Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
15 Feb

Dear Mark: Raw Eggs

raweggA glassful of raw eggs incites mixed reactions for many of us. It’s routine for some and revulsion for others. Commonly associated with bodybuilders and boxers (the Rocky scene) who want to bulk up, a lot of folks who fit neither category include them on a regular basis for simple nutritional reasons. However, there’s more to the picture, as this reader’s email suggests.

Dear Mark,

I have searched the site to see if there is any pros/cons of eating raw eggs. I know in the past, CW says that eating raw eggs can create a biotin deficiency in our bodies. I like having a couple of raw eggs in my whey protein drink after a workout. Do you have any information that would be helpful in the use of raw eggs?

Eggs in general are a nutritional (and wholly Primal!) powerhouse with impressive supplies of selenium, iodine, phosphorus, molybdenum, choline, lutein, vitamins A, B2, B5, B12, E, D and K. Add to this a healthy 5.5 grams of protein, 20% of your RDA for tryptophan and essential fatty acids. But what’s the specific draw to raw eggs?

A lot of folks choose to eat raw eggs because some nutrients can be diminished by heating. (Although this is true of cooking just about anything, cooking also makes certain nutrients more bioavailable – hence the constant pull and push between the raw foodists and traditional cooks.) Some people feel any change in the chemical structure is to be avoided. Others don’t. Although some vitamins (like vitamins C, B6 and B9) are more fragile and lose potency during heating (the more/longer heat, the more loss), other nutrients are enhanced. As reader Tuscoyote noted in the forum a few months ago, researchers have found that egg protein is more bioavailable when heated. (Thanks for the NPR link, Tuscoyote!) Here’s the study referenced in that interview. The study showed that egg protein is more digestible (94% versus 55-64%) when heated, probably due to alteration of the protein’s structure and the ability of digestive enzymes to infiltrate peptide bonds. Whether you eat your eggs heated or raw (or a little of both) in part depends on your goal in eating them to begin with.

As for drawbacks, there’s the well-circulated salmonella risk, which isn’t the dire prospect it’s often made out to be. The risk has been estimated as 1 in 10,000 (CDC) or 1 in 30,000 (Risk Analysis journal). And though washing eggshells can reduce much of the risk, it doesn’t eliminate it entirely. Salmonella can be present in the yolk due to infection in the hen’s reproductive tissue.

Of course, not all eggs are created equal when it comes to salmonella or nutrition. Not only are organic, free range eggs more nutrient-dense, one study found them to be significantly less contaminated than battery cage hens. Hens that graze and eat a natural diet as well as have more space to roam (to avoid living in feces) are naturally healthier. While the survey determined a quarter of battery cage groups to be contaminated, only 5% of those that were both organic and free range showed contamination. (Free-range, non-organic came up at 6.5%.) Simple refrigeration can keep any salmonella bacteria from multiplying, which minimizes the risk of actual illness from contaminated eggs. In those who are very young, pregnant or immune-compromised, salmonella risk is more of a consideration.

As you mention, eating raw eggs carries the eventual risk of a biotin deficiency. Although egg yolk is actually a rich source of biotin, the white contains avidin, a glycoprotein that bonds with biotin, preventing the nutrient’s absorption. Avidin is generally inactivated when cooked, which makes the biotin in the yolk fully available for absorption by the body. You don’t have to rule out raw eggs by any means. I wouldn’t advise eating them daily for long stretches of time without a biotin supplement (supported within a B-complex intake, since these vitamins work synergistically). If you’re eating them just a few times a week, the risk for deficiency isn’t as great, but I would still do a supplement or at least make sure I was getting a hefty amount of biotin rich food (swiss chard, tomatoes, carrots, liver and others) the days I eat raw eggs. As a compromise, some folks will just eat the raw yolks alone and cook up the whites later.

