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Why drink raw eggs?

Raw eggs have been a popular health food and fitness supplement for years. Supporters claim raw eggs provide a concentrated source of protein and nutrients. However, health authorities typically advise against eating raw eggs due to the risk of salmonella. This article examines the benefits and risks of consuming raw eggs to help you make an informed decision.

Nutritional Profile of Raw Eggs

Raw eggs are minimally processed and therefore contain many nutrients in their whole, natural form. One large raw egg contains (1):

  • 77 calories
  • 6 grams of protein
  • 5 grams of fat
  • Minerals like iron, zinc, selenium, calcium and more
  • Choline, an important nutrient for brain and nervous system health
  • Antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye health
  • Vitamins A, B2, B5, B12, D, E and K

The protein in raw eggs is especially beneficial. Eggs contain all nine essential amino acids your body needs but cannot produce on its own. Adequate protein intake promotes muscle growth and maintenance, aids weight management, boosts satiety and maintains strength and bone mass during aging (2, 3).

Raw egg yolks are also one of the best sources of choline. Just one large yolk supplies 25% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for choline, an essential nutrient involved in cell structures, neurotransmitter synthesis, liver function and metabolism (4).

Overall, raw eggs provide a rich assortment of nutrients to support general health.

Benefits of Raw Eggs

Below are some of the top health benefits associated with eating raw eggs:

Highly Nutritious

Raw eggs contain the same complete protein and micronutrient profile as cooked eggs — but in their most natural, bioavailable form.

Cooking protein sources like eggs can damage or destroy some nutrients. For example, cooking eggs may reduce the antioxidant lutein by up to 20% (5).

Eating eggs raw ensures you get the most intact, bioavailable nutrients possible.

May Promote Muscle Growth and Recovery

Exercise significantly increases protein needs. Athletes and active individuals may need up to 1.6–2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily to optimize recovery and muscle growth (6, 7).

Consuming raw eggs makes it easy to meet increased protein needs. Studies show that egg protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis and improves muscle strength far more effectively than other protein sources like soy or wheat (8, 9).

In one study, men who ate three whole eggs immediately after resistance training had significantly greater muscle mass and strength gains compared to those who ate an egg substitute (10).

Maximizing protein synthesis leads to greater muscle recovery and growth. Athletes, bodybuilders and active individuals may benefit from consuming raw eggs to better support their fitness goals.

Supports Brain Health

Raw eggs are one of the best dietary sources of choline, a nutrient that plays an important role in brain development, memory, learning and nerve function (11).

Choline is used to produce acetylcholine, an important neurotransmitter involved in muscle control, mood, memory and brain health (12).

Eating adequate choline is important at all stages of life — but especially during pregnancy and lactation to support proper fetal brain development (13).

Consuming raw egg yolks can help you meet choline intake needs to maintain optimal brain health.

High in Antioxidants

Raw eggs contain two powerful antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, primarily found in the yolk.

These compounds accumulate in your eyes and help protect your eyes from damaging light wavelengths (14).

Research shows that consuming adequate lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce the risk of eye disorders like cataracts and macular degeneration by up to 42% (15).

Eating raw eggs regularly can supply these antioxidants to support eye health.

May Enhance Weight Loss

Proteins are the most satiating macronutrients and help boost metabolism. Replacing carbs and fat with protein may promote feelings of fullness, increase calorie burn and reduce late-night cravings and overeating (16, 17).

One study found that participants who ate eggs at breakfast felt more satisfied and consumed fewer calories at lunch and dinner compared to those who ate a bagel breakfast (18).

The high protein content of raw eggs boosts satiety and satisfies hunger, aiding weight management. Additionally, raw eggs may support weight loss due to their high content of leucine, an amino acid linked to decreased fat mass (19).

Simple to Add to Your Diet

Raw eggs are easy to incorporate into smoothies, omelets or other dishes. They provide a nutritious protein boost to meals and snacks.

Some simple ways to enjoy raw eggs include:

  • Add one to your smoothie
  • Combine with vegetables for an omelet
  • Use as the liquid base for muffins or other baked goods
  • Blend into homemade mayonnaise or salad dressings

With minimal preparation required, raw eggs can easily become a regular part of your diet.

Downsides of Eating Raw Eggs

While raw eggs can be nutritious, there are some downsides to consider:

High in Cholesterol

The yellow yolk is the primary source of cholesterol in eggs.

A large raw yolk contains approximately 185 mg of cholesterol, which is 62% of the recommended 300 mg per day limit (20).

Consuming too much cholesterol from any source may raise blood cholesterol levels and increase heart disease risk.

However, research shows that eggs have little effect on cholesterol levels or heart health in most people. Studies reveal that saturated fat intake appears to drive blood cholesterol levels more than dietary cholesterol (21, 22).

Regardless, those with heart disease or diabetes should limit egg yolk intake to no more than one per day unless otherwise advised by their healthcare practitioner (23).

