Scrambled eggs on plate - by Doug Cook RD

Are Just EGGS What They’re Cracked Up To Be?

Scrambled eggs 795x530 - Are Just EGGS What They're Cracked Up To Be?

A recent announcement caught my attention. Sodexo, a global food services and facilities management company revealed it was collaborating with JUST Inc. to bring a new “egg” product offering to various sites that Sodexo supplies including universities, colleges, healthcare, and corporate sites.

 

If you haven’t heard of JUST, a review of their mission statement offers a peek into their world. They feel that the “tools” of our food system are limited; citing four core ingredients (“soy, corn, processed sugar, and animal protein”) as the problem because that’s what’s largely available to the food companies and manufacturers that make most of the foods in our food supply.

 

These ingredients, they say, are the making of “cheap and tasty” food that is accelerating chronic disease and climate change. It’s not that big companies don’t care, they do, they’re just limited by these ‘core’ ingredients making it difficult to do anything else. In short, “big food’s” hands are tied.

 

Come again?

 

But, they go on; it’s not just the tools of the food systems that are the problem. There’s also a mindset that’s keeping the human race enslaved to poor quality food. We’ve apparently resigned to the idea that having “healthier, sustainable food that is also affordable and delicious” just isn’t possible.

 

Come again, again?

Cue the JUST Egg alternative.

I have to admit, I find the suggestion that food companies want to do better but can’t or that the public wants healthier foods but feel that’s a pipedream somewhat baffling. I applaud any effort to ensure we have healthy, sustainable, affordable, safe, and, of course, delicious food.

 

Who doesn’t?

 

But, as a dietitian-nutritionist whose primary interest is in promoting and maintaining health using nutrient-dense, “real”, foods, I’m left feeling ripped off by the suggestion that a highly-processed food-like product like a JUST egg vegan product could ever fit the bill.

 

The February 6, 2020, joint press release by JUST Inc. and Sodexo on their partnership on a “breakfast solution for a better tomorrow” is at best confusing and at worst misleading.

 

For context, JUST Egg is a food product that is derived from mung beans. Through processing, the mung bean protein is isolated and forms the foundation of the product. Like all pulses (chickpeas, lentils, dried peas, and beans), mung beans are mostly carbohydrates but happen to have more protein than other plant foods like grains, nuts, or seeds.

Behold, plant based eggs

To be manipulated into an egg substitute, the protein in mung beans has to be separated from its carbohydrate content first. From there, it’s mixed with various ingredients that help it to look, taste, bake, and cook like a real egg.

 

JUST Eggs ingredients include water, mung bean protein isolate, canola oil, dehydrated onion, gellan gum, natural carrot extracts (colour), natural flavours, natural turmeric extract (colour), potassium citrate, salt, soy lecithin, sugar, tapioca syrup, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, transglutaminase, nisin (preservative).

 

In their own words, this highly-processed product has been designed to mimic an egg and make it indistinguishable from the real thing.

 

Hey, maybe it is, at least at the mouth and culinary level they’re indistinguishable…..maybe.

 

Companies spend millions of dollars on processed food formulation and it’s easy to understand why. Taste is the most important reason why we choose to eat what we do. In order for a food-like product to be accepted by consumers, it has to taste nearly as identical to the real thing.

 

As well, if a food substitute is going to be used in food preparation, it needs to hold up, otherwise baked goods or dishes like faux scrambled eggs or omelets wouldn’t last long on any menu.

 

But is that the goal? To find an alternative that fools the senses?

 

JUST Egg boasts that their product meets consumers’ desire for plant-based alternatives to foods that they’re no longer eating for a variety of reasons including wellness, and for who want healthier options.

 

This is where things get confusing.

 

Eggs poached 300x150 - Are Just EGGS What They're Cracked Up To Be?

 

Mung beans are held up as being better because they’re cholesterol-free however cholesterol is no longer considered a nutrient of concern according to the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines, as well as other research (1, 2). In other words, there’s no reason to limit or restrict foods, like real eggs, because of their cholesterol content (3). Likewise, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee no longer recommends limiting dietary fat intake (4).

 

Another sticking point that seems legit, at least on the surface, is when plant foods are compared to animal foods based on their respective protein content. But, when it comes to protein, it’s not just about quantity, it’s quality that matters most.

 

How well a food’s protein is digested and the efficiency with which its amino acids are used by your body is referred to as protein quality and is rated using the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) among others (5, 6). Foods with a DIAAS value of 1.0 means that 100% of its protein is available to your body.

 

Animal foods have higher protein quality (great DIAAS value) compared to plants (5, 6). What this means in practical terms is that you’ll get more usable protein from animal foods compared to an equal amount of protein from plant foods.

 

For example, three large eggs provide 18 g of protein, all of which will be digested and used by your body. On the other hand, while one-cup of tofu has 20 g of protein, its lower DIAAS score of 0.52 means it won’t provide you with nearly as much useable protein, and therefore essential amino acids. Simply focusing on the total amount of protein is misleading, apples to oranges, either intentionally so or by design.

