By J. Mercola, D.O.
As many of you know, I am a fond proponent of using raw eggs as a major food in your diet.
Raw whole eggs are a phenomenally inexpensive and incredible source of high-quality nutrients that many of us are deficient in, especially high-quality protein and fat.
Eggs generally are one of the most allergic foods that are eaten, but I believe this is because they are cooked. If one consumes the eggs in their raw state the incidence of egg allergy virtually disappears. Heating the egg protein actually changes its chemical shape, and the distortion can easily lead to allergies.
So, if you have not been able to tolerate eggs before you will want to consider eating them uncooked.
But when one discusses raw eggs, the typical reaction is a fear of salmonella. So let me begin this update, my first that comprehensively addresses the immediate concern of nearly everyone who hears this recommendation.
"Well What About Salmonella? Won't I Get Sick If I Eat Raw Eggs?"
Salmonella is a serious infection, and it is believed that in the US over two-thirds of a million cases of human illnesses a year result from eating contaminated eggs. If you want more information on salmonella the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an excellent page on this disease.
So why on earth would any competent health care professional ever recommend eating uncooked eggs?
When you carefully analyze the risk of contracting salmonella from raw eggs, you will find that it is actually quite low. A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this year (Risk Analysis April 2002 22(2):203-18) showed that of the 69 billion eggs produced annually, only 2.3 million of them are contaminated with salmonella.
So simple math suggests that only 0.003 percent of eggs are infected. The translation is that only one in every 30,000 eggs is contaminated with salmonella. This gives you an idea of how uncommon this problem actually is.
While it is likely that I will consume more than 30,000 eggs in my lifetime, most of you will not. However, inevitably someone out there will find a salmonella-contaminated egg, so it is important to understand how to seriously decrease your risk of infection.
Salmonella infections are usually present only in traditionally raised commercial hens. If you are purchasing your eggs from healthy chickens this infection risk reduces dramatically. Remember, only sick chickens lay salmonella-contaminated eggs. If you are obtaining high quality, cage-free, organically fed, omega-3 enhanced chicken eggs as recommended above, the risk virtually disappears.
But let's say that for some reason, even after following that advice, you still obtain an egg that is infected. What do you do? Well, before you eat eggs - raw or not -- you should thoroughly examine them for signs of infection. I have provided some guidelines at the bottom of this section for you to use in this process.
You might still be a bit nervous and say, "What if I follow these guidelines and still get an infection?"
Salmonella Is Generally a Benign Self-Limiting Illness In Healthy People
The major principle to recognize here is that if you are healthy a salmonella infection is not a big deal. You may feel sick and have loose stools, but this infection is easily treated by using high-quality probiotics that have plenty of good bacteria. You can take a dose every 30 minutes until you start to feel better, and most people improve within a few hours.
Revised Recommendations For Raw Egg Whites
Earlier this summer, I posted an article that suggested that one should not eat raw egg whites. This is the traditional nutritional dogma as raw egg whites contain a glycoprotein called avidin that is very effective at binding biotin, one of the B vitamins. The concern is that this can lead to a biotin deficiency. The simple solution is to cook the egg whites as this completely deactivates the avidin.
The problem is that it also completely deactivates nearly every other protein in the egg white. While you will still obtain nutritional benefits from consuming cooked egg whites, from a nutritional perspective it would seem far better to consume them uncooked.
Since making the recommendation in July, I have more carefully studied this issue. Two groups brought me to back this: pet owners who feed their pets raw foods and Aajonus Vonderplanitz, who wrote the raw food book We Want to Live. Both feel quite strongly that raw eggs are just fine to eat.
After my recent studies it became clear that the egg's design carefully compensated for this issue.
It put tons of biotin in the egg yolk. Egg yolks have one of the highest concentrations of biotin found in nature. So it is likely that you will not have a biotin deficiency if you consume the whole raw egg, yolk and white. It is also clear, however, that if you only consume raw egg whites, you are nearly guaranteed to develop a biotin deficiency unless you take a biotin supplement.
The following tables list the amounts of biotin in some common foods, as well as recommended daily amounts:
|Food Serving Biotin (mcg)|
|Liver, cooked||3 ounces*||27|
|Egg, cooked||1 large||25|
|Yeast, bakers active||1 packet (7 grams)||14|
|Wheat bran, crude||1 ounce||14|
|Bread, whole wheat||1 slice||6|
|Cheese, camembert||1 ounce||6|
|Salmon, cooked||3 ounces*||4|
|Cauliflower, raw||1 cup||4|
|Chicken, cooked||3 ounces*||3|
|Cheese, cheddar||1 ounce||2|
|Pork, cooked||3 ounces*||2|
|Artichoke, cooked||1 medium||2|
|Adequate Intake (AI) for Biotin|
|Life Stage||Age||Males (mcg/day)||Females (mcg/day)|
|Adults||19 years and older||30||30|
There is a potential problem with using the entire raw egg if you are pregnant. Biotin deficiency is a common concern in pregnancy and it is possible that consuming whole raw eggs would make it worse.
If you are pregnant you have two options. The first is to actually measure for a biotin deficiency. This is best done through urinary excretion of 3-hydroxyisovaleric acid (3-HIA), which increases as a result of the decreased activity of the biotin-dependent enzyme methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase.
It might take you some time to get used to using raw eggs. I personally have shifted to consuming them "Rocky style" one egg with the yolk intact and swallowing them whole. Usually two eggs at one sitting.
Alternatively, you could have your raw eggs in a protein shake or Whey Healthier or take a biotin supplement.
You can go to the American Egg board for a great overview of eggs.
Always check the freshness of the egg right before you consume the yolk.
If you are uncertain about the freshness of an egg, don't eat it. This is one of the best safeguards against salmonella infection.
If there is a crack in the shell, don't eat it. You can easily check for this by immersing the egg in a pan of cool, salted water. If the egg emits a tiny stream of bubbles, don't consume it as the shell is porous/contains a hole.
If you are getting your eggs fresh from a farmer it is best to not refrigerate them. This is the way most of the world stores their eggs; they do not refrigerate them. To properly judge the freshness of an egg, its contents need to be at room temperature. Eggs that are stored in the fridge and opened immediately after taking them out will seem fresher than they actually are. Eggs that you want to check the freshness of should be kept outside the fridge for at least an hour prior to opening them.
First, check all the eggs by rolling them across a flat surface. Only consume them if they roll wobbly.
Open the egg. If the egg white is watery instead of gel-like, don't consume the egg. If the egg yolk is not convex and firm, don't consume the egg. If the egg yolk easily bursts, don't consume the egg.
After opening the egg you can put it up to your nose and smell it. If it smells foul you will certainly not want to consume it.
How to Start Using Raw Eggs
If you are not used to eating fresh raw egg yolks or fresh raw fish, you should start by eating just a tiny bit of it on a daily basis, and then gradually increase the portions.
For example, start by consuming only a few drops of raw egg yolk a day for the first three days. Gradually increase the amount that you consume in three-day increments. Try half a teaspoon for three days, then one teaspoon, then two teaspoons. When you are accustomed to that amount, increase it to one raw egg yolk per day and subsequently to two raw egg yolks per day. Eventually, you can easily eat five raw egg yolks daily.
Fresh raw egg yolk tastes like vanilla and is best combined with your vegetable pulp. You can also combine it with avocado. Only stir it gently with a fork, because egg protein easily gets damaged on a molecular level, even by mixing/blending.