High in Calories

With about 72 calories in one large raw egg, excess intake can easily lead to weight gain if portion sizes are not controlled.

Be mindful of serving sizes and avoid overdoing it, especially if trying to lose weight.

Contains Avidin

Raw egg whites contain avidin, a protein that binds to biotin and can reduce its absorption (24).

Biotin is an important nutrient involved in energy production that helps maintain healthy hair, skin and nails. Consuming raw egg whites may lead to biotin deficiency over time if intake is not balanced with the yolk.

Cooking eggs deactivates avidin, allowing for optimal biotin absorption. If eating raw eggs regularly, be sure to consume the entire egg rather than just the whites.

Risk of Foodborne Illness

Raw eggs may be contaminated with bacteria that can cause foodborne disease.

Salmonella is the biggest concern with raw eggs. Salmonella infection may cause symptoms like vomiting, fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea (25).

In some cases, Salmonella infection can become serious and life threatening, especially in young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems (26).

The risk of Salmonella is low when eggs come from farms that follow good hygiene and refrigeration practices during storage and transportation. But it’s impossible to eliminate risk completely.

To minimize risk, consider sourcing pasteurized eggs from local farms. Pasteurization involves quickly heating the eggs to kill potential bacteria without cooking the eggs (27).

Avoid consuming raw eggs if you are pregnant, elderly or have a compromised immune system.

Who Should Avoid Raw Eggs

Raw eggs are unsafe for some people. At-risk groups that should avoid raw eggs include:

  • Young children
  • Older adults
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone with a compromised immune system

These populations are at greater risk of severe illness from bacteria like Salmonella found in raw eggs (28).

Children can develop serious foodborne illness from even a small number of Salmonella bacteria (29). Their underdeveloped immune systems cannot fight off infection as effectively.

Meanwhile, pregnancy reduces immune function, making expectant mothers more susceptible to bacterial infections (30). Salmonella can also infect the fetus and lead to complications like premature birth or stillbirth (31).

Furthermore, older adults experience declining immune function and have a high incidence of conditions like diabetes and cancer that impair immunity (32). Consuming raw eggs only further raises their infection risk.

For optimal safety, populations at risk for foodborne illness should cook eggs thoroughly rather than consuming them raw or undercooked.

Raw Egg Alternatives

Raw eggs provide an easy and nutritious way to boost protein intake and access nutrients like choline. However, raw eggs are not for everyone given concerns like Salmonella.

Several alternatives provide similar benefits with less risk:

Pasteurized Eggs

Pasteurized eggs are briefly heated to destroy potential Salmonella bacteria but not hot enough to cook the eggs.

Heating eggs to 135–140°F (57–60°C) for 3–5 minutes eliminates bacteria while maintaining raw properties (33).

Pasteurized eggs are nutritionally comparable to raw eggs. Yet, they are much safer because the pasteurization process kills any dangerous bacteria.

Pasteurized eggs are not available in most grocery stores but can be purchased directly from local farms, specialty suppliers or online retailers.

Liquid Egg Whites

Commercially produced liquid egg whites are pasteurized to protect against bacterial contamination.

They provide an excellent source of protein without the high cholesterol content of yolks. However, they lack some nutrients concentrated in the yolk.

For those seeking to boost protein intake and muscle growth, liquid egg whites provide a safe raw egg alternative. But including some yolk consumption for nutrients like choline and antioxidants is still recommended.

Cooked Whole Eggs

Cooked eggs provide the same nutrition as raw eggs — except in a safer form that destroys any potential Salmonella bacteria.

Cooking egg whites also deactivates the enzyme avidin, allowing for optimal absorption of biotin.

The key is not overcooking them. Boiling, poaching, frying or baking eggs gently preserves the nutrient content.

For those concerned about raw egg risks, cooked whole eggs are the best alternative to receive health benefits while avoiding potential harmful bacteria.

How to Minimize Risk of Raw Eggs

You can enjoy raw eggs while minimizing the risk of foodborne illness by:

  • Buying pasteurized eggs
  • Choosing local, organic eggs when possible
  • Visually inspecting eggs for cracks before consuming raw
  • Storing eggs refrigerated at 40°F (4°C) or colder
  • Consuming raw yolks and cooked whites may be safer than whole raw eggs for some people
  • Discarding eggs that are cracked, dirty or have been left out too long

Following safe handling and buying practices reduces your risk when eating raw eggs.

The Bottom Line

Raw eggs offer an array of nutrients that support muscle growth, brain health, robust immunity and overall wellness. However, consuming them raw also comes with potential risks.

Ultimately, most healthy adults can safely eat up to 4–6 raw eggs per week from reputable sources. This provides health benefits while minimizing the chances of bacterial infection.

Those at risk of foodborne illness should cook eggs fully or opt for pasteurized alternatives.

As with most foods, moderation and proper precautions are key to safely reaping the nutritional rewards of raw eggs.