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. Cool I’m glad I can find accurate answers so easily thanks.:)

    Joe zannoni wrote on May 18th, 2011
  2. I just eat them raw.

    Hassan wrote on June 1st, 2011
  3. I had a great recipe for a smoothie I drank when pregnant that had raw eggs in it.

    I know the raw egg thing freaks some people out, but you just have to make your own decisions.

    Maryn Leister wrote on June 5th, 2011
  4. Great info, Mark. I stopped eating raw eggs because of the protein bioavailability issue, but with this info I may re-incorporate them to a degree. I don’t like the idea of throwing protein down the drain though (I lift weights and am bulking right now.) I used to make a shake with 6-8 raw eggs, a splash of milk, and 4 TBSP of ghiradelli hot cocoa powder-all blended. It was indistinguishable from chocolate milk!

    Reid wrote on June 15th, 2011
  5. I started eating raw eggs in Japan as SukiYaki – lightly mix eggs in a bowl and dip your hot fatty steak and vegetables in the raw egg then eat – outrageously delicious!

    Jacque wrote on June 16th, 2011
  6. After raising chickens I got into the habbit of eating raw eggs. If you like the taste if cream cicles, heres a really quick and tasty way to eat a raw egg. Crack open one raw egg into a glass. Add a 1/4 cup or so of cranberry juice (I tend to use light, no sugar – as I only do enough for the taste). Then throw in a show of heavy cream. Take a fork and do a light mix to break up yold and separate white(this is the secret of getting down a raw egg, having it alrweady separated so it doesnt get stuck in the throat and cause it to come back up). Its delicious and fast! Give it a try

    J

    Jeremy wrote on July 17th, 2011
  7. I’m wondering if fermenting raw eggs would inactivate the avidin.

    Specifically, I’m wondering if a put a dozen raw eggs in a batch of sauerkraut and let the whole thing ferment for two weeks, would the avidin still be active enough to bind with the biotin?

    Tony wrote on July 23rd, 2011
  8. i would scramble them on half max heat cook the whites completely, but have the yellow half cooked so that it’s runny but chewy. Sounds gross, but very delicious

    anthony wrote on July 31st, 2011
  9. i eat a dozen raw eggs a day…. Whites only…. 4 when i awake 4 before i lift and 4 after….. I put em in a coffee cup and throw em bak. R the yolks as healthy for u? I usually just throw them out but occasionaly use em as a face wash

    kyler wrote on August 5th, 2011
  10. i gave my cat a raw egg yesterday – he loved it. He is old – is it a good routine to start? What are the health benefits for him? Thanks everyone!

    sam wrote on August 26th, 2011
  11. Worry not about avidin. If you eat raw carrots, raw beetroot, sprouts, raw cabbage, in short, heaps of raw vegetables you will get heaps of biotin, not to mention an abundance of trace minerals, living water, free amino acids, vitamins and co-factors. Wild beasts eat them whole; snakes swallow them whole. We love to complicate things because in our limited process of learning through abstraction be have to separate, divide, denote everything into its parts then observe how certain parts react with other parts, then conote and try to build a complete picture again, often making erroneous propositions and conclusions. WHEN IN FACT things work in synergy, they are integral, they compliment. For instance vitamins isolated don’t work for us very well, but with all the other raw componants it becomes highly bioavailable.
    I reckon raw, unmixed, one at a time in a glass as mentioned above, followed shortly afterwards by a raw vegetable salad with avocado.

    Benedict wrote on September 11th, 2011
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    sex shops wrote on September 12th, 2011
  13. i like to cook my eggs this way….after water is boiled, turn off heat, then crack the egg/s into the water. let them sit in water for about 2min, you will have nice softly poached eggs with still runny yokes, longer if you want firmer yokes. this way i can multi task at same time without worrying over cooking the eggs. basically is poaching eggs without the vinegar and heat.

    rachael wrote on September 18th, 2011
  14. I drink them raw with sugar and then have a pomegranate juice ready on the side, to wash down!

