If we were all boxing in a title fight like rocky we would crack open eggs and swallow them whole, leaving them completely uncooked. But having eggs for breakfast or a delicious organic omelette for breakfast is just too good to pass up. Interestingly enough like most foods when cooked the compounds activated in the food change based on the temperature that the food is cooked in. For example, if you eat a tomato raw you get some Lycopene in your diet which is good for preventing cancer and improving cardiovascular health.
If you cook that same tomato you restructure the Lycopene molecules as it’s exposed to heat causing the Lycopene to be more easily transported into the bloodstream and tissue, according to Ohio State University. Eating food raw or cooking it changes the molecular structure of virtually everything. Eating most foods raw and uncooked is beneficial but cooking some things like tomatoes every once in a while is beneficial as well for more Lycopene. Eggs are the same way, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
First let’s talk about which eggs you’re consuming. You want to consume organic, anti-biotic free, pastured, free range eggs. Organic and anti-biotic free simply means the chicken was raised without anti-biotic injections and was fed organic feed, which is good but not the best eggs you can buy. Most people mistakenly buy organic brown eggs thinking that those are the best quality and healthiest but this is simply not the case. Chickens were meant to roam and graze off the land and to eat worms. If chickens are confined in a small space without sunlight and are fed organic feed their health still suffers. They are eating food that wasn’t designed for their biology, even if it is organic.
The healthiest chickens are antibiotic free and pasture raised, meaning they ate worms, seeds, insects and grass. These are the healthiest chickens. The labels “Cage Free” and “Free Range” can be misleading marketing hype to try to make you think that this is the healthiest egg. The eggs need to be pasture raised, and certified organic to be the healthiest and highest quality eggs.
This explains more:
Now that you know which eggs to buy and not to let the marketing terms confuse you into buying something you think is truly free range (pastured) let’s talk a bit about how to cook eggs and why you shouldn’t cook your eggs in certain ways. It’s important to keep in mind that organic pasture raised eggs contain more Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin a, vitamin e and beta-carotene than caged eggs. Right off the bat the best choice you can make is to get the highest quality eggs which are organic and pasture raised. Now let’s talk a bit about the different ways to consume eggs.
1. Uncooked Raw Eggs (Rocky Style):
Like many foods from nature (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds etc.) raw uncooked eggs are jam packed with nutrition. They are rich in antioxidants, biotin and vitamin d, which is a tough vitamin to get from other food sources. If you eat uncooked eggs you drastically reduce getting salmonella poisoning simply by only consuming certified organic, pasture raised eggs. Eggs raised in a cages and confined spaces have higher rates of salmonella contamination. In fact, one British study found that caged eggs were 23% contaminated with salmonella as opposed to approximately 4% of free-range eggs being contaminated with salmonella. Your salmonella risk increases drastically when the hens are confined to small unsanitary living conditions. Basically, your risk of salmonella poisoning does increase slightly if you eat raw eggs because you are not cooking to a point of killing the bacteria. Other than that eating raw eggs gives you more nutrients than cooking eggs.
Upsides: Highest antioxidant value, highest nutritional & micronutrient value.
Downsides: Lower protein absorption, higher salmonella risk.
2. Sunny Side Up & Over Easy Eggs:
Sunny side up and over easy eggs are my personal favorite, I haven’t personally conjured up the courage to drink raw eggs like rocky yet and enjoy eggs with a runny yolk and lightly cooked personally. Sunny side up and over easy eggs are the lightest cooked. The downside to this is that antioxidant value in the eggs begins to diminish but the protein is actually more bioavailable. So if you want to look like Rocky then consuming slightly cooked eggs works a bit more in your favor. One study showed that egg protein when heated is 94% available as opposed to the 50% available when unheated. Slightly cooking eggs will give you more bioavailable protein but less antioxidants. Being as these type of eggs are cooked your salmonella risk drops dramatically as well especially if the eggs are organic and pastured.
Upsides: 2nd Highest antioxidant value, good vitamin and mineral value.
Downsides: A slightly higher salmonella risk, lower overall protein absorption.
3. Scrambled, Fried, Microwaved Eggs:
Scrambled, Fried and microwaved eggs are some of the worst options for consuming eggs. This all really depends on how long you cook the eggs. I’d say that fried and microwaved eggs are worse than scrambled but if you make scrambled eggs and don’t cook them too long they won’t be as bad. The more you heat up eggs the more the cholesterol in the eggs is oxidized, the more this cholesterol is oxidized the less your body can utilize it. Contrary to popular belief cholesterol is not actually bad for you. Cholesterol is needed for every cell in the human body and is also a pre-cursor for the human body to produce testosterone. You really don’t need to worry about cholesterol when it comes from healthy whole food balanced sources. In fact, some research shows that cholesterol actually helps to improve cardiovascular health. Obviously balance is key here, if you injected cholesterol into your body with no balancing counterparts then you might be in trouble. What you do need to worry about though is when cholesterol is oxidized. Oxidized cholesterol has been scientifically proven to increase fat in the body and arteries, leading to a higher risk of atherosclerosis, which is hardening of the arteries. Cholesterol in nature is fine when it’s paired with other nutrients and healthy fats in a whole food. It becomes an issue when it’s overcooked to become oxidized.
Upsides: Higher protein absorption, Lower salmonella risk.
Downsides: Cholesterol becomes oxidized increasing fat and hardening of the arteries, little to no antioxidant value, lower overall nutritional (micronutrient) value.
4. Hard Boiled Eggs:
Hard boiled eggs are an interesting form of cooking eggs that is seen in mixed ways. What’s interesting to me is that hard-boiled eggs are made by boiling water surrounding the eggshell. The actual egg and yolk warms up from the water heating the eggshell cooking the egg. It’s a completely different way of cooking eggs that has yet to have a clear picture painted as for the benefits and downsides. One interesting tidbit I have noticed though is that some people have claimed that hard-boiled eggs are more inflammatory than sunny side up or raw eggs. Some people claim all eggs in general are inflammatory but people claim specifically that hard-boiled eggs are worse than other forms of eggs. Lyn-Genet Recitas in her book ‘The Plan’ (and also a guest on the healthy wild and free podcast, the episode can be listened to by clicking here) found that in her holistic practice with thousands of clients tested she found that hard-boiled eggs were one of the top of the foods list for foods that caused an intestinal reaction causing inflammation. This food was one of the culprit foods that caused some people to gain 1/2 to 2 pounds almost instantly. We all have foods that our body reacts to, causing inflammation and almost instant weight gain, this was a common food on that list.
Upsides: Quick & Easy, Protein may absorb better.
Downsides: Still cooked, lower nutritional and micro-nutrient value most likely.
As for what’s best, it seems best to continue with sunny side up or over easy eggs, or going completely raw, or better yet doing a combination of both to receive a nice range of benefits. These options seem to have the most upside and give you the most nutritional, antioxidant and protein absorption overall.
Interesting Note On Storing Your Eggs:
Contrary to popular belief if your eggs are pasture raised organic eggs you actually do not need to refrigerate them if you eat them in a relatively short period of time, typically about 7-10 days. Eggs that are not pasture raised organic however have a higher rate of salmonella, pathogens and when left in a warmer environment can only become worse. Many organic farms in Europe leave eggs out on the counter unrefrigerated before use as it is common there.
Remember to also wash the outside of your eggshell with warm water. This is where salmonella can contaminate the egg so if you have organic pastured eggs and simply wash your eggshells your risk is very very low.