The Only Way to Get the Most Nutrition From Eggs
Eat them raw. Not only are raw eggs one of the most perfect foods available, but they offer you a nutrient dense profile that you won’t get from a cooked egg. And there’s also no need to worry about cholesterol or Salmonella.
For years, this misunderstood food — low in calories, containing every single vitamin (A, B, D, E, K) except C, and nearly perfect in protein — was once shunned for threats to cholesterol intake. Eggs are also a great source of choline, selenium, omega-3 and even iodine. But if you want to optimize those nutrients, you must eat eggs raw.
Raw eggs are an inexpensive and amazing source of high-quality nutrients that many people are deficient in, especially high-quality protein and fat. They’re even linked to longevity.
Like most foods, eggs undergo some loss of nutrients when they are cooked. This nutrient loss occurs regardless of whether the egg is removed from the shell (for example, during poaching) or left inside the shell during cooking (for example, during soft or hard boiling). If you compare the nutrient value of one large raw egg to one large hard-boiled egg in the latest version of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutritional database, you will find the following potential advantages to be offered by a raw egg:
- 36% more vitamin D
- 33% more omega-3s
- 33% more DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)
- 30% more lutein + zeaxanthin
- 23% more choline
- 20% more biotin
- 19% more zinc
For many nutrients, loss during cooking makes a practical difference. In the case of choline, for example, a woman would get nearly 35% of her Adequate Intake (AI) level from a single raw egg, as compared with about 26% from a hard-boiled egg. While this required B-vitamin is found in smaller amounts in a variety of foods, the average U.S. intake for choline is only 302 milligrams per day, making it important for U.S. adults to maximize their dietary intake whenever possible.
Old Egg Myths Die Hard
Our society’s bias against saturated fat and cholesterol has become so strong that we often forget that in nature those are the exact foods where the most nutrients are found. Egg yolks are no different.
Nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton has challenged studies vilifying egg yolksas a contributor to coronary artery disease.
It was previously thought that eggs raised blood cholesterol levels or increased LDL cholesterol. The yolk in a single large egg contains five grams of fat, so many nutritionists assumed that eggs clogged up people’s arteries, especially since they also contain dietary cholesterol.
Another myth was that LDL cholesterol is fat when it’s actually a protein. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that resembles fat, but has little to do with it. Today, scientists know that cholesterol content in food and the cholesterol in our blood aren’t intimately connected at all.
First you must understand that there is no such thing as bad cholesterol in the body. Nothing innately within the human body from birth is bad. There is even evidence proving that people with high so-called bad cholesterol live the longest.
Evidence showing that eating a lot of dietary cholesterol doesn’t increase blood cholesterol was discovered during a statistical analysis conducted over 25 years by Dr. Wanda Howell and colleagues at the University of Arizona. The study revealed that people who consume two eggs each day with low-fat diets do not show signs of increased blood cholesterol levels.
Most studies on the elderly have shown that high cholesterol is not a risk factor for coronary heart disease at all. On the Medline database many studies address that question. Specifically how high cholesterol may protect against infections and atherosclerosis.
It’s a myth we must put to rest because LDL cholesterol is only good and body needs it. LDL is needed by the body to build new muscle, which is important as we age. LDL can protect the brain as we age, and low levels of it can escalate problems such as dementia and memory loss.
They suggested that when eggs are digested they produce proteins that mimic the action of powerful blood pressure-lowering drugs, known as Ace inhibitors.
Once more a U.S. government study found that modern eggs contain 13 percent less cholesterol and 64 percent more vitamin D compared with a decade ago.
Is Salmonella a Problem?
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.
If Salmonella was a problem with raw eggs, I would most definitely have been infected at some point. I’ve been eating raw eggs daily for over 15 years and not once have I ever had Salmonella poisoning, but the kind of eggs you select make the difference
The reason people are terrified of consuming raw eggs in any form is they don’t understand that the type of egg can reduce their chances of Salmonella infections by large margins. They believe their risk of Salmonella is always high when it is actually extremely low when you choose the right egg.
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 you should never eat 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.
During the 2010 Salmonella outbreak involving large flocks on Iowa farms, for example, manure was often found overflowing through barn doors from tall dung heaps inside of barns, along with the presence of flies and maggots both inside and outside the barns. It was determined that the chickens straying and pecking in these areas became infected with SE in this way. Spread of infection among hens is increased when a large number are confined to a small space, and SE outbreak problems in 2010 have also been tied to large-scale production facilities, often housing 50,000 hens.