    Paul wrote on September 20th, 2011
  15. Oh eggs are soooo tasty! I’ve had a few raw ones before but prefer fried sunny side up, runny yolks with tabasco and salt n pepper! Add a piece of toast to absorb the leftover yolk juice wow.

    I’ve been thinking about trying the prairie oyster drink: a raw egg yolk w/ dashes of hotsauce, worchestershire sauce and salt n pepper. A hangover cure but sounds good!

    Dillon wrote on October 6th, 2011
  16. I eat 4 raw eggs per day,but i havent experience any change yet .How long will this take.

    DON IRESH wrote on October 20th, 2011
  17. 2 words before u consume raw egg.
    bird flu

    ss wrote on October 23rd, 2011
  18. Just read that study on the bioavailability of raw vs cooked eggs. Pity, I had just gotten into the habit of having 3 raw eggs in my milk every day for lunch, and loved the taste but even more so the convenience of not having to boil them in the morning.

    Guess I’ll go back to boiled eggs – 50% vs 90% protein digestion is significant to me.

    spacediver wrote on November 6th, 2011
  19. I used to feed our dog a couple raw eggs a day. The dog got weaker & weaker and after about a month could hardly stand. Started cooking the eggs and he came back to normal, which is frisky, in a few weeks.

    Tim Heineman wrote on November 8th, 2011
    • There’s a substance – forgot what it’s called – in egg whites that protects the yolk, but it also inhibits the absorbtion of some nutrients. Cooking the white removes/denatures most of it. Some people also see problems with eating raw egg whites – so if you’re going to give raw eggs, stick to the yolk, or cook it, as you now do if you want to keep the white. Though most of the nutrition is in the yolk, the white just has protein and some trace elements, but nothing more.

      Milla wrote on November 8th, 2011
  20. milk and raw eggs mixed together along with some honey .

    kanwar wrote on November 16th, 2011
  21. i eat uncooked eggs, i started gaining waight

    kk wrote on December 5th, 2011
  22. Hey Mark,

    both me and my Doggie have Omega 3 eggs on an absolute daily basis, and we have never been healthier! :-)

    If I give them to him raw I make sure to always throw them into boiling water first for some 20 seconds, in case of salmonella.

    Thanks for the good stuff,

    Mark

    Mark wrote on December 27th, 2011
  23. I drink 5-6 raw eggs most weekday mornings to save time on my breakfast routine (I do eat a lot of carrots and tomatoes, never knew that it was helping me avoid biotin deficiency til now). I also scramble and poach them regularly. And my wife makes amazing devilled eggs with primal ingredients. It is a goal of mine to have a chicken coop of my own someday to have a steady source.

    Zach wrote on January 22nd, 2012
  24. Ok. That was so helpful… Thanks guys for sharing.

    Ck wrote on January 26th, 2012
  25. I put 6 whole eggs in a whey protein shake every morning and before i go to sleep i have 2 eggs with shake.i raise 20 hens and feed them the egg shells (crushed)in with the layer pellets. they also roam 5 acre’s at will and eat everything from grass to frogs

    paul wrote on February 15th, 2012
    • I read somewhere that the body can only absorb (or digest?) around 30g protein per hour (or two hours) so it’s overload to go beyond 30g ..6 eggs should be the maximum at once, and usually a whey protein shake is 30g protein too, so it’s a double dosis ..drink half shake with 3 eggs ..wait an hour or two and drink again..

      (I have no idea how exact scientific studies has been made ..maybe it’s not the same for all people, and depends what else you have been eating, etc..)

      Schi Sandra wrote on December 20th, 2012
  26. I agree with hoff, my chickens are in a hen hoop to keep them safe from predators (we live in the mountains), but we move it around all the time so they get to eat grass & worms. I supplement their feed with all my kitchen scraps & crush up their shells & feed them back to them. Their shells are very hard & the yolks are thick & deep yellow. I keep some of them to dry & grind up for a calcium supplement. Talk about the “circle of life”, I also feed them the greens out of my garden that they have fertilized!

