There is a reason why The Bard concluded the world was an oyster – there is so much more to this marine species than meets the eye! They are considered natural aphrodisiacs and were celebrated as such during the Renaissance.1 Oysters were very important to the repertoire of 17th-century Dutch paintings, too.2
Did you know oysters that make pearls (family Pteriidae) are different from those that are eaten (family Ostreidae)? There are over 100 varieties of oysters belonging to the 5 known species of them.
Packed with minerals like zinc and iron along with vitamins, protein, the healthy polyunsaturated fats, and calcium, there is very little that oysters don’t offer in terms of nutrition.3 But what has truly caught the fancy of foodies all over the world is the presence of zinc in it. Why? Because zinc boosts libido in men, crowning oysters as the most celebrated natural aphrodisiac in the world.
1. Boosts Male Libido
Studies have conclusively proven that both zinc and vitamin C play a vital role in boosting male libido.4 Shellfish like oysters are a powerhouse of zinc.5 There is 65.6 mg zinc in 100 g of raw oysters which is 546% of the total recommended daily intake of zinc.6 It is no surprise then that oysters’ reputation as an aphrodisiac is unparalleled.
Zinc plays many other key roles in human health. Zinc deficiency affects many organ systems, including the integumentary, gastrointestinal, central nervous system, immune, skeletal, and reproductive systems.7
2. Helps Weight Loss
Oysters aid weight loss. This is due to the high protein content in it. There is 11.1 g of protein in a 100 g serving of oysters which takes care of 17% of your daily dietary need for protein.8
There is a high metabolic advantage to having food high in protein, especially for people who are obese or overweight.9 Protein diets rev up metabolism and add to muscle mass.
Not only that. Protein is found in pretty much every tissue of the body and helps in the building and repair of tissues. They also make up enzymes that power many chemical reactions and hemoglobin that carries oxygen in the blood.10
3. Prevents Anemia
Well, apparently men are not the only ones benefiting from an oyster diet. Women have much to look forward to, especially during that time of the month. Women who have heavy menstrual periods can avert anemia by having oysters during the time. Iron makes red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body.11
4. Lowers Cholesterol And Protects The Heart
Among healthy fat, polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) dominate in oysters.14 PUFA plays a significant role in keeping your heart healthy and keeping cardiovascular diseases at bay.15 Oysters also have the amino acid lysine which plays an essential role in the production of carnitine that lowers cholesterol.16
5. Boosts Immunity And Fights Infections
Zinc is an antioxidant that can fight inflammation and reduce oxidative stress.17 18 An optimum amount of zinc in the body equips your body to fight the common cold and other infections.19 PUFA in it also plays a significant role in improving immunity by reducing inflammation in the body.20
6. Provides B Vitamins
B vitamins are a group of vitamins essential in the regular diet. They are important for releasing energy from food and for the functioning of the nervous system and the brain. Going by various types like thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, etc, doctors often recommend B vitamin supplementation because they are sometimes difficult to get from the normal diet, especially a vegetarian diet.21 Enter oysters and your problem is pretty much solved. It has both vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B3 (niacin) in enough quantities to conclude that oysters can take care of your body’s B vitamin needs.22
7. Provides Calcium For Strong Bones
Did you know calcium accounts for 1 to 2% of the adult human body weight? And that over 99% of the total body calcium is found in the teeth and bones?23 Teeth and bones also serve as a calcium reservoir for the entire body. We cannot emphasize the importance of the dietary intake of calcium for the overall upkeep of the body. Calcium deficiency can lead to a lot of health complications including brittle bones. For enough calcium through diet, look to oysters to get it. Oysters (100 g) can provide 13.5% of the total recommended daily intake of calcium (134 mg).24
Calcium Supplements From Oyster Shells
Other than raw oysters, calcium can be obtained from oyster shells as well. Oyster shell supplements are widely accepted as a good source of calcium. They are found to provide more elemental calcium per tablet,25 which means fewer tablets need to be consumed per day. Oysters are considered a better option than calcium carbonate supplements at least in case of osteoporosis treatments.
Oyster shell electrolysate (OSE) is found to raise serum calcium and increase urinary calcium excretion in vitamin D-deficient states faster than calcium carbonate. Since the effect of calcium salts on osteoporosis depends heavily on its bioavailability, the effect of 900 mg/day calcium as OSE was tested in 12 elderly osteoporotic females. The results showed that OSE provided calcium more readily than other supplements for people with osteoporosis.26
How Should You Eat Oysters: Canned, Smoked, Or Dried?
It is not always possible to have oysters raw. But oysters are available in various other forms to increase their shelf life.
Dried oysters are popular, especially in Chinese cuisine. Oysters can be home smoked or smoked oysters can be bought from stores. The preserving method of smoked oysters involves oil, which common sense says, may not be the best option if health is on your mind. This is especially true if you have access to raw oysters.
Similarly, canned oysters, since they are preserved in saline water, could have more sodium content than the typical raw seafood, which is anyway high in sodium.