All that said, raw eggs can be part of your Primal fare. (There are advantages to cooked eggs, but it’s however you enjoy them.) If you like raw eggs, I’d say have at it – with the above info in mind. If you would rather cook them, I’d suggest going easy on the heat to avoid overcooking. Some folks suggest choosing cooking methods that leave the egg yolk intact and soft (like sunny side up or poached) because of concerns about oxidizing the cholesterol. I’m not too concerned about the small amount that might result from my breakfast routine. For myself, I take a middle road (mostly for taste). Sometimes I do my omelets, but just as often these days I’ll poach them so the egg white is cooked and yolk runny. Just had two for breakfast in fact.

Let me know your take on raw versus runny versus fully cooked. For those who go raw or not, how do you eat them? Thanks for all your questions and comments, and keep ‘em coming!

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. I’ve been eating a lot of duck eggs lately because my brother and his family have a pet duck that lays like crazy. I don’t know what they feed her, but the yolks are huge and golden, almost twice the size of the chicken egg yolks. I’ve been frying them in a pan with some salsa, leaving the yolk a little runny. Delicious.

    julietx wrote on February 15th, 2010
  2. I have been eating raw eggs for about a year now. I always purchase free-range, organic eggs and wash the shell with water and grapefruit seed extract.

    Ray wrote on February 15th, 2010
  3. I sometimes have raw egg with orange juice, but I don’t think I can have them by themselves

    chapman wrote on February 15th, 2010
  4. I’ll have three eggs over easy, cooked in coconut oil with a dab of hot sauce on top.

    Oh, and a cup of coffee.

    Separate check from all these other folks, please.

    dragonmamma wrote on February 16th, 2010
  5. Re duck eggs – be cautious about eating these raw as they have a porous shell which means that they’re more likely to be contaminated. Fine to eat cooked.

    Goose and turkey aggs are good too.

    Anyone tried ostrich eggs? Now that would be a good find for Grok.

    I like to add hard boiled eggs to salads. (but not ostrich, obviously!)

    frenchmargaret wrote on February 16th, 2010
  6. Last week, I tried a whey protein shake with raw egg, vanilla and frozen berries. Mmmmh, it was delicious! I like them more and more. Half a year ago, when I made the transition from low carb to PB I needed about 10 eggs, a week. Now this is not enough: 15 – 20 ! I just recognize: The more eggs I eat, the better I feel :-)

    Beate wrote on February 16th, 2010
  7. Thanks Mark. Not much out there on eggs. I wonder if anybody has some info on what type of eggs to buy at the store. I know the best way is to get them from a local farm you have visited but until I get around to do that, How can I trust that the cage-free eggs were fed quality food; and that the free-range eggs, were not merely given a ten minute window with an open door to the barn?

    movingforwellness wrote on February 16th, 2010
  8. I love eggs, especially lightly poached in vinegar and then with crumbled blue cheese on top. Divine.

    AnnTheRockBiter wrote on February 16th, 2010
  9. Here’s a favorite egg dish I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

    Brown 1 lb. hamburger
    Add 1 box organic tomato soup
    Add Italian spices
    Bring to a slow boil
    Poach some eggs in it

    crunchysue wrote on February 16th, 2010
  10. o_O CW must be crying out: “You are killing yourself, no more than 2 whole eggs a week… cholesterol will kill you” lol

    Mary wrote on February 16th, 2010
  11. hi, dear all,

    in singapore,for breakfast ,
    we enjoy softboil egg, some where in between raw and cook….

    one day 5 softboil egg
    one day 5 egg omelete

    hehe

    king wrote on February 18th, 2010
  12. Raw eggs is the only way I will eat them.

    Even as a baby I refused egg flavored food and despise eggs.

    Only in a protien shake can I have raw eggs, so that is how I started doing it. Cooked eggs alone? No.

    Sadly this limits me as 85% of all breakfasts in business or anything include eggs. Funny sometimes that nobody expects someone may not like them.

    Trelph wrote on February 18th, 2010
  13. I eat raw in smoothies 2-3 times during the week (wash the shell with Veggie Wash). On the weekends, I eat huge omelettes with some combination of peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese, some kind of meat, and various seasonings according to mood. On the side is fruit and yogurt with some ground flax meal. This will hold me all day even if I am playing disc golf for 7-8 hours, on my feet the entire time. Pretty much all ingredients are organic and/or free-range.

    jim wrote on February 19th, 2010
  14. You guys need to check out Egg Whites International:

    100% pasteurized liquid egg whites that are tasteless, mix great with protein powder, and are truly safe to eat.

    http://www.eggwhitesint.com

    I buy them in gallon containers.

