Eggs have been a staple part of our diet for centuries. Packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients, they are one of the healthiest foods in the world. Scrambling, frying, and boiling are some of the popular methods of cooking eggs. But lately, there has been an upsurge in the use of raw eggs. Weightlifters and athletes use them in smoothies and protein shakes. We also use raw eggs in salad dressings and Hollandaise sauce.
But is eating raw eggs good for your health? While adding raw eggs to food may be an easy way to add to their nutritional content, it can also raise the risk of infection. Read on to know more about the benefits and side effects of eating raw eggs.
Raw eggs are packed with nutrition. They are a good source of several minerals like iodine and selenium, which can be hard to get from other sources. They are low in calorie content and saturated fat and rich in high-quality protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
One fresh, large(50 grams) raw egg contains (1) –
- Calories – 71.5
- Carbohydrates – 0.4 grams
- Fats – 5 grams
- Proteins – 6.3 grams
- Vitamin B2 – 0.2 mg (14% of DV)
- Vitamin B12 – 0.6 mcg(11% of DV)
- Vitamin B6 – 0.1 mg (4% of DV)
- Vitamin B5 – 0.7 mg (7% of DV)
- Choline – 126 mg
- Vitamin A – 244 IU (5% of DV)
- Selenium – 15.8 mcg (23% of DV)
- Phosphorus – 95.5 mg (10% of DV)
- Iron – 0.9 mg (5% of DV)
- Calcium – 28.5 mg (3% of DV)
- Zinc – 0.6 mg (4% of DV)
Raw eggs are also rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which play an important role in eye health. They have been linked with reduced risk for age-related macular degeneration and cataracts (2).
Are there any benefits to eating raw eggs?
As far as the nutritional value goes, raw eggs and cooked eggs are pretty similar. Eating them provides a variety of vitamins, minerals, omega fatty acids, proteins, and antioxidants. Food that is not cooked, including eggs, retains most of its nutrients. Cooking methods that involve lengthy cooking times and high temperatures cause the nutrients to degrade. Cooked eggs have reduced amounts of antioxidants and omega fatty acids.
Cooking can cause compounds like glycotoxins to develop in food. These glycotoxins develop when you cook food at high temperatures for an extended period. This fact shows that raw eggs have no glycotoxins, eggs cooked on low or medium heat have little, while hard-boiled eggs and fried eggs have a lot.
- Suggested read: How to Tell If Eggs are Good to Eat or Not?
Eggs are also an excellent source of choline. Since choline is essential for healthy brain development, it is vital to include eggs in your diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Eggs are rich in calcium and vitamin D, which help to protect bones and prevent osteoporosis and rickets. Free-range, organic, and barn-raised eggs have higher nutritional content. Eggs are also helpful in weight management. The high protein content of eggs makes you feel fuller for longer and hence helps you in weight loss.
Downsides of eating raw eggs
1. Salmonella infection
The main risk of eating raw eggs is the risk of salmonella infection (3). Salmonella infection is one of the top ten causes of food-borne illnesses. Eating eggs contaminated with salmonella can lead to food poisoning. The symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, headaches, and fever. These symptoms appear within six to 48 hours of consuming contaminated eggs and can last up to seven days.
This bacteria can only be killed with heat or with changes in PH. The US Department of Agriculture also advises against consuming any types of raw eggs, including organic, non-GMO, or free-range. People with an underdeveloped or compromised immune system are more susceptible to salmonella infection. These include the elderly, children, pregnant women, people with cancer or autoimmune diseases.
Thankfully the odds of contracting salmonella from raw eggs are pretty low. According to the US Department of Agriculture, one of every 30,000 eggs produced in the US is contaminated (4). Cooking eggs is an easy way to kill salmonella.
