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:

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  1. Timely blog piece! Late Spring we got ourselves six pullets strictly because, while don’t over-indulge in eggs we don’t believe in factory chicken farming and the
    “cage free etc” in stores didn’t quite satisfy either. Once they began laying it was amazing and, since late Fall, I have gone back to something my mother gave us on winter mornings…raw egg flipped just a little in about an ounce of milk and a little salt. Her mother taught her…Gran had a raw egg in milk every winter morning. Gran lived to reach her century, no HBP, no high cholestrol (that she or we knew of, anyway :-) ), no heart disease. She ate red meat every day also, using animal fat for cooking and never used any spread but pure butter. I love raw eggs…sometimes about an ounce of goat’s milk added, sometimes just the egg and not completely flipped..the yolk only slighty punctured by a knife, first. I don’t do diets per se (although I am very careful of how we eat…organic beef when we can find it, organic chicken, wild caught fish and lots of veg…but I can say that on the days I have a raw egg for b’fast I’m never hungry until dinner (bonus!). It’s been quite some years since I had the raw egg regimen and yet no stomach discomfort or distress at all, from day one.

    Nancy Cleveland wrote on December 23rd, 2012
  2. I like raw eggs that’s all, sems like I am addicted I can’t stop it

    taps wrote on December 24th, 2012
  3. I believe the raw egg yolk is a blessing. I eat only the raw yolks, avoid eating the egg whites, and limit the calories to 1,500 so I can get thin and live longer. Check out if you don’t believe me. I don’t eat the egg whites. I give them to a neighbor who believes in cooking all of her food.

    Mike wrote on December 30th, 2012
  4. I use to cook my eggs for 6 months, then I switched to raw eggs for another 6 months. Main reason I switched was because of the oxidation of the eggs when cooked, but this post really cleared up a lot. I’m going to start cooking my eggs again and leave the raw eggs for my after workout protein shake.

    Max wrote on January 4th, 2013
  5. I make 1 cup of milk 1 raw omega 3 egg and 2 tbsp of nesquick powder. My mom always made it for us as kids growing up.When we didn’t have time to eat in morning. Now as an adult I make it for breakfast when I want something fast.

    crystal wrote on February 6th, 2013
  6. I am not in the best of health , I feared I had an egg allergy but realise it is only when I eat cooked or overcooked eggs I suffer with problems , also realise I did not have theses problems when I was doing raw eggs. I am back on raw tomorrow , I seriously need the benefits and can try to find out what is causing problems in my diet, thanks , this site has awakened me – I dont know why I cannot process cooked eggs but I enjoy and feel the benefits of raw – lightly poached eggs do it for me , hard boiled causes excessive wind (pardon me) – I am trying to find the culprit in my diet but i know raw eggs arent the culprit. I can drink em down fine – milk,honey, banana and egg , mmmmmmmmmmmmm breakfast , but if i have hard boiled, like i did last week – i suffer like you would not believe. Still have trapped wind behind left shoulder, not slept in days, at times feel like a woman on the verge of giving birth it is THAT sore. sorry , digressed – im back on eggs, totaly raw tomorrow and hope it lifts my health. thanks for the site and thanks for al the comments (apart from the obviously insane and deleted ones) I dream of owning my own chickens , my friend had some chickens at her home and the difference in the eggs is like chalk and cheese – i never have seen yolks like these since – shame i live in the city in a dark and unpredictable one aswell. I shall give eggs a try. My son loves the milk honey and egg mix for breakfast – i usually throw in some blueberries or whatever and it works for him . keep up the eggs people!

    squidgy wrote on March 8th, 2013
  7. Great article that explained the topic in an easy to understand way. I usually drink two raw eggs every day, 5 days per week and have done so for years accompanied by intense workouts. It’s the perfect and easy “snack” in the afternoon and I have only positive experiences from it. I think too many people overthink things and thus become afraid. It’s not a big deal, just like this article so greatly pointed out.

