How Do You Like Your Eggs?

Movie fans all remember that scene from the original Rocky when Sly Stallone's titular character begins training for The Big Fight by starting his day at 4am with a blender full of raw eggs. Here, the scriptwriters were informing us, was a tough guy who was serious about his protein no matter what it tasted like.

So what about it? Is there any upside to chugging your eggs raw? Is there any downside – other than the taste?

Both breakfasts are, in fact, extremely nutritious, chock full of vitamins, protein and healthy fats. But one raw egg contains 147 milligrams of choline, a nutrient essential for brain function that will vanish once cooked. Studies also favor the idea that choline plays a role in the health of your heart as well.

Raw eggs can also lay claim to two antioxidants not found in their cooked cousins: lutein and zeaxanthin. Both of these provide a big boost to your eye health, and may reduce your risk of age-related eye disease. And although cooking does not strip the vitamin B5, vitamin A, phosphorus and potassium away completely, it does notably reduce their potency.

That's the raw egg good news. The bad news is that eating eggs raw may decrease your absorption of its protein.

Eggs have long been marketed as being a “complete source of protein, and with good reason. They contain all 9 essential amino acids in just the right ratios. But research shows that you will only absorb 50 percent of an egg's protein if you eat it raw, as opposed to 90 percent if you cook it. That is, protein from a cooked egg is 80 percent more digestible.

Coking your eggs also destroys a protein known as avidin – but that's a Good Thing. This protein binds to biotin, a vitamin important in your body's production of fatty acids and glucose, and prevents its absorption.

One not inconsiderable concern for Rocky and his raw egg-swilling imitators is the risk of salmonella poisoning. Although pasteurization of eggs greatly reduces the risk of the salmonella bacterium surviving its journey to your blender, the rise in popularity of “backyard poultry” indicates that more and more people are eating non-pasteurized eggs.

The bottom line is that if you are chugging raw eggs because, like Rocky Balboa, you want to load up on protein without wasting time cooking, you are fooling yourself. On the other hand, if you are eating eggs for their benefits to your eyes and heart, keep that blender spinning. Just make sure they are pasteurized!