Cheap Eats:
Huevos en Chile Verde
  (Eggs in Green Chili Sauce)

Cholesterol. It has been the acknowledged bad guy of health for the last couple of decades. Finally, after a lot of research, we're getting to the point where we know something about it—and what we're learning might surprise you.

First, eggs aren't a big problem. Granted, if you ate a dozen eggs a day and already had a cholesterol count of 350, it would look a lot like suicide. However, if your cholesterol is within normal range, and you have a couple of eggs a couple of times a week, it is unlikely to have any effect on your cholesterol level at all. In fact, it has been discovered that eating eggs laid by chickens that have been fed solely on flax seed will actually lower your cholesterol. However, I'm not sure how easy it is to find these eggs.

Actually, consuming cholesterol is not really among the big culprits in having high cholesterol. The biggest problems are eating too much saturated fat, not eating enough fiber, fruits, and veggies, not getting enough exercise, not getting enough of the right fats, and (biggest culprit of all) eating stuff that causes your body to produce cholesterol, since it is almost impossible to eat as much cholesterol (or cut as much cholesterol) as your body produces on its own.

What are the foods that cause your body to produce cholesterol? Well, probably the worst offenders are those little non-fat puffed rice or corn cakes you thought were so good for your diet. Or that big glass of juice you thought was a healthy addition to your lifestyle. Why? Because they cause a huge insulin surge, and your body reacts to insulin surges by producing more cholesterol.

Eating whole fruit is completely different from drinking juice. First, you'd have trouble eating as many oranges, for example, as you would need to produce that glass of juice. Second, by eating the whole fruit, you're getting lots of fiber (both soluble and insoluble, depending on the type of fruit).

In addition, avoid highly-processed, wildly over-refined foods like puffed rice cakes (regular rice is okay). Any carbohydrate that dissolves in your mouth that easily is probably going to cause an insulin surge if consumed in large amounts. (And any carbohydrate that is already dissolved, like the corn sweetener in soft drinks, is going to be a problem, too.) Now this doesn't mean you can never have simple carbohydrates again, but you should reduce them, and you should try to have them with protein, to buffer the insulin reaction.

What are some good things to eat? Anything with lots of fiber (whole grains, fruit, vegetables, beans) and things with lots of flavor (spices, chilies, garlic, onions). Good fats include those coming from fish like salmon and albacore tuna, olive oil (highest in monounsaturates), avocados (studies have shown that eating ½ an avocado a day can be more effective than a low fat diet for lowering cholesterol), and many nuts (especially almonds and walnuts—though in moderation, since they're still fattening).

Of course, by now you've probably all heard that there is a difference between types of cholesterol—there is bad cholesterol (LDL) and good cholesterol (HDL). The advantages of eating the good stuff above, as well as adding at least a bit of exercise to your day, is that you are lowering the LDL without hurting (and maybe even boosting) the HDL, while the standard low-fat diet drops both (and often drops HDL more than LDL—which is not good).

Another important thing to know is that cholesterol is more likely to stick to blood vessels if you have a lot of free radical damage. That's another reason boosting your fruits and veggies helps—more antioxidant protection to keep your blood vessels from getting clogged. (It's also why corn oil is not a good choice—though it is low in saturated fat, it can cause an increase in free radicals. You want to stick with the monounsaturates, especially olive oil.)

Both tomatillos and jalapeño peppers are among the foods that can help lower your cholesterol. Chilies in particular are healthful, since capsaicin (the stuff that makes them hot) is an antioxidant and may protect against cancer, and chilies contain antioxidant vitamins A and C. Tomatillos are indigenous to Mexico, which is where this recipe originated. This is a wonderfully tasty and satisfying dish. Enjoy.

Huevos en Chile Verde
(Eggs in Green Chili Sauce)

2 jalapeño peppers

6 tomatillos

⅓ cup finely chopped onion

2 Tbs. vegetable oil


4 eggs

Seed and devein the jalapeño peppers. (Reserve some of the seeds if you want to make this on the zippy side—otherwise, this is a relatively mild dish.) Remove the papery husk from the tomatillos and wash. Put tomatillos, jalapeños, and ½ tsp. salt in a saucepan, add water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook about 10 minutes, or until tender. Rinse in cold water and drain. Blend the tomatillos and jalapeños in a blender or food processor, adding a small amount of water if necessary, to make a smooth sauce.

In a skillet or frying pan, heat the oil and cook the onions until limp and transparent. Add the tomatillo and jalapeño sauce and cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. Taste sauce and add salt as need, plus reserved jalapeño seeds as desired. Break the eggs into the sauce, reduce to a simmer, then cover and cook until eggs are set (about 5 minutes). Serve immediately. If you wish to garnish, a sprig of cilantro would be a nice addition.

Serves 2.

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