Can You Safely Eat Raw Eggs?

Most Americans cook their eggs by scrambling, frying or boiling them. However, the nutritional value of eggs can change after you cook them. In order to retain the most nutrients, you may be tempted to integrate raw eggs into your diet. Most people will have no issues eating raw eggs. If you are worried, you should always try to use pasteurized eggs as these types of eggs are less likely to carry disease-causing bacteria.

Tip

Raw eggs carry a higher risk of foodborne diseases, like Salmonella. If you want to eat raw eggs or raw egg products, try to select pasteurized ones.

Raw Egg Nutrition Facts

Eggs are typically considered to be healthy foods. The eggs of various different birds can be consumed raw. Eggs are generally rich in a variety of vitamins and minerals, including the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, and are often also enriched with healthy omega fatty acids.

The eggs you most likely buy at the supermarket are chicken eggs, which range in size from "peewee" sized eggs to "jumbo" sized eggs. Each large chicken egg has 71.5 calories and 13 percent of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein. Large chicken eggs, which are 50 grams in size (1.76 ounces), also have:

  • 5 percent of the RDA for vitamin A
  • 14 percent of the RDA for riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • 7 percent of the RDA for pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
  • 6 percent of the RDA for folate (vitamin B9)
  • 11 percent of the RDA for vitamin B12
  • 10 percent of the RDA for phosphorus
  • 23 percent of the RDA for selenium

Each egg also has small amounts (between 1 and 4 percent) of various other vitamins, including B-complex vitamins, vitamins C and E, and minerals like calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. Eggs are known for being rich in cholesterol, but recent changes to the Dietary Guidelines state that the cholesterol found in your food isn't bad for your health.

Eating Raw Eggs

One of the benefits of raw egg consumption is that they retain all of their nutrients, unlike cooked eggs, which show reduced amounts of antioxidants and less omega fatty acids. This means that despite their bad reputation, many popularly consumed foods actually have raw eggs in them. Eating raw eggs is a lot more common than you'd think. Foods with raw eggs include:

  • Salad dressings and dips, including salad cream, tartar sauce, mayonnaise, aioli, bearnaise sauce, hollandaise sauce, Caesar salad dressing and remoulade
  • Pasta sauces, like carbonara sauce
  • Dessert sauces and toppings, like custards and frostings
  • Desserts like mousses, puddings, homemade ice creams, tiramisu, meringues and cookie dough
  • Beverages like smoothies, milkshakes and eggnog

Foods like these are prepared with pasteurized products when sold in supermarkets. The Food and Drug Administration consequently says that consuming commercial products is fine, but recommends avoiding homemade or restaurant-made products unless the eggs used to make them have been pasteurized. If you want to use a raw egg in a smoothie or any food, try to opt for pasteurized whole eggs or other pasteurized products.

In addition, fresh raw eggs are frequently used to complement various dishes. You'll often find raw egg yolks topping beef tartar or floating in your bowl of soba or udon noodle soup. In fact, raw and lightly cooked eggs are commonly consumed in many Asian countries. For example, they're a key part of the Japanese breakfast food Tamago gohan and regularly garnish Korean bibimbaps.

Risks of Eating Raw Eggs

Most people have heard about Salmonella, a type of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. These bacteria are one of the top 10 causes of food-related illness. Salmonella bacteria live inside you and are found in the intestines of people and animals, including birds. These disease-causing bacteria can be found in fruits, vegetables and animal products that have been contaminated by feces.

Eggs that aren't cooked carry a risk of food-borne illness because of Salmonella. These bacteria can be found on eggshells or even inside the eggs themselves, which means that raw egg whites and yolks can carry this bacteria. Fortunately, Salmonella can be killed with heat. However, this means that eating raw eggs or lightly cooked eggs instead of cooked eggs will increase your risk of being infected with disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that one egg out of every 20,000 might be contaminated with Salmonella, so chances are you aren't going to get food poisoning from these bacteria. If you do, you'll be likely to experience symptoms like diarrhea, cramps, headache, fever and chills. These symptoms typically last from two to seven days and don't require antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria. However, Salmonella can be much more dangerous for older adults, young children and infants, people with immune system issues and people with gastrointestinal problems.

Raw Eggs vs. Cooked Eggs

Cooked eggs are generally considered to be the best way to eat eggs, as the heat from the cooking process helps eliminate disease-causing bacteria like Salmonella. However, the heat from the cooking process also influences the nutritional value of your eggs. This means that raw eggs and cooked eggs can have very different nutrient content. Cooking methods also contribute to the number of negative byproducts, like glycotoxins, in your food.

Scrambled, fried and boiled are the most popular ways to eat eggs in the United States. While these cooking methods are certainly easy and tasty, high heat can be destructive to the nutrients in your eggs and influence their digestibility. Eggs cooked for long periods of time or on high heat also have the most glycotoxins. Glycotoxins are associated with diabetes and other types of chronic illness.

In general, cooking eggs at low to medium heat will preserve most of their nutritional content but also eliminate disease-causing bacteria. Eating raw eggs is the best way to avoid glycotoxins. However, because using low to medium heat when cooking causes few glycotoxins to form, eggs cooked like this could be considered equivalent to raw eggs.

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