Eggs are a nutritious slam dunk if you want to add more protein and nutrients to your diet.
They contain essential micro and macronutrients and have shown up in their fair share of scientific studies.
However, the nutrition profile of raw eggs and the nutrition profile of cooked eggs have some marked differences, including the fact that eating raw eggs or foods containing them raises concerns about the risk of contracting a Salmonella infection.
Here are some of the health benefits and concerns of eating raw eggs.
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Raw eggs nutrition facts
Just like cooked eggs, raw eggs are incredibly nutritious.
They’re rich in:
- high-quality protein
- healthy fats
- eye-protecting antioxidants
- various other nutrients
One large raw egg contains:
- Protein: 6 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Magnesium: 6 mg (1% of your daily value)
- Calcium: 28 mg (2% of your daily value)
- Phosphorus: 99 mg (8% of your daily value)
- Potassium: 69 mg (1% of your daily value)
- Vitamin D: 41 IU (5% of your daily value)
In addition, one raw egg contains 147 mg of choline (27% of your daily value), an essential nutrient that has been shown to impact brain function positively. Choline may play a role in heart health as well.
Raw eggs are also high in lutein and zeaxanthin. These essential antioxidants protect your eyes and may reduce your risk of age-related eye diseases.
It’s important to note that almost all these nutrients are concentrated in the yolk. The egg white mainly consists of protein.
Summary: Raw eggs are nutrient-dense and packed with protein, good fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that protect your eyes, brain, and heart. The yolks contain most of the nutrients.
Raw eggs may decrease protein absorption
Eggs are one of the best sources of animal protein out there.
They contain all nine essential amino acids. For this reason, they’re often referred to as a “complete” protein source.
However, according to one very small, much older study, eating raw eggs may decrease your absorption of these quality proteins.
The study compared the absorption of protein from both cooked and raw eggs in 5 people and found that 90% of the protein in cooked eggs was absorbed, while only 50% of the protein in raw eggs was absorbed.
This absorption issue is something to consider if eggs are your primary protein source, but the study’s size and date make it impossible to draw any real conclusions.
Summary: It’s possible that your body will not absorb the protein in raw eggs and cooked eggs, but more research is needed.
Raw egg whites may hinder biotin absorption
Biotin is a water-soluble B vitamin, also known as vitamin B7.
This vitamin is involved in your body’s glucose and fatty acids production. It’s also crucial during pregnancy.
While egg yolks provide an excellent dietary source of biotin, raw egg whites contain an avidin protein. Avidin binds to biotin in the small intestine, preventing its absorption. Because heat destroys avidin, this is not an issue when the egg has been cooked.
Even if you eat raw eggs, it’s highly unlikely it will lead to actual biotin deficiency. For that to happen, you would need to consume large amounts of raw eggs daily.
Summary: Raw egg whites contain the protein avidin, which may block the absorption of biotin, a water-soluble B vitamin. However, it’s unlikely to cause deficiency unless you eat a lot of raw eggs.
Raw eggs can be contaminated with bacteria
Raw and undercooked eggs may contain Salmonella, a type of harmful bacteria.
Salmonella contamination can happen in one of two ways:
- either directly during the formation of an egg inside the hen
- indirectly when Salmonella contaminates the outside of the egg and penetrates through the shell membrane
Indirect contamination can happen during production, handling, or food preparation.
Suggested read: How many calories are in an egg?
Consuming contaminated eggs can cause food poisoning.
Symptoms of Salmonella food poisoning include stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. These symptoms usually appear 6 hours to 6 days after contracting an infection and may last 4 to 7 days after eating the food contaminated with the bacteria.
Between 1995 and 2002, eggs were identified as the source of 53% of all cases of Salmonella reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2013, it was estimated that Salmonella caused around 1 million instances of illnesses in the United States.
Pasteurization is one method that is often employed to prevent the possibility of Salmonella contamination. This process uses a heating treatment to reduce the number of bacteria and other microorganisms in foods.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers it safe to use in-shell raw eggs if they are pasteurized.
Summary: Raw eggs may contain a type of pathogenic bacteria called Salmonella, which can cause food poisoning. Using pasteurized eggs lessens the possibility of contracting a Salmonella infection.
Salmonella infection can be riskier for certain people
While most people who experience Salmonella food poisoning get better quickly, some people are at a higher risk for contracting an infection and may have more severe symptoms.
Those who are older, pregnant, with a compromised immune system, and young children should avoid eating raw eggs and foods containing them — especially if the eggs have not been pasteurized.
Summary: Young children, pregnant people, older adults, and those living with compromised immune systems should avoid eating raw eggs.
How to minimize the risk of bacterial infection
According to the CDC, there are a few ways you can minimize the risk of contracting a Salmonella infection:
- Buy pasteurized eggs and egg products, which are available in some supermarkets.
- Only buy eggs kept in the refrigerated food section of the grocery store.
- Keep eggs refrigerated in your home. Storing them at room temperature may induce the rapid growth of harmful bacteria.
- Don’t buy or consume eggs past their expiration date.
- Get rid of cracked or dirty eggs.
- Wash hands and anything else that may have come into contact with raw eggs.
While all these steps help, one of the best ways to eliminate the risk of contracting Samonella is to cook eggs thoroughly.
Suggested read: Can you eat expired eggs?
Summary: Buying pasteurized and refrigerated eggs can lower the risk of contracting a Salmonella infection. Proper storage and handling after you purchase them is also necessary.
Raw eggs have many of the same nutritional benefits as cooked eggs.
However, protein absorption may be lower from raw eggs, and biotin uptake may be prevented.
Most concerning is the risk of raw eggs being contaminated with bacteria leading to the potential contraction of a Salmonella infection. Buying pasteurized eggs will lower your risk of infection.