10 Wonderful Benefits of Oysters

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

Oysters were once prized for their aphrodisiac properties. But we now know that their health benefits go far beyond it. Oysters contain many essential vitamins and minerals which make them very beneficial for us. Health benefits include the ability of oysters to aid in weight loss, increase bone strength, improve heart health, boost immunity, aid in wound healing, and promote healthy growth. They are known to be a powerful aphrodisiac, and also increase bone strength to reduce osteoporosis.

What are Oysters?

Oysters are a common name for a variety of bivalve mollusks found in marine or brackish waters. Some oysters are harvested for their pearls, some for their translucent shells. In this article, we will discuss a variety of oysters that are eaten. Also known as true oysters, these oysters fall under the family Ostreidae. Edible oysters have been a part of the human diet for at least 700 years, eaten both raw and cooked. The edible component is the meat inside the oyster. Oysters are considered a delicacy.

Fresh oysters served with ice and lemon on a white plate and kept on a wooden table

Fresh oysters served on a bed of ice Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Oysters are a keystone species that provide habitat to many other species. They also help in filtering feeders, improving the quality and clarity of the water.

Nutrition Facts

Mollusks, oyster, eastern, cooked, breaded and fried
Serving Size :
NutrientValue
Water [g]64.72
Energy [kcal]199
Energy [kJ]832
Protein [g]8.77
Total lipid (fat) [g]12.58
Ash [g]1.72
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]11.62
Calcium, Ca [mg]62
Iron, Fe [mg]6.95
Magnesium, Mg [mg]58
Phosphorus, P [mg]159
Potassium, K [mg]244
Sodium, Na [mg]417
Zinc, Zn [mg]87.13
Copper, Cu [mg]4.29
Manganese, Mn [mg]0.49
Selenium, Se [µg]66.5
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]3.8
Thiamin [mg]0.15
Riboflavin [mg]0.2
Niacin [mg]1.65
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.27
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.06
Folate, total [µg]31
Folic acid [µg]17
Folate, food [µg]14
Folate, DFE [µg]43
Vitamin B-12 [µg]15.63
Vitamin A, RAE [µg]90
Vitamin A, IU [IU]302
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]3.2
14:0 [g]0.15
16:0 [g]1.91
18:0 [g]1.11
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]4.7
16:1 [g]0.09
18:1 [g]4.44
20:1 [g]0.06
22:1 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]3.31
18:2 [g]2.44
18:3 [g]0.16
18:4 [g]0.09
20:4 [g]0.07
20:5 n-3 (EPA) [g]0.2
22:5 n-3 (DPA) [g]0.05
22:6 n-3 (DHA) [g]0.22
Cholesterol [mg]71
Tryptophan [g]0.11
Threonine [g]0.37
Isoleucine [g]0.4
Leucine [g]0.64
Lysine [g]0.58
Methionine [g]0.2
Cystine [g]0.13
Phenylalanine [g]0.35
Tyrosine [g]0.29
Valine [g]0.41
Arginine [g]0.59
Histidine [g]0.18
Alanine [g]0.49
Aspartic acid [g]0.78
Glutamic acid [g]1.5
Glycine [g]0.49
Proline [g]0.47
Serine [g]0.43
Sources include : USDA

Oyster Nutrition Facts

The impressive health benefits of oysters come from their vast stockpiles of minerals, vitamins, and organic compounds. It is rich in certain essential trace minerals like zinc and selenium. According to the USDA, an oyster contains high levels of protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium.
They also provide other B-vitamins, including niacin, riboflavin, and thiamin, in addition to vitamin C, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium. Finally, they are a huge source of beneficial (good) cholesterol, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids. These elements make them extremely healthy food that can boost your body’s overall function and health.

Health Benefits of Oysters

Let’s examine some of these health benefits in greater detail.

Aphrodisiac

It was Giacomo Casanova who gave oyster its legendary reputation as an aphrodisiac. The Italian adventurer credited oysters with his libido and energy. And while we may take his exploits with a pinch of salt, his belief in oysters may have a hefty grain of truth. Research now tells us that oysters may indeed help boost sexual performance and libido, thanks to high zinc content. Zinc is also associated with sexual dysfunction in men, with impotence and erectile dysfunction believed to be caused due to zinc deficiency. It is also beneficial for embryonic development in women.

You can find more options with our article on 10 Science-Backed Foods That Boost Sex Drive.

Rich in Zinc

Most of us get our zinc from red meat and poultry. However, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food. At a little 8.31 mg per oyster, just a couple of medium-sized raw oysters can more than meet your daily zinc requirement (8 mg for women and 11 mg for men). As a source of zinc, oysters are also a healthier alternative than the more common meat products. Zinc is associated with multiple health benefits, including a healthy reproductive system as explained above. Other benefits include better immunity, wound healing, and protection from age-related loss of vision.

Weight Loss

Oyster is one of the most nutrient-packed food with a low-calorie count when compared with serving sizes. For instance, a 100 gm of grilled chicken breast contains 176 calories, while a 100 gm of canned oysters contains 74 calories. The fat content is less than half. In other words, it is ideal for people who want to lose weight healthily. However, one must keep in mind that they have a high sodium content. So mind your consumption if you are suffering from elevated blood pressure or hypertension.