2. Less protein availability
Eggs are an excellent source of protein. One large egg contains 6.3 grams of complete proteins. The high–quality proteins in eggs contain all nine essential amino acids in the right ratio. Getting enough protein is essential for building strong bones and muscles. Many people like bodybuilders and athletes who add eggs to their smoothies and protein shakes assume that protein is more bioavailable to their bodies if it is uncooked.
Studies, however, show that raw eggs decrease the absorption of protein. According to a study from University Hospital Leuven, Belgium, over 90 percent of the protein in eggs is digested when cooked, compared to just around 50 percent in raw eggs (5).
During another study, healthy volunteers were given either raw or cooked eggs with their meals. The results showed that 94% of the cooked egg protein was absorbed compared to only 74% of the raw egg protein (6). These studies show that cooking eggs help the protein to become more digestible and available to the body.
So, if you are primarily consuming raw eggs to increase your protein intake, then cooking them may be a better option.
3. Blocks biotin absorption
Biotin (Vitamin B7) is a water-soluble vitamin. It helps to convert food into fuel for the body. A lack of biotin can lead to problems with the nervous system, hair, nails, and skin (7). Yolks of eggs are a good source of biotin.
One whole cooked egg provides 10 mcg of biotin. Raw egg white contains a protein known as avidin, which binds to biotin in the intestine and prevents its absorption. Heating destroys avidin, so cooking eggs makes biotin available for absorption.
People at a higher risk of getting salmonella infection
- The immune system of children under the age of five is still not fully developed. They are most likely to get salmonella infection.
- Infants who are not breastfed are more likely to get a salmonella infection.
- People over the age of 65 have a weakened immune system. They also develop age-related changes in the digestive system.
- Diseases can weaken immunity in some people. People with autoimmune diseases or cancer are more likely to get salmonella infection.
How to reduce the risk of getting salmonella infection?
If you have to consume uncooked eggs or use them in your recipes, you must follow these tips to minimize your risk of salmonella infection –
1. Eat pasteurized eggs
When it comes to eating raw eggs, pasteurized eggs are the safest choice. During pasteurization, many of the bacteria and microorganisms commonly found in eggs are eliminated. During the pasteurization process, the eggs are heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit for three and a half minutes. Most bacteria cannot survive at this temperature.
2. Keep the eggs refrigerated
You must always buy eggs from the refrigerated section of the grocery store. When you bring them home, keep them in your refrigerator. Storing eggs at room temperature encourages the growth of bacteria, which can lead to infection.
3. Don’t eat eggs past their expiration date
Eggs past their expiration date carry a higher risk of infection. Avoid eating such eggs. If you have tossed away the packaging of the eggs and don’t remember the expiration date, there is an easy way to find if the eggs are good to eat or not. Fill a medium-sized bowl with cold water and place the eggs in it. If they sink and lie at the bottom on their sides, they are fresh. If they float on the surface, they are no longer suitable to eat.
4. Don’t consume cracked or dirty eggs
Dirty eggs may have harmful salmonella bacteria on the shell. When you crack open such an egg, you run the risk of infection. Cracked eggs allow the salmonella bacteria to enter and grow inside the egg.
5. Clean up
Wash your hands and clean your utensils and kitchen counters property after using raw eggs to prevent infection.
Raw eggs contain the same amount of nutrients as cooked eggs. In fact, cooked eggs also provide more protein content than raw eggs. A protein called avidin present in raw eggs also prevents the absorption of biotin in the body.
The US Department of Agriculture also advises against consuming any types of raw eggs, including organic, non-GMO, or free-range due to the risk of developing salmonella infection. Even though the likelihood of getting salmonella infection from raw eggs is minimal, the only way to ensure that the bacteria are not present is to cook the egg properly.
People with an underdeveloped or compromised immune system are more susceptible to salmonella infection. These include the elderly, children, pregnant women, and people with cancer or autoimmune diseases. However, if you must have raw eggs, ensure that you consume pasteurized eggs. You must keep the eggs refrigerated. Do not eat expired, cracked, or dirty eggs.