Also, just because an egg contains Salmonella bacteria, it does not mean that you will get a Salmonella infection and eggs are not the only way that Salmonella infections can spread so you might get a Salmonella infection even if you never eat a raw egg.
Selecting the Right Egg
It’s also relevant to recognize that eggs are much healthier today than they once were. The reason eggs have become more nutritious over the past decade is that hens are no longer fed bone meal, which was banned in the Nineties following the BSE crisis. Instead the birds are normally given a mixture of high-protein formulated feed, which makes their eggs more wholesome. Regardless, I do not recommend eating any conventional eggs (cooked or raw).
Free-range or “pastured” organic eggs are far superior when it comes to nutrient content, and , testing has confirmed that true free-range eggs are far more nutritious than commercially raised eggs. In a 2007 egg-testing project, Mother Earth News 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:
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
The dramatically superior nutrient levels are most likely the result of the differences in diet between free ranging, pastured hens and commercially farmed hens.
1) ‘Free Range’
Unfortunately, there is no legal definition of the term free range in Australia so standards between free range egg farms can vary dramatically. The biggest difference between free range farms is the number of birds kept in a certain space. While 1,500 birds per hectare is the recommended maximum, this is not enforceable and large scale producers are keeping their hens at much higher densities to cash in on the growing market for free range products. Queensland is the only state that has legislated a maximum of 1,500 hens per hectare. These logos on the egg carton indicate the eggs have come from hens raised on a true free range farm.
Certified organic eggs come from hens kept on farms which meet and exceed standards of the best free range facilities. However, simply the word ‘organic’ on an egg carton can sometimes mislead people to think the welfare of hens meets certified organic standards — when it may merely mean that hens in barns are fed organic grains. These logos on the egg carton indicate that the hens are raised on a certified organic farm.
3) ‘Barn Laid’
Hens in barn laid housing systems are not confined in cages so in theory they can move around. However, high stocking densities restrict hens’ ability to move freely and exercise. Being confined indoors restricts hens’ ability to perform the normal behaviours that provide quality of life.
Other claims on egg cartons
There are many other marketing terms used on egg cartons to imply higher welfare. These labels should be read discerningly. Terms such as ‘Vegetarian’, ‘Eco eggs’ and ‘Omega 3 eggs’ for example are not recognized descriptors that define the type of housing system or a level of welfare for hens. The term ‘Cage-free’ is also regularly used but it is important to note that these hens are raised in barns and do not have access to the outdoors. Likewise, don’t be fooled by clever imagery — some cartons may depict birds sitting on nests, or green rolling fields, but unless accompanied by an accreditation label, these images are most likely to be inaccurate.
Don’t Separate The Yolk From The White
This is perhaps the biggest mistake made by people seeking to cut out the fat and retain some protein. It doesn’t work that way. Compared to the yolk, the white doesn’t bring much to the table in terms of nutrients. An egg white contains more protein than the yolk, but it’s only because the yolk is smaller.
Egg yolks actually contain all the healthy, fatty acids that are contained within the egg. It is a nucleus of wholesome goodness that supplied our ancestors with their sustenance since before they were upright. When you strip away the egg yolk and eat only the white, you’re completely missing out on the benefits of those fatty acids like the Omega-3 fats.
Egg yolks also contain over 80% of the overall vitamins and minerals that can be found within the egg as a whole. The yolk also contain enzymes which help the body absorb the protein in the white anyway, so why would you separate it?
Another reason to avoid separating the egg from the yolk relates to biotin. Avidin is a component in egg whites that bonds with biotin, preventing the nutrient’s absorption. Some nutritionists have speculated that intake of raw egg whites may lead to biotin deficiency. Not if you eat them with the 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.
Adding raw eggs to a smoothie is one of the easiest ways to turn any smoothie into a protein packed beverage (and you’ll never need protein powder). It’s a very convenient way to boost your intake of vitamins (including fat-soluble vitamins), minerals, protein and enzymes at their highest possible ratios as designed by nature.
Take the plunge and go raw on your eggs. Your body will thank you.
About the Author
Natasha Longo has a master’s degree in nutrition and is a certified fitness and nutritional counselor. She has consulted on public health policy and procurement in Canada, Australia, Spain, Ireland, England and Germany.
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