With over a dozen different vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, eggs are among the most nutritious foods you can consume. You can obtain all of these nutritional benefits by eating your eggs as a food or, alternatively, even drinking eggs.
Raw eggs can be healthy, but cooked eggs are even healthier. Heating your eggs makes it easier for your body to absorb nutrients.
Raw Egg Nutrition Facts
According to the USDA, each large raw egg (usually around 50 grams) has the equivalent of 72 calories. Eggs are well known for being great sources of protein for ovo-lacto vegetarians, with 6.3 grams of protein per large egg. Each egg also contains 0.4 grams of carbohydrates and 4.8 grams of fat, most of which comes from healthy unsaturated fats in the form of omega fatty acids.
Each large egg also contains about a dozen different micronutrients. These include:
- 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
Eggs also contain other nutrients like antioxidants, carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin), and small amounts (between 1 and 4 percent) of other vitamins and minerals — calcium, copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium, B-complex vitamins and vitamin E.
Health Benefits of Eggs
As mentioned, eggs also contain a variety of other important but nonessential nutrients, like choline, carotenoids and bioactive peptides. An April 2018 study in the FASEB Journal found that choline can improve cognition in developing infants, while an April 2013 review in Nutrients reported how important the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are for the health of your eyes.
According to a December 2014 study in the Journal of Nutrition and Food Science, the bioactive peptides in egg proteins have a wide array of health benefits, including:
- Preventing hypertension
- Antimicrobial properties
- Antioxidant activity
- Anticancer effects
- Regulating immune system function
- Enhancing nutrient absorption
These beneficial bioactive peptides automatically become active whenever your body digests egg proteins.
However, you should be aware that drinking eggs and consuming cooked eggs as food won't provide you with exactly the same nutritional benefits. The proteins in eggs can change based on the way you've chosen to prepare them.
Raw vs. Cooked Eggs
Raw egg benefits are not as good as those of cooked eggs. And this really comes down to one thing: heat. While raw food diets, athletes and celebrities may all advocate for drinking eggs instead of eating them, raw eggs are simply not as digestible as cooked eggs.
According to Corrie L. Staff, Marshfield Clinic registered dietitian, "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."
Unless you're drinking a heated form of eggnog, chances are that any egg you'd drink would be raw and unheated. Unheated eggs are less nutritious than heated eggs as they contain a type of protein called avidin.
Avidin prevents your body from digesting certain B vitamins in raw eggs, but won't do this once the egg has been heated. Because your body isn't able to digest all the protein in raw eggs, this also means that you won't absorb all the beneficial bioactive compounds found in these proteins.
Finally, raw eggs aren't as safe to eat as cooked eggs; they carry a higher risk of food-borne illness. When you eat raw eggs, you are specifically at risk for Salmonella poisoning. The Salmonella bacteria is typically found on the outside shell of the egg, but may also penetrate inside, as well. All raw eggs carry the potential risk of Salmonella poisoning; only eggs that have been thoroughly heated to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C) or pasteurized are considered to be truly safe to consume.
Pasteurizing Raw Eggs
The easiest way to get the greatest health benefits from raw eggs is through pasteurization. Pasteurization is a process that was developed by Louis Pasteur to destroy harmful bacteria that might be present in your food. This technique has long been applied to a range of different food products — from drinks like beer and milk to foods like eggs.
The principle of pasteurization is based on applying heat. However, the amount of heat involved is fairly low because the eggs are not being cooked — you're just sterilizing them. According to the book the Essentials of Food Science, published in November 2013, egg pasteurization requires eggs to be heated to 140 to 143 F (60 to 62 C) for about three and a half minutes. This amount of time and temperature reduces the risk of Salmonella poisoning and other food-borne illnesses.
You can buy pasteurized eggs at the grocery store in their shells or in bottled form. In fact, you might even find them sold as just egg yolks or egg whites. Regardless of how they're sold, pasteurization shouldn't affect their nutrition negatively — unlike freezing or drying.
- Essentials of Food Science: "Eggs and Egg Products"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Eggs (Raw)"
- Food Chemistry: "Effects of Storage and Cooking on the Antioxidant Capacity of Laying Hen Eggs"
- FASEB Journal: "Maternal Choline Supplementation During the Third Trimester of Pregnancy Improves Infant Information Processing Speed: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Feeding Study"
- Nutrients: "Dietary Sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin Carotenoids and Their Role in Eye Health"
- Nutrition & Food Science: "Bioactive Peptides from Egg: A Review"
- Shine365: Marshfield Clinic: "Smashing Egg Myths: Raw Eggs Build More Muscle"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Salmonella and Eggs"
- Albu-man: "Fresh Egg Whites - Pure & Honest"
- Journal of Food Processing and Preservation: "Thermal and High‐Pressure Inactivation Kinetics of Avidin"