From athletes to celebrities, many people recommend drinking raw eggs as part of a healthy diet. As raw eggs can be consumed on their own or mixed into beverages, you might also have considered drinking them. However, you should know that cooked eggs are actually easier for your body to digest.
Raw eggs can be healthy, but egg nutrients are easier for your body to process when cooked.
Read more: 9 Things You May Not Know About Eggs
The Benefits of Raw Eggs
Eggs are well known for their impressive nutrition. According to the USDA, one large (50 gram), raw egg contains a variety of nutrients, including:
- 9 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin A
- 18 percent of the DV for riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- 15 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 5 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 6 percent of the DV for folic acid (vitamin B9)
- 19 percent of the DV for vitamin B12
- 5 percent of the DV for vitamin D
- 27 percent of the DV for choline
- 5 percent of the DV for iron
- 8 percent of the DV for phosphorus
- 28 percent of the DV for selenium
- 6 percent of the DV for zinc
According to a March 2016 article in the Food Chemistry Journal, eggs also contain nutrients like carotenoids that are beneficial for your eye health, along with antioxidants and small amounts (between 1 and 4 percent) of most other essential nutrients, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, B-complex vitamins and vitamin E.
Each large raw egg also contains 72 calories, 0.4 grams of carbohydrates and 4.8 grams of fat. Although this may seem like a lot of fat, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says that these fats are mostly healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, rather than unhealthy saturated or trans fats. Eggs are also a great source of protein, with 6.3 grams per egg.
People who fry or scramble their eggs typically use butter, oil or even bacon fat as part of the cooking process. This makes raw eggs less calorific than many types of cooked eggs. The high heat used to cook eggs like this may also negatively affect their nutrition.
However, there are no major benefits to drinking raw eggs compared to eating eggs cooked in wet heat, like poached or boiled eggs. In fact, the consumption of raw eggs is typically seen as less healthy than that of cooked eggs. The benefits of raw eggs are less than those of cooked eggs for two reasons:
- When you're drinking raw eggs, you obtain fewer nutrients as they're harder for your body to absorb.
- Not cooking the eggs you consume increases the risk of bacteria entering your food and causing food-borne illness.
Read more: The 20 Best Ways to Use Eggs
Raw Egg's Protein and Digestion
Cooking your eggs is known to affect their nutritional value, but this is actually mostly positive. "There are so many benefits to eating whole, cooked eggs compared to consuming raw eggs," says Corrie L. Staff, registered dietitian at the Marshfield Clinic, in an August 2018 Marshfield Clinic blog post. "Cooking breaks down protein to make digestion easier. Our bodies absorb 50 to 60 percent of the protein in raw eggs compared to 90 percent of the protein in cooked eggs."
For example, avidin, a type of protein found in egg whites, can bind to biotin (vitamin B7), one of the nutrients you need to consume on a daily basis. However, if avidin binds to biotin, your body can't absorb it, which makes your eggs less nutritious. Fortunately, this only occurs with raw eggs — but that means you need to consume heated eggs to inactivate avidin and obtain the biotin in eggs.
Heating also deactivates other egg proteins, like ovalbumin, ovomucoid, lysozyme and ovotransferrin. All of these proteins are common allergens that react less with the human immune system after eggs are heated.
Unfortunately, this isn't just a simple choice between cooking your eggs and drinking raw eggs. Egg digestibility changes based on the type of heat used on the egg, as well as how long the heat was applied. To make matters more complicated, it's typically soft-boiled eggs that are the most digestible compared to both fully cooked eggs, like hard boiled eggs and fried eggs, and mostly raw, runny eggs.
Raw Eggs and Food Poisoning
Whether you're baking a cake or making an omelet, most people cook the eggs they use. With the exception of desserts, salad dressings and sauces, few recipes call for raw eggs.
Most people know that eggs are the most common cause of Salmonella infection. This is a bacterial infection that causes fever, headache and gastrointestinal symptoms, like diarrhea. While salmonella infection is usually fairly mild, it can be serious for older adults, young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
Fortunately, it's mainly raw eggs that carry this risk — according to a February 2015 study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, any egg that has been pasteurized or heated to an internal temperature of 160 F (71 C) is typically considered safe. This is why the desserts, salad dressings and sauces you can get at the supermarket are all made with pasteurized eggs.
If you're a big fan of drinking raw eggs or consuming other raw egg products, it's important to choose products that are safe from salmonella. Pasteurization is a common processing technique that's done to a variety of different foods and beverages.
Whether you're pasteurizing beer, milk or eggs, this process essentially just involves heating, followed by rapid cooling. This sterilizes the eggs, making them less likely to carry disease-causing bacteria.
Pasteurized raw egg products are often sold in the shell, just like regular eggs. They are also available in bottled form as liquid products, so if you prefer drinking egg whites to egg yolks, you can also obtain your raw eggs as two separate products.
An added bonus is that pasteurization may even increase the digestibility of your eggs. The heat used in this process can sometimes be sufficient to neutralize the avidin in egg whites, allowing your body to fully digest the raw egg's protein and absorb more nutrients.
- Essentials of Food Science: "Eggs and Egg Products"
- Albu-man: "Fresh Egg Whites - Pure & Honest"
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health."Salmonella and Eggs: From Production to Plate"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Salmonella and Eggs"
- Medical History Journal: "The Effects of Different Methods of Cooking an Egg on Its Therapeutic Properties From the Perspective of Persian Medicine"
- Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Research: "The Influence of the Time and Temperature of Heat Treatment on the Allergenicity of Egg White Proteins"
- Food Research International: "In Vitro Digestibility and Allergenicity of Emulsified Hen Egg"
- Marshfield Clinic: Shine 365: "Smashing Egg Myths: Raw Eggs Build More Muscle"
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Eggs"
- Food Chemistry: "Effects of Storage and Cooking on the Antioxidant Capacity of Laying Hen Eggs"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Eggs (Raw)"