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:

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. I drink raw eggs that are blended up in a blender once a week, I believe that it is good for protien, but i also eat something such as fruit like berries with the eggs because they are high in biotin. I believe that the key is to eat fruits and/or berries with eggs because they are high in biotin.

    Mike G wrote on February 9th, 2014
  2. On the idea of “allergies,” my understanding of allergies is that ANY protein that makes it through the stomach without being broken down in to amino acids SHOULD be attacked by the immune system. That may be an “over-simplified” idea though. (That is from Dr. Jerry Tennant who says that most people have a deficiency of stmoach acid which is the source of ALL of their food allergies.)

    Can providing nutrition trigger a beneficial detox- even rather harsh? Then, because of the sudden activation of the immune system due to the nourishment, some people may panic and say there is an allergy to that food source.

    To me, the entire realm of what is called allergies is a realm of paranoia (and paranoid delusion). Further, the way that most people relate to diagnostic labels is what I call demon worship. The basic idea is that demons possess an organism (my anemia is causing me to have low iron levels, my arthritis is causing my joints to be inflammed, my baldness is causing hair loss, my cancer is causing tumors).

    For more, see https://www.facebook.com/groups/484191885033833/

    JR Fibonacci wrote on February 13th, 2014
  3. Is there much of a difference if I drink only the yolk? I like to make egg white omelets and don’t want to waste the yolk. Is it terrible if I just drink the yolk? Should I mix it with something else before drinking?

    Boxer wrote on March 23rd, 2014
  4. Love raw eggs!
    Love raw milk!
    Never ever ever use a microwave or consume
    microwaved food…and won’t have one in my house!

    OooRaah!

    Jahn

    Jahn Laster wrote on April 3rd, 2014
  5. I usually eat my eggs cooked sunny side up with the yolk left liquid.

    But after workouts I gulp down 4 or 5 RAW.
    I dont know I do feel that they work great raw post triaining

    Ironthumb wrote on April 12th, 2014
  6. Careful, I eat eggs every day for breakfast. Have since I was a kid. When I started doing raw eggs, I started getting hives, rashes, and speckles all over the place.

    Turns out a lot of us are allergic to eggs in their raw form, even though we can handle them just fine in cooked form.

    Scott wrote on May 20th, 2014
  7. Hi,
    My morning meal for the past 30+ years has been frozen strawberries , frozen banana slices , 1raw egg , 1 envelope of Carnation chocolate Breakfast Essential , 1.5 scoops of protein whey powder in a blender with 1% milk. Never had a salmonella problem. Also consume my share of hard boiled eggs each week.

    Bob Ott wrote on May 23rd, 2014
  8. How about hard boiled eggs? Does anyone know if hard boiled eggs are healthy?

    Johnny wrote on June 4th, 2014
  9. I eat raw egg with freshly cooked rice with a tea spoon of soy sauce, lots of Japanese people eat this in the morning
    Eating raw egg gives me a lot of energy and wake up in the morning feeling good

    Kei wrote on June 21st, 2014
  10. Its like you read my thoughts! You seem to know so much approximately this, like you
    wrote the guide in it or something. I think that you just can do with a
    few percent to pressure the message home a bit, however instead of that, that is wonderful blog.
    A great read. I will certainly be back.

    Jamison wrote on July 2nd, 2014
  11. Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It really
    useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and help others like you
    helped me.

    Abbey wrote on July 2nd, 2014

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2014 Mark's Daily Apple