Important Update on Eating Raw Eggs
February 09, 2005
By Dr. Mercola
Notice: Important 2009 Raw Egg Update
Since publishing this article in 2005, I have more carefully studied the issue of whether to consume WHOLE raw eggs or only egg yolks ... and my recommendation is to eat the WHOLE egg raw, as I originally advised in 2002.
Avoiding raw egg yolks is the conventional 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 this 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.
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.
So to be clear, my advice is that you can safely eat WHOLE raw eggs, from a healthy fresh source. Personally I eat four whole raw eggs each morning with my breakfast.
Eggs are Loaded with Antioxidants
Eggs contain high quality proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. And, according to new research, you can also add antioxidant properties to the list. The antioxidant properties are due to the presence of two amino acids, tryptophan and tyrosine. Two raw egg yolks contain nearly twice the antioxidant properties of an apple. Egg yolks are also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, a class of carotenoids that offer powerful protection from age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness.
Research illustrates how nutritionally destructive cooking is to eggs. The antioxidant properties in eggs are reduced by about 50 percent when eggs are fried or boiled, followed by microwaving, which results in an even greater reduction.
If the texture of raw egg is a challenge for you, it is easy to put them in a smoothie which typically solves the texture issue. If that still doesn't work, the next best approach are poached or lightly soft boiled eggs. Scrambling your eggs is one of the worst ways to cook them as it oxidizes the cholesterol in the egg yolk, which may in fact harm your health. So, consuming your eggs raw will optimize their nutritional benefits.If you choose to eat your eggs cooked, poached or soft-boiled are your best options.
Not All Eggs are Created Equal
Free-range or "pastured" organic eggs are far superior when it comes to nutrient content. An egg is considered organic if the chicken was fed only organic food, which means it will not have accumulated high levels of pesticides from the grains (mostly genetically engineered corn) fed to typical chickens. But this alone is not enough.
The dramatically superior nutrient levels are most likely the result of the differences in diet between free ranging, pastured hens and commercially farmed hens. Testing has confirmed that true free-range eggs are far more nutritious than commercially raised eggs. In a 2007 egg-testing project, Mother Earth News1
compared the official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs with eggs from hens raised on pasture and found that the latter typically contains:
- 66 percent more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
What about the Risk of Salmonella
The CDC and other public health organizations advise you to thoroughly cook your eggs to lower your risk of salmonella, but as long as they're pastured and organic, eating your eggs raw is completely safe.
The salmonella risk is increased when hens are raised in unsanitary conditions, which is extremely rare for small organic farms where the chickens are raised in clean, spacious coops, have access to sunlight, and forage for their natural food. Conventional eggs, making up the vast majority of eggs in typical grocery stores, have an increased risk for salmonella, which is why I advise against eating conventional eggs raw. One study by the British government found that 23 percent of farms with caged hens tested positive for salmonella, compared to just over 4 percent in organic flocks and 6.5 percent in free-range flocks.
Should You Refrigerate Your Eggs?
Contrary to popular belief, fresh pastured eggs that have an intact cuticle do not require refrigeration, as long as you are going to consume them within a relatively short period of time.This is well known in many other countries, including parts of Europe, and many organic farmers will not refrigerate their eggs.
In the U.S., refrigeration of eggs became the cultural norm when mass production caused eggs to travel long distances and sit in storage for weeks to months before arriving at your local supermarket. Additionally, the general lack of cleanliness of factory farms increases the likelihood that your eggs have come into contact with pathogens, amplifying the need for both disinfection and refrigeration.
So, if your eggs are fresh from the organic farm, with intact cuticles, and will be consumed within a few days, you can simply leave them on the counter or in a cool cupboard. The shelf life for an unrefrigerated egg is around 7 to 10 days.When refrigerated, they'll stay fresh for 30-45 days. Keep this in mind when purchasing eggs from your grocery store, as by the time they hit the shelf, they may already be three weeks old, or older. USDA certified eggs have a pack date and a sell-by date on the carton, so check the label.
Where to Find Clean, Fresh Eggs
It is important to know where your food comes from.The key here is to buy your eggs locally. Locating high quality organic eggs locally is FAR easier than finding raw milk as virtually every rural area has individuals with chickens. If you live in an urban area, visiting the local health food stores is typically the quickest route to finding high quality local egg sources.
Farmers markets are another great way to meet the people who produce your food. With face-to-face contact, you can get your questions answered and know exactly what you're buying.