Oysters: Why Eat Them and How to Cook Them

Oysters are nutritious and contain many vitamins and minerals that can be beneficial to health. Oysters are large, flat mollusks. People can eat some species of these sea creatures, cooked or raw, and many consider them a delicacy.

Oysters are among several edible marine bivalves belonging to the family Ostreidae. Two common types include Pacific and Eastern oysters. They play a vital role in the ecosystem – they improve water quality by filtering pollutants out of the water and help provide suitable habitat for fish, invertebrates, and other shellfish

Oysters have an irregularly shaped shell that contains the inner body, also known as meat. While many people are aware of the famous aphrodisiac properties of oysters, they are also very nutritious and can provide health benefits.

This article discusses the nutritional value of oysters, their health benefits, and any potential risks and problems associated with eating them.

According to the Department of Agriculture, 100 grams of raw Pacific oysters contain:

  • Calories: 81 kilocalories
  • proteins: 9,45 г
  • fats: 2,30 г
  • carbohydrates: 4,95 г
  • zinc: 16.6 milligrams (mg)
  • copper: 1.58 mg or 176% of the human daily value (DV)
  • vitamin B12: 16 mcg (667% of the daily value)
  • iron: 5.11 mg (28% of the daily value)
  • magnesium: 22 mg (5% of the daily value)
  • potassium: 168 mg (4% of the daily value)
  • selenium: 77 mcg (140% of the daily value)

Health benefits

Oysters are nutritious and contain many vitamins and minerals that can provide health benefits. Here are some examples:

Protein: Oysters are a high source of protein and relatively low in calories, which means they help people feel full. Studies show that a diet high in protein can help reduce obesity. Protein is present in every cell, and getting enough of it is vital for maintaining healthy muscles, bones, and tissues.

Zinc: supports several bodily functions, such as immunity, wound healing, and growth and development. The substance also plays a role in sexual function, which is why many people consider oysters an aphrodisiac.

Vitamin B12: A B vitamin that is important for nerve tissue health, brain function, and red blood cell production. When levels of this vitamin are low, people can experience nerve damage and fatigue.

Omega-3 fatty acids: evidence from a reliable source suggests that these fatty acids may play a role in heart health, brain function, and growth and development. They also have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Iron: This mineral is vital for the proper functioning of hemoglobin in the blood. It is also an important reliable source for growth, neurological development, and the production of certain hormones. Further research suggests that low iron levels may contribute to sexual dissatisfaction, again indicating a possible sexual benefit.

Magnesium: This mineral has many functions in the body, including muscle and nerve function, regulating blood pressure, and supporting the immune system.

Potassium: An important macromineral that supports key processes in the body, such as kidney, heart, muscle, and nervous system function.

Selenium: An important trace mineral that plays a key role in thyroid function and metabolism. It also has antioxidant properties that may help protect against cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline.

Risks and concerns

While oysters can bring many health benefits, they can also cause some potential problems, such as

Shellfish allergies: Although crustacean allergies are more common than shellfish, people can still experience allergic reactions after eating oysters. Symptoms can vary from person to person and may include vomiting, abdominal pain, and shortness of breath.

Contaminants: Oysters, especially raw oysters, can contain contaminants such as harmful bacteria. For example, they can contain Vibrio bacteria, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and, in some cases, severe illness. Cooking them properly can kill harmful bacteria.

Mineral toxicity: Oysters are rich in many important minerals. Although toxicity is more likely with additives, eating too many oysters can also cause similar negative health effects if people consume too much zinc and selenium, according to an earlier study.

How to cook

People can cook oysters in a variety of ways, such as steaming, boiling, frying, broiling, and baking. When ordering from a restaurant or cooking at home, it is important to make sure that the person cooks them completely before eating.

Although some people like to eat raw oysters, it can be dangerous. Eating raw or undercooked oysters can put people at risk of foodborne illness. Oysters that contain bacteria usually do not differ in appearance, smell, or taste from other harmless oysters. Therefore, proper cooking is the only way to kill harmful bacteria.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) page provides the following instructions for safe oyster cooking. Discard any shellfish with open shells before cooking. Cook the oysters until the shells open.

Either continue to cook the oysters for another 3-5 minutes or add them to a steamer and cook for another 4-9 minutes.

Eat only oysters that open during cooking and discard those that do not open completely after cooking. Alternatively, the following cooking methods can be considered for peeled oysters

  • fry the oysters in oil for at least 3 minutes at 190.5°C
  • fry on fire for 3 minutes
  • bake at 232.2 ° C for 10 minutes

How to include in the diet

People can incorporate oysters into their diet in many different ways. Some options may include:

  • leeks, celery, and oyster stock
  • Rockefeller oysters
  • oysters with bacon
  • poached oysters in red wine sauce
  • grilled oysters with parmesan cheese
  • risotto with oysters
  • oysters in beer batter
  • oyster casserole with champagne
  • oysters with spinach
  • oysters covered with chili pepper with red onion salsa
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Written by Emma Miller

I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and own a private nutrition practice, where I provide one-on-one nutritional counseling to patients. I specialize in chronic disease prevention/ management, vegan/ vegetarian nutrition, pre-natal/ postpartum nutrition, wellness coaching, medical nutrition therapy, and weight management.

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