It is also believed that some nutrients, if not all, get chipped away from the original product during preservation method, be it drying, smoking or canning. That doesn’t mean they are totally devoid of nutrients. So, turn to them if you cannot access the raw ones.
Are There Any Side Effects To Having Oysters?
Shellfish poisoning is real. And oysters simply cannot dodge the blame. Other than pollutants like lead in oceans that could contaminate oysters, there are certain viruses and bacteria found in oysters that could pose serious health risks to people who eat them. Norovirus is one such virus that could cause severe gastroenteritis with symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach cramps.27
Vibrio vulnificus is a bacteria found in contaminated oysters. They thrive in warm coastal areas and can cause illnesses and even death in some cases.28
Having oysters from non-polluted waters simply doesn’t solve the problem. The infections can be avoided to a great extent by taking certain crucial steps.
- When you buy oysters, make sure their shells are closed. Discard the ones that are open.
- Avoid the ones that do not open when cooked.
- Boil the live oysters for 3 to 5 minutes. If you are steaming, do that for about 4 to 8 minutes.
- Keep cooked ones away from raw oysters to avoid cross-contamination. Similarly, do not use the same vessels for the cooked and the uncooked ones.
Oysters are healthy food and you would benefit from making it part of your daily diet. But apply caution while handling them so you do not fall sick!
|↑1||Walker, Harlan, ed. “Fish: Food from the Waters.” Oxford Symposium, 1998.|
|↑2||Cheney, Liana de Girolami. “The oyster in Dutch genre paintings: Moral or erotic symbolism.” Artibus et historiae (1987): 135-158.|
|↑3, ↑14||Asha, K. K., R. Anandan, Suseela Mathew, and P. T. Lakshmanan. “Biochemical profile of oyster Crassostrea madrasensis and its nutritional attributes.” The Egyptian Journal of Aquatic Research40, no. 1 (2014): 35-41.|
|↑4||Ogunlesi, Modupe, Wesley Okiei, Edith Ofor, and Olugbenga Awonuga. “Determination of the concentrations of zinc and vitamin C in oysters and some medicinal plants used to correct male factor infertility.” Journal of Natural Products 2 (2009): 89-97.|
|↑5||King, I., M. T. Childs, C. Dorsett, J. G. Ostrander, and E. R. Monsen. “Shellfish: proximate composition, minerals, fatty acids, and sterols.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 90, no. 5 (1990): 677-685.|
|↑6||Nutritional Fact. Coffin Bay Oysters|
|↑7||Tuerk, Melanie J., and Nasim Fazel. “Zinc deficiency.” Current opinion in gastroenterology 25, no. 2 (2009): 136-143.|
|↑8, ↑22, ↑24||Nutritional Facts. Coffin Bay Oysters.|
|↑9||Pasiakos, Stefan M. “Metabolic advantages of higher protein diets and benefits of dairy foods on weight management, glycemic regulation, and bone.” Journal of food science 80, no. S1 (2015).|
|↑10||Protein. Harvard School Of Public Health.|
|↑12||Pasricha, Sant-Rayn, Michael Low, Jane Thompson, Ann Farrell, and Luz-Maria De-Regil. “Iron supplementation benefits physical performance in women of reproductive age: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” The Journal of nutrition 144, no. 6 (2014): 906-914.|
|↑13||Nutritional Facts. Coffin Bay Oysters|
|↑15||Ander, Bradley P., Chantal MC Dupasquier, Michele A. Prociuk, and Grant N. Pierce. “Polyunsaturated fatty acids and their effects on cardiovascular disease.” Experimental & Clinical Cardiology 8, no. 4 (2003): 164.|
|↑17||Prasad, Ananda S. “Zinc is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent: its role in human health.” Frontiers in nutrition 1 (2014).|
|↑18||Prasad, Ananda S., Frances WJ Beck, Bin Bao, James T. Fitzgerald, Diane C. Snell, Joel D. Steinberg, and Lavoisier J. Cardozo. “Zinc supplementation decreases incidence of infections in the elderly: effect of zinc on generation of cytokines and oxidative stress.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 85, no. 3 (2007): 837-844.|
|↑19||Singh, Meenu, and Rashmi R. Das. “Zinc for the common cold.” The Cochrane Library (2011).|
|↑20||Calder, P. C., and R. F. Grimble. “Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammation and immunity.” European journal of clinical nutrition56, no. S3 (2002): S14-S14.|
|↑21||B Vitamins And Folic Acid. NHS.|
|↑23||Cashman, K. D. “Calcium intake, calcium bioavailability and bone health.” British journal of Nutrition 87, no. S2 (2002): S169-S177.|
|↑25||What’s Up With Calcium Supplements?. Columbia University.|
|↑26||Fujita, Takuo, Masaaki Fukase, Haruko Miyamoto, Toshio Matsumoto, and Toru Ohue. “Increase of bone mineral density by calcium supplement with oyster shell electrolysate.” Bone and mineral 11, no. 1 (1990): 85-91.|
|↑27||Norovirus Outbreak. Government of Canada.|
|↑28||Vibrio Vulnificus. FDA.|