    Marcus wrote on March 17th, 2013
  8. I have about 9 raw eggs a day. My fave way is

    Blend up 150g cottage cheese until it is a liquid. Crack in three or four whole raw eggs, a splash of milk and a banana and blend it all together and drink.

    Banana is optional for different taste

    Badger wrote on March 18th, 2013
  9. I eat them raw, with a cup of milk, and 2 tea spoons of honey, mix them up and drink them, never have had any problem, When I drink them a lot, I gain muscles burn a lot of fat and stay active all the day long. and guess what, I feel so strong I used to have a back issues from a car accident and when I kept drinking it I feel much better than before.

    I eat it also, cooked, boiled, and sunny side eggs, but the best of the day when you drinking it, and you feel the heat in your body and start sweating and you feel the energy kicking out.. you would like to punch the wall to see how strong you are. LOL….


    Salman wrote on March 21st, 2013
  10. I eat raw eggs only to add proteins in my fruit smoothie, but I normally prefer to have them cooked mainly because of the salmonella thing…

    EL wrote on March 24th, 2013
  11. I heat up some coconut oil in a pan, add in 4 eggs and make some only-just-cooked scrambled egg, I add some butter (homemade from local grass-fed cream) on top while it cools down, and then separate 2 new yolks from the whites and pour the yolks over the scrambled egg. Merrily merrily merrily merrily, life is but a dream.

    swimTim wrote on March 24th, 2013
  12. Raw yolk, cooked white! Support your local farmers market!

    Bennyroughsecs wrote on April 1st, 2013
  13. The best way that I’ve found to eat (or stomach as the case may be) raw eggs has been in homemade “ice cream.” My favorite has 2 raw egg yolks in it and includes coconut milk, raw yogurt, strawberries, pineapple and shredded coconut with a little honey to taste. Yummy and full of nutrients.

    Ann wrote on April 1st, 2013
  14. I buy eggs from trader joes. Organic free range are tuese safe to consume raw?

    shaun wrote on April 5th, 2013
  15. I eat about 18 whole raw eggs a day.

    Specifically, I blend the following 2-3 x per day:
    -6-9 Whole Raw Eggs, the cheap eggs
    -Strawberries, half container
    -Banana, whole
    -Peanut Butter, 2 tbs

    I’m a bodybuilder looking to put on weight, I’m 165 lbs, ~ 7% body fat, workout an hour each day doing a free weight/crossfit type workout.

    Do you think I should stop the shakes? Honestly I love them, and feel they are very rich in vital nutrition.


    Scott Anderson wrote on April 18th, 2013
  16. Does anyone know if blending raw eggs alters the structure enough to reduce absorption/benefits, compared to just consuming whole?

    Katie wrote on April 20th, 2013
  17. im about to try my first 2 raw eggs after a workout is that ok for my age

    george wrote on April 22nd, 2013
  18. my son was 5 years old he eats raw egg it good for him or not?

    supriya wrote on April 28th, 2013
  19. i love taking raw eggs.i have been taken it daily for a year now and it is best for bodybuilding.

    saban wrote on June 17th, 2013
  20. I believe that Raw Eggs are great for you and I eat them daily up to 8 a day, my husband does up to 10 a day. Our health has improved and I get my info from a real scientist who truly believes raw eggs are the perfect vitamin. I leave my eggs out on the counter in a cool dry place, I see huge benefits from my Raw egg routine. The research I have knowledge of and trust tell me, eat Raw eggs as many as you can!

    Nakedfoodjourney wrote on June 20th, 2013
  21. Drink ’em slow, whites first. Savor the yolk. Unbelievable delicious when you get used to it. Then eat a green salad and nothing more. Great snack or small meal.

