You already know that oysters are delicious, but did you know that these bivalve mollusks are also incredibly nutritious? Here are a few great reasons to make them a part of your diet.
Note: This story uses nutrition information for Pacific oysters, but there may be some slight variations between Atlantic and Pacific, as well as between wild and farmed varieties.
Vitamins And Minerals In Oysters
Oysters are a great source of lean protein—a medium raw oyster generally provides four to five grams of it. A three-ounce portion (about six medium oysters) provides about 15 grams of protein and only about 50 calories. Aside from the fact that protein is the building block of all kinds of body tissues like bones, cartilage, skin and muscles, it also helps you feel full. If you're looking to keep calories in check but still want to feel satisfied, oysters are a great option.
Zinc is a vitally important mineral that aids in the activity of over 300 different enzymes and supports a wide range of body processes such as growth and development, wound healing and immune system function, and a three-ounce serving provides over 94% of your daily needs. Oysters' zinc content is also part of why they're considered an aphrodisiac as the nutrient plays a role in male fertility by aiding in testosterone production.
Vitamin B-12 is an important nutrient for supporting regular nerve and brain function, and it also plays a role in supporting DNA and red blood cell production. This is why, when levels are low, someone may feel tired or experience issues like tingling in their hands and feet or experience brain fog. A three-ounce serving of oysters provide more than double your daily recommended vitamin B-12 needs.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Salmon gets most of the airtime when it comes to heart-health, but oysters should get some of the attention because they're a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which plays a key role in brain function as well as normal growth and development. Omega-3's are also important for supporting stable mental and emotional health and may have a role in managing depression. Beyond that, the anti-inflammatory impact of omega-3s has been shown to benefit the body in other ways. For example, studies have shown it may help offset the impact of stress hormone cortisol. A three-ounce serving of oysters provides about 629 milligrams. Also, wild species generally are a bit higher in omega-3s than farmed, so consider opting for wild oysters if you're looking to up your intake.
Iron is a mineral that's important for maintaining stable energy levels by helping transport oxygen through the blood to the different organs and tissues in the body. This is another reason oysters are thought to have an aphrodisiac effect—those benefits to blood circulation certainly translate very well in the bedroom. A three-ounce service provides 24% of your daily needs.
Magnesium And Potassium
Magnesium and potassium are both minerals that support healthy muscle and nerve function. Having adequate amounts of both are also important for heart health by promoting healthy blood pressure. Six medium oysters provide roughly 5% of your daily magnesium needs and 4% of your daily potassium needs.
Selenium is a trace element that plays a role in DNA synthesis, thyroid hormone production, reproduction and immune system function. It's been shown to be a powerful antioxidant. It turns out oysters are a great way to cover your bases. A three-ounce serving provides 93% of your daily needs.
How to Enjoy The Health Benefits Of Oysters
To reap those nutritional benefits, enjoy oysters raw, steamed, broiled or baked, but go easy on the bread crumbs and butter. Deep-frying oysters, while delicious, essentially negates those health benefits by introducing extra calories and carbs to the equation along with unhealthy trans fats, depending on the cooking oil used. Rich, creamy oyster stews can also make it easy to overdo it without noticing. While these more caloric versions need not be completely off-limits, know that they're best enjoyed as a very occasional indulgence.
Aside from being delicious, oysters offer a range of nutritional benefits and have a place in a healthy, balanced diet. If you have a medical condition that impacts your nutrient needs or if you need to be extra careful about preventing foodborne illness, talk to your healthcare provider for guidance on what a safe amount of oysters are for you and appropriate preparation methods.