For once, it’s good news: eggs are highly nutritious and a complete source of protein. Complete proteins have all the essential amino acids (the part of proteins we need from our diets) in the exact proportions we need them.
Eggs do contain cholesterol, which has led to some myths about them being bad for you. But blood cholesterol is more sensitive to saturated and trans fats, and one egg contains only about 1.5 grams of saturated fat, and zero trans fats. Eggs also contain “good” fats such as omega-3s.
The exact nutrient composition of eggs does depend on how well the chickens who make them are fed. So there may be more than just ethical reasons to buy the fancier free-range and organic variety.
Should I eat them raw?
Raw eggs are a hangover cure from the 1980s and a health fad for increasing protein intake. The logic is that raw eggs pack a bigger protein punch because cooking damages the proteins.
Thankfully, raw eggs aren’t really necessary. Cooking does break down proteins – that’s why eggs go opaque when they cook. But this doesn’t reduce their quality because we need proteins to be broken down before the body can absorb them. The heat from cooking does reduce the vitamin level slightly, but not enough to destroy an egg’s health credentials. Cooking also destroys the avidin, a protein that binds the vitamin biotin.
Really, the only advantage of raw eggs is that you can knock more of them down in one go – getting more protein in before your stomach knows it’s full. This can be helpful for someone who has high intake requirements. But raw eggs can pose a food-poisoning risk, so should be avoided by pregnant women, children, the elderly and those with low immunity.
Should you keep them in the fridge?
Some people argue that room-temperature eggs are better for cooking, particularly baking. But keeping eggs in the fridge will help them last longer (up to six weeks), and can help reduce the risk of bacterial growth – eggs can carry salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning.
You might not realise it, but cardboard egg cartons are actually designed to reduce water loss and to stop other flavours penetrating the eggs. So for quality keep them in the carton and don’t store them loose (not even in those egg holders that come in the doors of some refrigerators).
The take-home message
Eggs are great. They’re cheap, nutritious, easy to cook, and you can eat them many times a week without any downsides. When eating raw or undercooked eggs, there is a potential risk of food poisoning, but if you treat your eggs as carefully as you would treat raw chicken (wash your hands and don’t cross-contaminate your utensils), and store your eggs in their carton in the fridge, you can reduce the risks and enjoy your eggy goodness.