As I mentioned in my last post, I’m trying to reduce the number of supplements I take (and hence, supplement packaging) by getting my nutrients from whole foods instead of pills. So a few weeks ago, I was wondering aloud (apparently, I’ve started talking to myself a lot lately) about how I could get more calcium, and Michael, whose mind goes all sorts of random places, said, “You eat an egg everyday. Why not eat the shell, too?” He wasn’t serious. But I wondered if eating eggshells was a thing. You know, a thing that people do. So of course, I turned to that trove of wisdom called Google, and lo and behold, there were lots of posts about how to do just that.
Before I go further… once again… I am not a doctor. I am not suggesting that you or anyone else should eat eggshells. I’m simply reporting my own experience.
Okay, so first I found this discussion, which lists several different studies examining whether chicken eggshells are a viable source of calcium for humans. One study compares the nutritional components of eggshells from chickens raised in different conditions (PDF) (caged, organic, pastured) vs. other types of calcium supplements. Another study shows that the bone mass density of the hips of healthy, post-menopausal Dutch women was increased after a year of supplemental chicken egg calcium. And a third study shows eggshell calcium is also good for piglets.
So, I started collecting my eggshells.
Important: Once every ten to fourteen days, I buy a dozen local, organic, certified humane eggs* and hard boil all of them at once. That way, they are available for snacking when I need protein. This also means that the eggshells I collect have been sterilized in boiling water. I am not eating raw eggshells! So, if you don’t have a supply of hard boiled eggs on hand, and if you decide to try this, you should boil your eggshells before ingesting them. That is my opinion, of course.
I also decided to keep the membrane with the shells. According to a 2009 study, eggshell membrane “contains naturally occurring glycosaminoglycans and proteins essential for maintaining healthy joint and connective tissues.” Granted, that study was sponsored by a company that sells an eggshell membrane supplement product. But I figured, why not eat it straight from the source?
Once I have a good amount of eggshells saved up, I put them in the toaster oven on low heat for 15 minutes to get them completely dried out and brittle. They might need to be baked longer, depending on how wet they are to start out with.
Then, I grind them up into a fine powder in my coffee grinder. (Yes, this coffee grinder is plastic, but I got it used several years ago from a guy on Craigslist. I would not have bought a new one.)
I store the powder in a glass jar in my refrigerator.
How do I take it? I add a half a teaspoon to my green smoothie every morning. Yeah, it’s a little bit gritty. But I don’t mind the texture. The nuts and seeds and veggies in my smoothie are not completely smooth either.
Why half a teaspoon? Well, according to this study, eggshell powder contains roughly 400 milligrams of calcium per gram. My kitchen scale is not sensitive enough to measure units smaller than grams, but it seems that a half teaspoon of eggshell powder weighs somewhere between 1 and 2 grams, depending on the mood of my scale when I take the measurement. And others on the Internet report the same amounts.
Here are a few other bloggers who make and consume eggshell calcium:
Mama Natural mixes it with water and takes it with a meal.
Bee Wilder writes in Nourished Magazine that you should take magnesium along with the calcium. As I mentioned in my post a few days ago, I already take a magnesium supplement every day. But also, some of the ingredients in my smoothie–dark, leafy greens and nuts and seeds–also contain magnesium. She also recommends combining it with lemon juice to form calcium citrate, which is more absorbable. I’m not doing that step because a) I have plenty of stomach acid to break down the calcium carbonate, b) I add citrus to my smoothie, so at least I’m consuming it with some extra acid, and c) it’s just easier not to.
And a bunch of people on this Paleo Diet website seem to be one upping each other. One guy accidentally got eggshell in his smoothie and wonders if it would be good for him. A respondee says he grinds it up and puts it in his smoothie, and then he jokes that he rips up the egg carton and adds that too for fiber. Then a woman responds that she eats hard boiled eggs without taking off the shell. And the next guy says he eats raw eggs that way, shell and all, popping the whole thing into his mouth. Just thinking about that last one makes me gag. And I do worry about things like salmonella. But, like I said, your mileage may vary.
There are lots more websites advocating the benefits of eggshell calcium. And there are also expensive, commercial eggshell powders in plastic bottles that you can buy. Because if something natural works, it’s gotta be better if you bottle it in plastic and slap a label on it, right? Just ask the bottled water industry.
*Yes, I am aware that eggs are problematic even if they come from certified humane sources. I wrote about it here. But local, organic eggs and cheese are the few animal sources of protein that I am not willing to give up right now.