Raw eggs have all the benefits of cooked eggs, but eating them or foods containing raw eggs carries the risk of Salmonella infection. The absorption of some nutrients may also be reduced or blocked by eating eggs in this state.
Let’s look at some of the things you should consider before eating raw eggs:
1. They’re Nutritious
Raw eggs are very nutritious, and high in protein, healthy fats, nutrients, antioxidants and other beneficial compounds.
One large, whole raw egg contains around:
6 grams protein
5 grams fat Vitamin A
One raw egg also contains around 147 mg of choline, which is essential for healthy brain function, and could be a factor in heart health.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are also present in eggs, and they are important for eye protection and could reduce the risk of age-related eye diseases.
All the nutrients are concentrated in the yolk, and the white mostly consists of protein.
2. Protein in Raw Eggs Isn’t As Well Absorbed
Eggs are one of the best protein sources around, with 6 grams in one egg. However, protein isn’t absorbed as well from raw eggs as cooked ones, one study of 5 people showed.
The study found that 90% of protein in cooked eggs was absorbed, compared with only 50% in raw eggs. On the flip side, some other nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin B5, phosphorous and potassium may not be as well absorbed from cooked eggs as raw ones.
3. Raw Egg Whites Could Block Biotin Absorption
Biotin is also known as vitamin B7, and is involved in the body’s production of glucose and fatty acids.
Egg yolks are a good source of biotin, but raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin that binds to biotin in the small intestine, which prevents its absorption. Heat destroys avidin, so cooked eggs don’t have this issue.
4. They May Be Contaminated with Bacteria
Raw and undercooked eggs can contain Salmonella, which is a harmful bacteria found on egg shells but also inside eggs.
This bacteria can cause food poisoning, and symptoms include stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, fever and headache. Very serious cases may need hospital treatment, especially in children or the elderly.
The risk of eggs being contaminated is very low, with around 1 in 30,000 eggs produced in the U.S. having the bacteria.
This is due to changes in egg processing, which have made eggs safer. This includes pasteurization, which heat treats the shells to reduce the number of bacteria and microorganisms.
The USDA says that it’s safe to eat raw eggs if they are pasteurized.
5. Potential Bacterial Infection Is More Dangerous for Certain Groups of People
Salmonella can be even more of a concern in some groups of people, where it can be fatal.
Infants and young children: This age group is more susceptible to infections because of an underdeveloped immune system
Pregnant women: It’s rare, but Salmonella may cause cramps in the uterus of pregnant women, and this can cause premature labor or stillbirth.
The elderly: Those over the age of 65 are more likely to die from food-borne infections. Likely factors include age-related changes to the digestive system.
Immune-compromised people: Those who suffer from chronic disease or conditions such as diabetes, malignant tumors and HIV are more vulnerable to infections due to a weakened immune system, and shouldn’t eat raw egg.
6. Minimizing the Risk of Infection
There are ways to reduce the risk of bacterial infection from eating raw eggs, but no risk can be entirely eliminated.
Buy pasteurized eggs and egg products
Only buy eggs from the refrigerated food section of the store
Keep eggs refrigerated once you get them home
Check the expiration date before you buy
Don’t buy cracked or dirty eggs
Only you can decide if the benefits outweigh the risks of eating raw eggs, but remember that children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with a weak immune system should not eat raw eggs.