    Lisa wrote on February 19th, 2012
  27. i eat 10 eggs daily and its too yummy and also help to grow up my body.

    ankush wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  28. Hey, I literally don’t enjoy egg but the fact is….I always drink eggs few times a week after a really hard work out like 2-3 push ups till my arms and chest feels sore iv been doing this for month every week! And I looked at my chest just before shower (accident) and im like wow lol seriously my chest and arms feel stronger including my neck and legs (also look cool) just to say that it’s worth drinking eggs even thou there isn’t a scientific proof of it being better than cooked but it is ;)

    Lol wrote on March 3rd, 2012
  29. #1 I had to leave a comment to say thanks for the info on the raw egg drinking – I have zero clue about this sort of stuff (exercise and health in general!) but *really* do need to put on some weight, so again thanks for basically telling me it’s ok, and

    #2 I really did love your Clooney piece lol – even though I’ve done what you would rather me not, it really did encourage me to comment – top work :-)

    Essex Accountants wrote on March 16th, 2012
  30. The biotin defiency only occurs when you only eat the yellow part…I’m pretty sure. Either way, nature balanced the egg perfectly so nothing will happen if you eat it together.

    kdfhkh wrote on March 26th, 2012
    • Biotin is in the yolk, the whites have anti-biotin properties when raw.

      bruce wrote on November 10th, 2012
  31. i eat them on the go, just use my keys or whatever to crack the top, job done
    great protein snack when you are busy

    danielson wrote on May 1st, 2012
  32. i have been eating raw eggs in my protein shake every morningfor the last
    year. to be honest i cant taste them. I just wanted the protein and i thought it reduced the fat. im not fat. But i work out almost everyday.I only eat 2 a day though, i can go all day until 7 or 8 until i get hungry.I will do more research.

    rusty wrote on May 7th, 2012
  33. What about raw eggs in chocolate mousse? I know it’s not paleo or anything…lol… but a simple mousse of just dark chocolate, raw eggs, and black coffee seems like a decent dessert option to me! However, the yolks are broken up and stirred, and the whites are whipped until stiff peaks form. Do they lose nutritional value from this?

    Rachel wrote on June 30th, 2012
  34. I have just started eating them after my morning runs—–2 eggs yolks, straight from the shell (drain out the whites into the compost) into my mouth. Squish around the deliciousness. Thinking about it now, Maybe I’ll add some salt, pepper, and other herbs to it next time! or smear it on toast with ghee! yum yum! i also eat them super runny with multigrain toast with ghee or if I’m out and about hardboiled. Thanks for the article! <3

    August wrote on July 25th, 2012
  35. I am driank raw egg for my bff

    robertvelasquez wrote on August 2nd, 2012
  36. Raw egg is considered very vital in my meal….,can’t just do without it.

    Alaka Afolabi Omotayo wrote on August 4th, 2012
  37. have free range chickens.. all my eggs are fertile. does that make any difference in the nutrients..pro or con??
    79 and eat at least 3 every day with two table spoons of garlic, cayenne pepper and some parmazan cheese..

    andrew barmore wrote on August 5th, 2012
  38. I work in a very busy office and am on a high-fat low-carb way of eating. For the past several months, I’ve been gulping down 3 raw egg yolks and about 1 TBS of extra light olive oil. voila. Lunch is done in 5 minutes PLUS with no carbs I don’t suffer the afternoon drowsies. I do NOT do this for the taste! LOL. I do it to save time. I HATE it when I accidentally break a yolk. YULK! :o) This simple and inexpensive lunch and munching on raw almonds and drinking plenty of ginger water tides me over until supper.

    ronna wrote on August 11th, 2012
  39. I usually do 2 hard-boiled eggs in the morning, it’s easy and fast. Am I maximizing the nutrients this way, especially biotin?

    Sam wrote on August 15th, 2012
  40. I eat 2 or 3 raw egg yolks every day, maybe once a week I will eat the white as well. I mix them with kefir, and usually carob, lucuma and a little honey, although sometimes I make a savoury version, maybe with curry powder. I love them, feel they work really well for me.

    Raw Rob wrote on August 15th, 2012

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