Healthy Protein Source

Oysters may not be as high as animal products like chicken in their protein content, but they are a significantly healthier option. The trouble with many protein-rich animal foods, such as meat, is that it also tends to be high in fats. Oysters, on the other hand, are full of healthy fats. 6 medium oysters (88gm) will give you about 8g of protein. A 2019 article in Washington Post pointed out that as protein sources, oysters and sardines score the highest in healthy fats.

Oysters are also a more environment-friendly option. Studies have shown that oyster harvesting involves no additional greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, it helps in purifying the water in its habitat.

Heart Health

Oysters are beneficial for our heart health in more than one way, but primarily due to their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are known as good forms of cholesterol. They help in maintaining heart rate, lowering blood pressure, improving blood vessel function, and easing inflammation.

The high potassium and magnesium content of oysters add to its heart benefits. They help lower blood pressure and relax the blood vessels. This helps in increasing circulation, oxygenation of the blood, and reducing strain on the cardiovascular system. Finally, vitamin E in oysters is also known for its cardioprotective properties, particularly for people with chronic diseases like diabetes.

Speed up Healing

The high zinc content makes oysters particularly important in wound care. Zinc is critical for our body’s ability to heal itself, including faster wound healing rates and a boosted immune system against various infections and microbes. This essential mineral is also important for the proper growth and development of children and adults, as well as the maintenance of bodily function for people of all ages.

Increase Blood Circulation

Oysters are a good source of iron, according to a study referenced in the Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada. Iron in 100 gm of oysters can range around 6 mg. This is close to the daily requirement of 8 mg for postmenopausal women and men. Premenopausal women need almost double the quantity. Iron is a key component in the formation of red blood cells in the body. It is the primary defense against anemia, also known as iron deficiency, which can lead to fatigue, cognitive malfunction, stomach disorders, and general muscle weakness.

A fresh supply of healthy blood cells in the circulatory system ensures that the organ systems have high levels of oxygenated blood to stimulate their activity. This ensures their efficient functioning and improvement of the body’s overall metabolic rate.

Health benefits of oysters infographic

Oysters are a type of bivalve mollusks that are eaten by cultures throughout the world.

Promote Healthy Bones

As explained above, oysters are rich in minerals, which help in strengthening bones. The high levels of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium contribute in their own way to increase bone mineral density and durability, protecting you from developing conditions like osteoporosis. A 2019 animal study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology found that food products fortified with oyster shells could prevent and treat osteoporosis. This also holds for products with the fermented oyster extract.

Contains Unique Antioxidants

Oysters contain a unique antioxidant, named 3,5-Dihydroxy-4-methoxybenzyl alcohol or DHMBA. Various studies have shown that it is a powerful phenolic compound that benefits our health in multiple ways. A study published in the journal The Biological Bulletin showed that zinc and DHMBA in oysters helped in the proper functioning of the glutamatergic neuron activity which helps the memory and learning functions in the brain. It can also protect the liver against oxidative stress.

Oysters also contain selenium, a trace mineral that is often lacking in our diet. Studies have shown its antioxidant properties. Selenium deficiency has been linked to increased chances of chronic health conditions like heart diseases. It has emerged as the key nutrient which prevents HIV from developing into AIDS.

Boost Immune Function

Oysters contain some vital vitamins and minerals that are essential for our body’s immune system. It is rich in zinc and selenium that play a critical role in maintaining an optimal immune system. While selenium has powerful antioxidant properties, zinc helps in fighting against pathogens. Apart from containing vital vitamins like vitamin C and D, oysters are rich in vitamin B12, which is extremely important in maintaining our immune system.

How To Eat Oyster?

Eating your first oyster as it comes in its bed of ice can be intimidating. One never quite knows what to do with the pale flesh in its shell. Relax. Eating an oyster is simple. Just take the shell, use your fork to loosen the flesh, and tilt it in your mouth using the wider end. But do not just gulp it down, as some people may suggest. Chew the flesh and let its fresh flavors flood your mouth. Oysters are usually eaten raw and purists prefer to eat them as they are. But they also come with accompaniments like lemon, mignonette, or a red wine sauce. You can add a tiny squeeze or spoonful to the shell just before eating. Remember never to add too much.

While oysters are typically eaten raw, they are also delicious when cooked. You can steam, grill, broil, roast, or fry them. Learn more about How To Cook Oysters & 5 Easy Recipes.

Word of Caution:

Oysters may be beneficial for your health, but there are some concerns that you should be aware of:

  • Since they absorb many of the nutrients from the areas where they grow, some oysters may contain pollutants and toxins, so only eat the ones that are bought from a trusted source.
  • Raw or undercooked oysters can put you at risk of infections, according to the CDC. This includes vibriosis. Effects can range from diarrhea to limb amputation and fatality.
  • Raw oysters are not recommended for children, people with low immunity, pregnant or breast-feeding women.
    Oysters contain a very high amount of minerals like selenium and zinc, which are required by the body only in trace amounts. Excess consumption of zinc over a period of time can cause zinc toxicity. However, there is no evidence of zinc toxicity caused by dietary consumption of zinc.
  • Oysters are high in their sodium content. So, keep your consumption in check if you have a heart condition. Keep in mind that canned and cooked oysters may have higher sodium content.

Eat them responsibly as a delicacy and a treat every once in a while, and you can enjoy the vast wealth of health benefits they have to offer, and you can help your depleted mineral levels as well!

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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