    Derek wrote on February 22nd, 2010
  15. I’ve read recently that raw yolks contain so much biotin that even if raw egg white binds some of it, there’s enuff leftover to take care of any deficiency. I suppose you can find at research to support both views. What makes sense to me (evolutionarily speaking) is that Mr and Mrs Caveman, if/when they found some bird eggs, probably would not have waited to arrive at the homestead and make an omelet, but would have eaten it right then and there as a delicacy.
    I add an egg or two (raw) to my protein shakes, and during the week also eat cooked eggs.

    Paul wrote on February 24th, 2010
  16. If you eat raw eggs, do NOT eat the whites (gross!), only the yolk.

    Here is info on the benefits of raw egg yolk:
    http://www.13.waisays.com/egg-yolk.htm

    Enjoy!

    Kate wrote on March 28th, 2010
  17. Whites are not gross to everyone my dear.

    susan wrote on March 28th, 2010
  18. Hey. I’m so glad I found this site. I just recently started drinking 42 eggs per week. And I feel awsome! I’m a weight lifter. And I feel so much stronger and energetic. But can someone tell me if I’m over doing it? Am I harming my body cholesterol-wise? Or anyother way? Please let me know. E-mail me at socalpolarbear88@gmail.com thanks!

    PolarBear wrote on March 30th, 2010
  19. What a great website! Lots of info! Question: Can someone tell me definitively if eat ting the whole egg raw is better than eating just the yolk raw, cholesterol-wise and biotin-wise? I eat them raw for the protein, but my Doc told me I need to lower my count last week. I don’t think it’s high because of the eggs, tho’.

    Thanks.

    BigMase wrote on May 2nd, 2010
  20. Excellent post, I just bought your cookbook and can’t wait for it to ship. Keep up the great work. Thanks!

    Ricky wrote on May 21st, 2010
  21. Raw or undercooked eggs have been associated with outbreaks of Salmonella. Definitely not worth the risk!

    http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dbmd/diseaseinfo/salment_g.htm

    Tambourine wrote on June 1st, 2010
  22. 6 omega-3 eggs spinach omelet for breakfast every morning!

    nathan wrote on June 3rd, 2010
  23. if i do go raw i eat the yolks raw and then cool the whites (=

    Sam wrote on June 22nd, 2010
  24. Hi…I am female, drink a whey shake daily with one raw egg added. To avoid a possible biotin deficiency, can I just add one extra yolk and save the whites for cooking omlets? Thanks to anyone who can let me know if this is a good/bad idea. shirl
    redhead@wickedred.com

    ps.big fan of Mark’s

    Shirl wrote on June 28th, 2010
  25. i decided to down 2 raw eggs this morning. 3-4 years back i couldn’t imagine myself doing it, so i guess i can relate to a couple of the pussy posts.

    k wrote on August 2nd, 2010
  26. I have been eating raw eggs for a while now and feel fantastic. I take a great multi and fish oil supp with 2 raw eggs and have energy all day long. I don’t think I can go back to a “normal”
    breakfast!!!

    Nate wrote on August 2nd, 2010
  27. YUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    PIETOFACE wrote on August 31st, 2010
  28. I have a broken wrist and started eating raw eggs 4 days ago. 2 eggs with a glass of milk, and my movement in my wrist is improving on an hourly basis. It is incredible. My friend told me about it because it helps with Sperm count as well.

    Alex wrote on October 21st, 2010
  29. I’ve been eating about 3 raw eggs daily for the past two weeks mixed with a bit of yogurt. I’ve felt absolutely great since. Of course I make sure the eggs are organic (and by the way I’m in Denmark) so I think the farms are slightly more reliable than back home in the US.

