Would it surprise you if I said that many of you have probably eaten raw eggs without even knowing it? Many common foods, including eggnog, homemade ice cream, real caesar dressing, aioli sauce, Hollandaise and chocolate mousse contain raw (or very lightly cooked) eggs. And, let’s not forget raw cookie and cake batter, which most of us have likely indulged in on more than one occasion! Despite this fact, however, many people still balk at the thought of eating raw eggs.
Can eating raw eggs cause salmonella?
The idea of eating raw eggs is scary to many people, because our fears of salmonella poisoning have been heightened by the media and concerned parents over the years. While some raw eggs are contaminated with salmonella, it’s not nearly as high of a percentage as you may think (more on that later). If you choose raw eggs from local, responsible, organic sources, your chances of getting sick are low, and you’ll be enjoying a world of important nutrients.
The following are seven benefits of eating raw eggs:
1. Raw eggs are high in protein
Just one egg yolk contain approximately six grams of protein. Protein, as you may know, is one of the primary macronutrients that our bodies and minds need to live and thrive. Every part of your body is made of protein, and it is important not only for structure, but also for the function of chemical reactions in our bodies. Protein is also essential for us to be able to produce new cells, and repair existing cells when they are injured.
2. Raw eggs contain more carotenoid antioxidants
When eggs are cooked, some of their nutritional density becomes depleted. For this reason, there are many nutrients that are more abundant in raw eggs than cooked ones. One of these nutrient groups is carotenoid antioxidants. Raw eggs contain more lutein and zeaxanthin than their cooked counterparts — 30 percent more, in fact.
Carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin are important for combatting inflammation throughout the body, since they help to neutralize damaging oxidative processes. These nutrients are also crucial to optimal eye health and preventing age-related macular degeneration.
3. Raw eggs contain more choline
Raw eggs contain 23 percent more choline than cooked eggs. Choline is a nutrient important in cell membrane structure, and also vital for the proper function of the nervous system. Research has also identified choline as one pathway to a better preservation of memory, so it’s crucial to make sure you get enough in your diet.
4. Raw eggs contain more zinc
Raw eggs have been found to contain about 19 percent more zinc than their cooked counterparts. This mineral has many important functions, including boosting the immune system to better prevent and fight illness, as well as supporting the nervous system. A deficiency in zinc has been associated with greater levels of inflammation, which is dangerous to every system in your body.
5. You’ll get more vitamin D
Raw eggs contain about 36 percent more vitamin D than cooked eggs. While we get most of our vitamin D from the rays of the sun, supplementing with whole food sources, especially during cold winter months, can help your body to replenish what the sun may not provide. Vitamin D is important not only for bone health, but also for the health of your immune system.
6. You’ll eat more omega-3 fatty acids
When it comes to omega-3 fatty acid content, raw eggs come out above cooked eggs, with 33 percent more overall. Omega-3s are crucial to optimal heart and brain health, and most Americans do not eat enough of them. Raw eggs also contain 33 percent more docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) than cooked eggs. DHA is a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is vital to brain health, including brain development, as well as eye health.
7. Raw eggs are easy to digest
It turns out that raw eggs are easy on the digestive system, making them ideal for those with sensitive stomachs. So, if you have a tough time eating cooked eggs because of digestive difficulties, you may find that eating them raw makes for a smoother process — with more nutrients, to boot.
The risks of raw eggs
As mentioned, it is possible for raw eggs to carry salmonella, specifically Salmonella enteritidis (SE) bacteria. Other bacteria, such as Listeria and Campylobacter, can also be found in some raw eggs. However, it is estimated that only one in 20,000 to one in 30,000 eggs is actually contaminated with salmonella bacteria. Many people mistakenly assume that the odds of contracting salmonella from raw eggs are much higher than they actually are.
Many of these cases of egg contamination stem from factory farmed eggs, where hens are raised in unsanitary, unhealthy conditions. While eggs from pastured, free-range and organically raised hens can still contain salmonella, chances are lower if sanitary protocols are followed and the birds are healthy and fed their natural diet. For this reason, people who wish to eat raw eggs should stay away from the factory farmed varieties — for both health and humane reasons.
It is also important to note that you may wish to avoid raw eggs if you have a compromised immune system, as your body may be less able to ward off bacteria that may be present. If you are unsure about how raw eggs may affect a specific health condition, talk to your doctor just to be safe.
How to choose the best eggs to eat raw
There is no label that guarantees that eggs are free of bacteria, though eggs that are certified organic, especially if hen flocks are small, may be safer than others. Your best bet is to find a reputable farm (locally if possible) that has a small flock and produces certified organic eggs. Visit the farm if you can, and talk to the owners about practices such as how much space hens have, how long they spend outside and what their diet consists of.
You want eggs from healthy, happy, well-nourished hens that have enough space to peck around and eat their natural diet. It might take a bit of research, but the eggs will be worth it.
How to eat raw eggs
Before you eat an egg raw, wash the shell in warm, soapy water and rinse well. This will ensure that bacteria on the shell is destroyed. Make sure that the egg is fresh; the yolk and white should be firm, and there should be no weird odors. The white may be cloudy, and that is fine. But, if it has a pink tint, you’ll want to toss it, as it’s a sign of bacteria.
Do you eat raw eggs? What’s your favorite way to enjoy them?
— Tanya Mead