In 1976, Rocky Balboa started a fitness trend by cracking raw eggs into a cup and drinking (yikes!). Rocky may have inspired the nation with his pursuit of glory, but his pre-workout snack was not ideal. Much has changed since 1976, but some people still drink raw eggs to build muscle – recognizing eggs as an inexpensive and convenient source of high-quality protein.1
But are there benefits to consuming eggs raw?
You may be surprised to learn that the digestibility and absorption of egg protein is much greater in cooked eggs. One study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, found that the availability of egg protein is 91% with cooked eggs and only 50% with raw eggs.2 That means a raw egg would only provide 3 grams of digestible protein. Compared to eating a whole cooked egg, which contains almost 6 grams of protein.
The higher digestibility of protein in cooked eggs is likely due to structural changes caused by cooking. Another reason for the difference in digestibility may be Trypsin Inhibitors. Trypsin is an enzyme that breaks down proteins and may be blocked by enzymes in raw eggs. Heat will destroy some of the functional properties of protein, such as inhibiting trypsin, so that the protein is more readily digested.
Cooking your eggs can also help prevent food borne illness. A small percentage of unpasteurized eggs in the United States may contain salmonella. Cooking eggs to temperatures of 160 degrees or above (or until the yolk is firm or fully cooked) will kill salmonella, and reduce risk of food poisoning.3
If you’re looking to consume eggs in a safe way that maximizes protein absorption – we recommend poaching, scrambling, or frying (learn how here!). Added bonus, cooked eggs are delicious.
1. Campbell B et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: protein and exercise. J Int Soc Sport Nutr. 2007;4:8
2. Evenopoel P et al. Digestibility of cooked and raw egg protein in humans as assessed by stable isotope techniques. J Nutr. 1998.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Salmonella and Eggs. https://www.cdc.gov/features/salmonellaeggs/index.html