    Karl Remmen wrote on July 2nd, 2013
  22. Drinking the whites of the eggs with some greens and milk in the blender is a great way to start my day.

    kevin ginofski wrote on July 14th, 2013
  23. Hi Mark – I usually have my raw eggs in a blender, with a glass of whole milk, a squeezed orange and a shot of honey. Recently, I am having 3-6 yolks with warm butter, in a bowl. Any comments? Thks!!

    Luisger wrote on July 25th, 2013
  24. When I grew up in Europe in a rural area, mother used to feed us raw eggs most mornings,beaten with milk and honey.She also would soak the whole raw eggs in lemon juice for a day or so until the calcium shell was totally dissolved into the juice. This way she was sure we all got enough calcium along w. our protein and other nutrients eggs contain. Today chickens are fed differently, so my question is, is it still safe to consume my eggs that way ?

    theresa Weindl. wrote on August 20th, 2013
  25. I have started eating 12 whole eggs daily as part of my body recompocision diet 12 months ago with awsome results, 8 of those eggs i drink in 2 daily shakes raw
    Crack them in shaker, shake and drink
    Accompanied by strawberies or blue -erries

    Paul Baw wrote on August 28th, 2013
  26. You can eat raw eggs however… While eggs are an excellent source of protein with almost 93% of weight of protein being absorbable by the body, raw egg white is an exception. A substance in raw egg; white called avidin prevents the body from absorbing the protein. You must first cook the egg to break down the avidin.

    Amanda wrote on August 28th, 2013
  27. I have been trying to eat raw egg yolk (not the whites) everyday. I put it in my smoothie along with flaxseed. Those both, I think are really good for you. I put it in my smoothie because I can’t stomach the raw alone. Although it is easier to eat egg yolk in a fruit smoothie it is still extremely hard and it makes breakfast not enjoyable at all. I have no Idea what to do.. I want to find an easier way to eat raw egg yolk. If I Do sunny side up eggs.. will that destroy any enzymes from the yolk? Or is it completely protected? Do you have any other reccomendations of how I could take in the egg yolk quick and slightly more tolerable?

    Hannah wrote on September 2nd, 2013
  28. Half glass milk and 2 raw eggs in it for pre-workout
    Is it beneficial

    raj wrote on September 24th, 2013
  29. My understanding is that washing egg shells is NOT recommended as it can make salmonella (if it is present) move from the outside to the inside of the egg.

    This is an interesting piece from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland that talks about this:

    Beth wrote on October 5th, 2013
  30. I gave up eating cereal for breakfast in the mornings and only have eggs, organic oatmeal, or smoothies. I have recently taken a great appreciation for asparagus and fry some of that on my stainless steel pan (love). Next, I fry two or three eggs in some bacon fat with a generous supply of pepper and Real Salt. Bacon is hardly needed this provides so much flavor.
    I think I will stop cooking my eggs the way through in spite of its tidiness on my plate and to eat ALL of the goodness. (Without toast it is a bit harder to get it all without using ones fingers). I’m still a little reluctant to introduce raw eggs to my small children’s diets. I have no idea what the Primal dies is but Blessings to you all.

    If a man think he knoweth anything he only know that which he ought.

    Traci wrote on October 22nd, 2013
    • I worked in a stressful office and didn’t have time for a proper lunch break – and since carbs make me drowsy, I started gulping 2 to 3 raw egg yolks a day for lunch (let the whites go down the drain), and ate about a tablespoon of coconut oil that I had mixed with a bit of cocoa powder and artificial sweetner. no carbs and enough calories to sustain me until suppertime! and the raw egg yolks I’d just gulp down like a pill. never had to taste them!

      ronna wrote on October 27th, 2013
  31. I have two raw eggs every morning along side a bowl of oatmeal. Just crack them into a cup, then throw them back 1 at a time. I also take hard boiled eggs with me to work. Dollar for dollar, can’t go wrong with including eggs in a balanced diet. One of the common foods our ancestors survived on… I’d say our bodies have evolved to make good use of them in any form they come

    Nick wrote on November 3rd, 2013

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