Eggs are a nearly perfect healthy food high in protein, healthy fats, essential vitamins and minerals, and choline.
So, it’s no wonder that athletes and bodybuilders eat so many eggs—we’ve all seen Rocky eat raw eggs. But, should eggs be cooked before eating them? Are there benefits to eating raw eggs, and why eat raw eggs instead of cooked ones?
The only reason to eat raw eggs instead of cooked is to save time. Many athletes and busy people find it easier to crack an egg into a protein shake or fruit smoothie instead of cooking and eating the egg separately.
Here are more reasons people might choose to eat raw eggs instead of cooked ones:
- Nutritional Value: Some believe that cooking might reduce the availability of certain nutrients in eggs, especially delicate ones like certain B vitamins. By eating them raw, they aim to retain the full nutrient profile.
- Protein Absorption: There’s a belief that raw eggs provide protein that is more easily absorbed by the body. However, research shows that cooking eggs actually makes the protein more digestible.
- Taste and Texture: Some people prefer the taste and texture of raw eggs, especially when mixed in certain beverages or foods like smoothies or steak tartare.
- Convenience: Eating raw eggs is faster and requires no cooking.
- Traditional or Cultural Reasons: Some cultures incorporate raw eggs into traditional dishes or practices.
- Bodybuilding Myth: Historically, bodybuilders consumed raw eggs due to a belief that it would provide rapid protein. This has decreased in popularity due to the proven benefits of cooked eggs and the risks associated with raw eggs.
However, cooked eggs are healthier and safer than raw eggs, so it’s better to cook eggs before eating them.
Let’s dive into this topic even further.
Is Eating Raw Eggs Better Than Eating Cooked Eggs?
Eating raw eggs is not better than eating cooked eggs.
However, a landmark 1998 study showed that cooking eggs makes the proteins more digestible. Cooked eggs have 98% bioavailable proteins, while raw eggs have only 50%.
A more recent study suggests that gently cooking eggs (for example, by poaching or soft-boiling) renders the protein in the egg white more bioavailable while preserving more of the more delicate micronutrients in the yolk.
In any case, cooking eggs kills harmful bacteria and makes the protein and fats in eggs more digestible than eating raw eggs.
Is It Healthier to Eat Raw Eggs?
It is not healthier to eat raw eggs.
However, as a general rule, cooked eggs are more nutritious than raw eggs because cooking makes the macronutrients in the egg easier to digest while also killing potentially harmful bacteria and pathogens.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Raw Eggs?
The primary benefit of eating raw eggs is that it saves time and effort.
For busy people who want the healthy nutrition of eggs but don’t want to bother with pots and pans and cooking, simply adding a raw egg to a smoothie, shake, or even a cup of coffee is faster than cooking eggs.
There are no additional nutritional benefits to eating raw eggs.
Why Do Athletes Eat Raw Eggs?
In the past, many famous coaches and trainers recommended that athletes eat raw eggs as part of their training regimen.
These recommendations weren’t necessarily based on science or backed up by proof but became traditions in the bodybuilding community.
Athletes and bodybuilders often eat raw eggs because they need to consume many calories over the day; high-protein, high-calorie foods and the excellent nutrition in eggs, make them a perfect choice for athletes.
However, it is faster to eat raw eggs or add them to a protein drink or post-workout shake, making eating eggs faster and more convenient for athletes.
Finally, the main reason not to eat raw eggs is to avoid the risk of contracting salmonella.
However, due to modern egg washing and storing practices, that risk is extremely low, and healthy people are unlikely to suffer as much from salmonella as unhealthy people.
Many athletes and bodybuilders feel like they are healthy enough to resist disease and are willing to take their chances with salmonella.
What’s the Healthiest Way to Cook Eggs?
Studies indicate that preparing eggs in a way that cooks the egg white while only gently heating the yolk (such as poaching or soft-boiling) is the best way to optimize the nutrition in eggs.
Cooking egg whites makes the protein more digestible while killing pathogens and bacteria.
Leaving egg yolks soft and runny preserves some of the more delicate vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and lipids in the egg yolk.
The unhealthiest way to eat eggs is to fry them in a lot of fat at high heat. High heat damages the more delicate nutrients in the yolk and added fat makes them a less healthy food during frying.
Many athletes and bodybuilders eat raw eggs because it is an old gym tradition, and adding raw eggs to smoothies, fruit juices, and protein shakes makes it faster and easier to consume eggs.
However, raw eggs are not better for you, and raw egg whites may pose a health risk due to pathogens.
Therefore, it is always best to heat eggs at least high enough to kill bacteria, even if you would instead not completely cook the egg.
Today, you may also be able to find whole eggs in the shell that have been pasteurized for you, making them safe to eat raw.
If you prefer raw eggs, separate the egg and eat raw egg yolks rather than raw egg whites.
However, it is always best to cook eggs before eating them, and raw eggs are not better or healthier than cooked eggs.