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Cook eggs before eating them
By Dr. Ed Blonz | On Nutrition
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Published: 2/18/2009 12:02 AM

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Q. I never got sick with salmonella. However, for a long time, I have been afraid to do this for fear of contracting the disease. Recently, someone told me the salmonella is on the outside of the egg shell, not inside the egg. Is this true?

C.W., Baton Rouge, La.

A. Eggs are a nutritious food, but it is a bit risky to eat raw eggs. I recall images of weightlifters and professional athletes downing their raw egg-laden concoction as a muscle food before a workout or competition, but there is more show here than substance.

You get protein and some vitamins from eggs, and it is all in a good package, but there is no reason this food has to be consumed raw. In fact, there is an "antinutrient" in eggs called avidin that prevents biotin, an essential nutrient, from being absorbed. Cooking destroys avidin. If you want a protein to add to your flavored milk, consider whey protein powder.

Your concern about salmonella is valid. The contamination can be on the outside of the egg or in the yolk. Only a small fraction of eggs are contaminated, but this does not mean we should ignore the risk. We use seat belts not because we expect every trip to end with a collision, but to provide a measure of protection if the unexpected occurs.

A paper in the April 2002 issue of the journal Risk Analysis estimated that one out of every 30,000 shell eggs is contaminated with salmonella (tinyurl.com/d2l45b). The Centers for Disease Control has estimated that this number is closer to one out of 10,000 (tinyurl.com/2svx5). Neither is a high number. People with health problems, the very young, the elderly and pregnant women (the risk is to the unborn child) are particularly vulnerable to salmonella infections. If you still want eggs in your drink, consider using commercially pasteurized egg products, as the incidence of salmonella in this form is negligible.

Q. Are canned beans such as red, navy, pinto, etc., as nutritious as dry beans? It is more expensive but less work to open canned beans rather than cooking them from the dry state.

C.W., Baton Rouge, La.

A. Canned beans are just as nutritious as the dry beans. Many commercial products have added salt, but giving the beans a freshwater rinse or two will remove a lot of that sodium. There are also low- and no-salt varieties available.

Q. Not only was your advice good in today's paper (start cooking), but the diction was, as well. You described food as "healthful." Yes! Obviously, the foods we eat should be healthy as opposed to diseased, but that's not usually what is meant by the encouragement to eat "healthy" food. It's nice to see that someone else knows the difference. Thanks.

M.S., San Diego, Calif.

A. Healthful foods, yes! Once picked and cooked, foods are no longer healthy. It is a minor thing, but most continue to get this one wrong. Thanks for noticing.

• Ed Blonz, Ph.D., is a nutrition scientist and the author. Write him at "On Nutrition," Ed Blonz, c/o Newspaper Enterprise Association, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016 or ed@blonz.com. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.