Person Extracting Oyster from its Shell

Oysters have been touted as one of the most amazing aphrodisiacs the world has known since at least 5000 or 6000 B.C.E. and possibly earlier.  They have been consumed since prehistoric times (evidence has been found on digs).  One claim on how oysters can be beneficial is that they have been proven to increase sex hormones in people.  But, what about the claims that oysters are extremely beneficial to overall health?  Is it true that they are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids?  What about the mercury content in oysters - are they safe enough to eat frequently?  There are a lot of questions to be answered about the benefits of eating oysters.

As far as overall health goes, oysters contain high amounts of calcium, zinc, iron, and selenium.  In addition to these minerals, oysters also contain Vitamins A and B12.  All six of these vitamins and minerals are good for optimal health and, because oysters are fairly low in calories, a person can get away with eating a dozen or more oysters in one sitting without causing daily calorie counts to get out of hand.  One medium sized (50g) raw Pacific oyster contains only 40 calories.  This means that one dozen raw oysters, even if lemon juice or vinegar is added, will come in at under 500 calories.  Each oyster of this size has 4.27g of protein as well.  That works out to, for one dozen medium sized oysters, a little over 56g of protein.

As is evident, oysters certainly provide a lot of nutritional value.  However, what about that ever present concern when it comes to eating seafood: mercury?  For those who love oysters, they’ll be happy to know that oysters are one of the edible items that come from the sea that are low in mercury contamination.  According to guidelines for pregnant women, it is safe to eat approximately two 6 oz servings per week.  Generally speaking, a non-pregnant person with no immune issues can get away with eating twice as much each week.  It isn’t a good idea to cut seafood out of the diet all together, due to it being a great source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Oysters are definitely a beneficial food source.  A person does need to be concerned on how oysters are prepared and eaten.  First, when ingesting oysters raw, they need to be eaten alive.  This may not sound exactly appetizing to some, but the moment a raw oyster becomes dead, it is no longer safe to eat.  The way to determine whether or not a raw oyster is alive is simple.  If the shell is open, then the oyster is dead and unsafe to eat. If the oyster shell is closed, but a foul smell comes out of it after it is opened, then the oyster is dead and bacteria has formed in which that oyster is no longer safe to eat.

Oysters are only safe to eat when cooked if they are cooked alive.  Sometimes it can be difficult to tell at first glance if a raw oyster’s shell is actually closed, but it’ll be easy to tell once the cooking process is complete.  An oyster that was alive during cooking will open its shell by the time the cooking process is done.  An oyster that was dead when it went into the pot will come out with a closed shell.  Care should be taken when eating oysters as they can come along with harmful bacteria since they are filter feeders.  Proper storage and preparation in the way of cooking can kill these bacteria.

Last Updated: Wednesday, December 28, 2011