    If you can find a reliable source, I would certainly recommend consumption of raw eggs.

    seena wrote on October 31st, 2010
  30. I’ve been eating about 3 raw eggs daily for the past two weeks mixed with a bit of yogurt. I’ve felt absolutely great since. Of course I make sure the eggs are organic (and by the way I’m in Denmark) so I think the farms are slightly more reliable than back home in the US..

    If you can find a reliable source, I would certainly recommend consumption of raw eggs.

    seena wrote on October 31st, 2010
  31. Hi Mark, great write up. I stumbled upon your site when looking up for info on eating /drinking raw eggs. I run a cooking website dedicated to Slovak cuisine, and one of our delicious Christmas treats are no-bake rum balls made with raw eggs. One of my visitors was asking about the risk of eating them like that, without cooking the egg. See http://www.slovakcooking.com/2009/recipes/rum-balls/comment-page-1/#comment-3089

    lubos wrote on November 5th, 2010
  32. I really enjoy drinking a raw egg shake every other morning after I do push ups. I crack 5 eggs (3 whites, 5 yolks) into a quart mason jar. Then add 1/2 banana and fill to the brim with raw Jersey milk. Blend with an immersion/stick blender. It’s insanely rich and satiating. Another favorite is scrambled with cheddar cheese and dandelion greens, fresh garlic and bacon strips.

    Rob wrote on November 15th, 2010
  33. So a little late to the game here, but my naturopathic doc and trainer advises raw eggs, too. Just read Catching Fire, however, and the study sited shows less protein available to the body when raw, as was discussed above. So… what’s the verdict? I’ll eat cooked or raw but which is healthier? Anyone?

    Liz wrote on December 8th, 2010
  34. Raw organic eggs mixed with some heavy cream and nutmeg makes such a perfect and quick and easy breakfast, especially for if you’re on the go. Fills me with energy too.

    Zach wrote on December 16th, 2010
  35. I grew up eating raw eggs. My vegetarian mother ate them raw until she passed away at age 91. In our family that was kinda young to die. I eat 3-4 raw eggs every morning from my own free-range chickens. I don’t mix them, because it is best if you just put them in a glass one at a time and gulp them down. I’m going on 60 and haven’t had a problem yet with a biotin deficiency or salmonella. My 91 year old mother never took any medication her whole life, except maybe an asperin. I don’t need to take any either. Eating raw eggs is a part of the reason why I’m healthy. Ever wonder why a doctor will ask you if you are allergic to eggs before he gives you the flu shot? Just eat raw eggs and you won’t get the flu, but eat them from healthy chickens.

    Granny wrote on December 28th, 2010
    • Doctors ask if you are allergic to eggs before a flu shot because the vaccine contains egg white. But hey, eggs are so good for you, they may well help keep the flu at bay.

      Jacque wrote on June 16th, 2011
  36. Mark I love this post! I actually grew up eating raw eggs but stopped once I turned about 25. Thanks so much for this great post!

    Stacy Lawson wrote on December 29th, 2010
  37. Raw eggs are great for protein shakes, such as this one which I created:

    INGREDIENTS:

    1 tablespoon of raw almonds
    1 tablespoon of raw cashewnuts
    1 tablespoon of mixed dried raisins/currants/ sultanas
    1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
    1 whole raw egg
    150ml of natural unsweetened yogurt
    2 tablespoons of cod liver oil
    4 tablespoons of coconut cream
    1 medium-sized banana

    DIRECTIONS:

    1. Use a food processor to grind the nuts, dried fruits and cinnamon into a fine mixture, and empty into a blender.

    2. Add in all the other ingredients and blend into a smoothie.

    3. Serve chilled.

    Gruesome wrote on February 27th, 2011
  38. *-Wow, this is amazzzing!

    Molly Yang wrote on April 5th, 2011
  39. *-I don`t really eat rw eggs :| But I`ll like to try it some day (:

    Lilly`X.&Blong`Y.

    Lilly Xiong wrote on April 5th, 2011
  40. i have just start eating raw eggs they taste bad but … its day one on eating

    kyle wrote on April 26th, 2011

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