Eggs are one of very few animal foods that you can store at room temperature for weeks with absolutely no processing. How perfect. A single chicken egg can supply a variety of proteins in the proportions that you need, all safely delivered in a hard, bacteria-resistant shell. Again, how perfect.
Starting in the 1950s with Steve Reeves— Hollywood’s Hercules—and continuing with Sylvester Stallone’s character Rocky Bolboa and The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, generations of muscle-seeking citizens have downed large quantities of raw eggs as part of their training regimes. Much of the thinking that raw eggs are the ideal source of calories can be traced back to 1904, when raw-foodists Molly and Eugene Christian wrote that, “An egg should never be cooked…and that in its natural state it is easily dissolved and readily taken up by all the organs of digestion.”
Yeah, raw eggs are slimy, and there’s a campaign today to convince you that they’re also dangerous. But what if the raw eggs in front of you are safe and you’re not grossed out by a little slime? Does cooking an egg really make it less nutritious than if it were raw? Some Belgian researchers claim to have the answer.
In a set of experiments, some gastroenterologists analyzed the fate of egg protein after it was consumed by various test subjects. For the most accurate results, the researchers fed hens a diet rich in “labeled” atoms of stable isoptopes of carbon, nitrogen, and hydrogen. The researchers could then measure how much of this labeled protein remained in the food collected in the ileum, at the end of the 35 feet or so of the test subject’s small intestine. Any protein that traversed the entire length of the small intestine was not absorbed. This protein was essentially metabolically useless because from this point on, bacteria in the colon digest the protein for their own selfish needs.
When the eggs were cooked, 91 to 94 percent of the cooked proteins were absorbed before in the small intestine, but only 51 to 65 percent of the raw proteins were absorbed. In other words, 35 to 49 percent of the protein from raw eggs was not absorbed and metabolized. In short, the researchers determined that cooking increased the available protein value of eggs by as much as 40 percent. The denaturation of proteins through the application of heat weakens the internal bonds of the proteins, making the three-dimensional structure more accessible to digestive enzymes, which in turn increases the amount of protein absorbed.
It’s worth pointing out that cooking also takes eggs from an essentially liquid form to a more solid food. As discussed in the earlier post on food texture and calorie burn, the human digestive process then has to take the solid eggs “back to” a liquid form to maximize protein absorption. This process is metabolically expensive and results in increases thermogenesis and increased calorie burn. Hell yeah.
A strict diet of pay attention is what it’s all about. eatNAKED friends, and live well.