 

This brings me to the next point. To say that JUST Eggs meets demanding consumers who are looking for healthier breakfast options is a mystery to this seasoned nutritional professional.

JUST Egg nutrition compared to the real thing

When comparing one food to another, especially one that’s held up as an alternative, as a consumer I’d want to know I’m getting something that’s almost as good, if not the same, as the food I’m choosing to toss….

A one-egg equivalent of the highly-processed JUST eggs has:

  • 70 calories
  • 5 g fat
  • 1 g carbohydrate
  • 5 g protein
  • 6 mg iron

Compared to one large (53 g) real egg (7)

  • 76 calories
  • 5 g fat
  • 0.5 g carbohydrate
  • 6 g protein
  • 0.7 mg iron
  • 66 mg phosphorus
  • 0.6 mg zinc
  • 18 mcg selenium
  • 101 RAE vitamin A
  • 1.4 mg niacin (B3) equivalents
  • 1.3 mg pantothenic acid (B5)
  • 0.26 mg riboflavin (B2)
  • 1 mcg B12
  • 160 mg choline
  • 1.3 mg vitamin E
  • 40 mg omega 3 DHA
  • 175 mcg lutein and zeaxanthin

 

Kinda speaks for itself huh?

 

Another added bonus is that eggs have a low carbon footprint for food that delivers perfect protein. In fact, eggs are classified with soy and nuts as low in total Green House Gas Emissions by the World Resources Institute, 2018.

 

The real kicker is that JUST Egg comes from one plant in Minnesota and is transported all over North America. It’s true that eggs are transported as well but not to the same extent. It’s easy to choose more locally-produced and sourced eggs from egg producers across the country that come in environmentally friendlier packaging (carton crates).

 

It’s commendable to want healthy, sustainable, affordable, and, of course, delicious food. No one would argue that.

 

However, it’s also important to consider the big picture when it comes to food. There’s more to think about than whether or not a substitute looks, acts, smells, and tastes like the real thing.

 

As others have pointed out, real food doesn’t have an ingredient list, real food is the ingredient and this is no more apparent than comparing a real egg to a highly-processed food-like product designed to mimic the real thing.

 

Doug Cook RDN is a Toronto based integrative and functional nutritionist and dietitian with a focus on brain and mental health and antiaging nutrition. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Comments 7

  1. Ron
    November 4, 2021

    Thanks for cutting through the hype. I was just looking at their website with all the cool interactive stuff but couldn’t find the ingredients. The best I could come up with was that it is based on mung beans. One thing from your article I find missing is the ethical question. You touch on industrial farming but industrial farmed chickens is a horror show which I think should be taken into account as well. But happy to find your site!

  2. Chrissy
    November 24, 2021

    I for one am super excited for JUST egg. My son is anaphylactic to egg, and has failed a challenge to even 1 gram of a muffin with well baked egg. He has multiple other IgE anaphylactic food allergies.
    It’s easy to judge products like this on a high horse on either side. “No animal cruelty!” Or “highly processed and don’t eat it!”
    It’s an option for those who can’t (or won’t) eat eggs. A really exciting one that made excellent French toast with his highly processed oat milk and dairy/ soy free margarine.
    I wish the packaging wasn’t plastic. And I wish we could eat real eggs. But this is a great alternative and has opened up so anymore options for my 12 yr old to try.

  3. Linb
    January 2, 2022

    Great article and very helpful. I am so fed up with all the hype over JustEgg. In a nutshell – it’s processed. And I find it so hypocrital how the advertising on this product tries to make it like it’s better than a real egg – nothing can improve on nature! I wouldn’t eat this processed junk for anything. Unless I was allergic to eggs of course. It’s all about common sense and reading the darn labels.

  4. Anne
    January 8, 2022

    I was stopped at Canola Oil. Suggest you watch macular eye surgeon Chris Knobbe’s video on YouTube about vegetable oils before you decide to ditch real eggs.

  5. Daniel
    April 30, 2022

    I think many people eat Just Egg to avoid supporting of the grotesque and cruel egg industry. Just Egg fills this culinary gap quite nicely for those who care about reducing suffering.

    1. Doug Cook RDN MHSc
      May 1, 2022

      Maybe they can JUST not try to pretend to eat ultra processed, nutritionally devoid food like products that resembles the very thing they’re against to show their support

      1. Daniel
        May 7, 2022

        Hi Doug I certainly wouldn’t make Just Egg the staple of my diet, but it’s a fun treat that resembles the taste and texture of scrambled eggs. I’m not sure the point you’re trying to make here is coming through well though. I’m personally OK with the ingredients and nutrition of this product in the context of how I use it in my overall diet. I understand if you’re OK with the ethical considerations of supporting the egg industry. I don’t think anyone is “pretending” here, we just disagree. Isn’t that OK?

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