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

Dear Mark: Raw Eggs

raw eggA 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:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. Ok. That was so helpful… Thanks guys for sharing.

    Ck wrote on January 26th, 2012
  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. i eat 10 eggs daily and its too yummy and also help to grow up my body.

    ankush wrote on February 23rd, 2012
  7. 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
  8. #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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. 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
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. I am driank raw egg for my bff

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

    Alaka Afolabi Omotayo wrote on August 4th, 2012
  16. 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
  17. 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
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. If you think about it, homemade ice cream is just raw eggs, milk and sugar and everyone loves homemade ice cream.

    Here is a good article on eating the whole egg. Maybe it will clear up the biotin issue for you. I eat two raw whole eggs blended in almond milk, stevia, and cinnamon every mornng.

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2005/02/09/raw-eggs.aspx

    Kathy wrote on August 16th, 2012
  21. I eat 12 eggs a day raw or cooked as long as I’m getting 12 in im fine! Vince Gironda the iron guru used to consume 36 eggs a day with half and half to get the most muscle gains his maximum definition diet!

    Anthony wrote on August 17th, 2012
  22. I tried raw egg for the first time this morning I went crazy sick I threw up for the first time in 8 years I was so gutted because I was planning the rvaf diet and eggs were defanatly the bonus, I didnt even get through the whole egg it was just one bite of the white, does anyone have any tips on what I can do instead of cooking it, what to combine it with that wouldnt make me feel as sick my throat is so gluggy right now from it Im experiencing difficulty in breathing and Im not weak or anything im a 21 year old female and immensely healthy with natural muscles I just can’t get over the disappointment.
    Any tips would be much appreciated thanks.

    DYING wrote on September 6th, 2012
    • maybe you were very unlucky to get a really bad salmonella egg, or maybe your imune defense system is not good with salmonella.. i read that you can become imune to salmonella ..anyway, always buy organic eggs, never eat raw cage eggs..

      Schi Sandra wrote on December 20th, 2012
  23. I find all of the info above very interesting – however, have recently been told by a health professional that eating raw egg white is a waste of time as you cannot absorb any of the nutrients and so cooked is the only way to go. Has anyone got any factual information to support or deny this. Thanks :o)

    Katie wrote on September 16th, 2012
  24. I have never tried that is it good to drink raw eggs
    Though I see some do is it good for you

    Ella wrote on November 5th, 2012
  25. Every morning for the past 2 months i have been blending 1 large cup consisting of milk, 2 raw organic free range eggs, and 2 table spoons of organic honey. It really tastes amazing, better than any shake I have had, plus it keeps your energy up. Perfect for my 2 hour daily martial art classes.

    bilo wrote on November 7th, 2012
  26. Just so you know Mark the important amino acid tryptophan in eggs is very heat sensitive meaning you lose out on many health benefits such as melatonin and serotonin production which is so necessary for feeling good and regulating our sleep patterns.

    dan wrote on November 10th, 2012

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