Eggs, Eggs, and Eggs

Dear Dr. B: Does the nutritional value of an egg change if a person eats an egg raw, partially raw, hard boiled, scrambled, fried whole, or omelet? Some people believe it is nutritionally better to eat eggs raw. Is there any truth in that?

Answer: I have been eating eggs all my life. These days I prefer to eat egg white. Occasionally, I do eat a whole egg and sometimes I eat eggs fortified with omega-3 fatty acids. Mostly I make an omelet with egg white, tomatoes and onions or fry an egg with little bit of margarine.

My enquiries and research tells me that different methods of cooking eggs do not make a difference in nutrient content. But we should remember that composition of a prepared food is the combination of all the ingredients used and the method used to prepare the food.

For example, fried egg will have higher fat content due to presence of oil. A typical scrambled egg may have some dairy product which will contribute its own nutrients and calories to the preparation. Same principle applies when preparing an omelet.

A cooked egg also loses water so the nutrients are more concentrated. Protein in the cooked egg is more digestible than an uncooked egg because cooking slightly denatures the protein.

There are no known benefits of eating raw eggs. In fact eating raw eggs is considered unsafe because of the risk of salmonella infection. Though the odds are pretty low – in US it is estimated to be 0.045 per cent and only one egg in 20,000 eggs is estimated to contain salmonella. Salmonella does not grow well at cold temperatures; therefore, refrigeration is very important. Properly cooked eggs destroys salmonella

Recent news about the avian flu or “bird flu” has caused some concern. As we know avian influenza was first confirmed on an Abbotsford, BC area farm on February 19, 2004. By quarantining affected farms and humanely destroying flocks, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) was effectively able to control and put a stop to this outbreak.

CFIA states that there is no public health risk associated with consuming eggs as a result of these cases. The eggs available at Canadian supermarkets are safe to eat. No eggs from any infected flocks entered the food chain.

For safety reasons eggs should be cooked until the white and yolk are solid. We should be careful with recipes that require raw shell eggs or partly cooked eggs but do not require any heating to reach a temperature which will harden the egg white and the egg yolk.

Egg is considered to be a complete food. It is low in calories (79 calories) and is loaded with protein, important vitamins and minerals. Egg is low in fat but the yolk is high in cholesterol. Yolk is also high in calories (egg white 16 vs. yolk 63 calories per egg).

An egg a day is now considered safe for those people who have no cardiac or cholesterol problems. But egg white is healthier and safer to eat as it is low in calories with no fat or cholesterol. Egg white cartons can be easily purchased from Canadian supermarkets.

Thought for the week:

“All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal or fattening.”

– Alexander Woollcott 1887-1943

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