty and healthier for you by far than if you cut them out of your diet. Studies show that rather than causing high cholesterol, eggs actually help maintain normal levels.

Arguments between individuals who didn’t understand that egg whites and their accompanying yolks were meant to be eaten together have focused on eating the whites only because the yolks (supposedly) can raise your cholesterol, or to eat the yolks only because the whites (supposedly) offer negligible nutritional value. A good explanation comes from Time, which states:

“Scientific research has vindicated dietary cholesterol, finding that eating cholesterol has no real impact on cholesterol metabolism. That is, eating foods high in cholesterol does not mean you’ll develop high cholesterol … Egg yolks contain a vibrant mix of saturated and unsaturated fat — another nutrient that, when it comes from a healthy whole food source, is unfairly slandered. Yolks have a good helping of vitamin E, one of the nutrients Americans eat too little of.

But the real case for egg yolks can be made by their abundance of carotenoids, nutrients in plants and animal fats that give things like egg yolks (and even autumn leaves) their yellow color. Egg yolks are rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which help eye health and protect against inflammation.”7

Numerous and Novel Ways to Use Eggshells

You can even gain valuable health benefits from the eggshell. The Secret Yumiverse8 lists a number of great ideas, from powdering baked and bacteria-free eggshells in a food processor to add to foods for increased calcium intake, to:

  • Mixing a teaspoon of the powder with a raw egg white to use on your face, allowing it to dry and peeling it off as a clarifying mask
  • Adding one-half teaspoon of baked and powdered eggshells to coffee grounds (before brewing) to cut the bitterness of acidic coffee
  • Adding a teaspoon of powdered eggshells to your pup’s dog food as a canine calcium boost
  • Not-so-finely crushed eggshells can be used to clean your teapot by adding a tablespoon or two with dish soap and hot water and allowing it to set overnight. The next morning, vigorously swish the eggshells around in the teapot and rinse it well, a process that also helps loosen lime