8 Wonderful Benefits of Oysters

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

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Oysters are delicious mollusks that provide the human body with a number of unique nutrients and minerals. Health benefits include the ability of oysters to aid in weight loss, boost metabolic activity, increase tissue repair and growth, lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, improve immune functions, aid in wound healing, and promote healthy growth. Furthermore, they are known to be a powerful aphrodisiac, and also increase bone strength to reduce osteoporosis.

What are Oysters

Oysters are a type of bivalve mollusks that are eaten by cultures throughout the world. There are multiple varieties of oysters, some of which primarily create pearls; these are not typically consumed by people, but the variety of oysters bearing the scientific family name of Ostreidae are eaten as a delicacy. These are also called true oysters, while feathered oysters (those bearing pearls) are in a distant family called Pteriidae. Edible oysters have been a part of the human diet for at least 700 years, but have likely been eaten in raw or cooked forms for much longer. The edible component is the meat inside the oyster, and once the shells have been cracked, you can cook this meat in a variety of ways. They can also be eaten raw and are often preferred in that way.

The valves in oysters can actually cleanse the entire ecosystem of pollutants and are a major benefit to the environment. However, in recent years, the population of oysters in the world has dropped significantly, resulting in weaker overall ecosystems in the areas where oysters once flourished. This drop in population has been caused by invasive species and general environmental decline. This has made them even more of a delicacy and the price has significantly increased around the world.

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

Nutrition Facts

Mollusks, oyster, eastern, cooked, breaded and fried
Serving Size :
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. In fact, certain minerals are in their highest content in oysters, particularly zinc. According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, oysters include 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, omega-3 fatty acids, and water. 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 Powers

Known as an aphrodisiac, oysters are thought to help boost sexual performance and libido, primarily in men. The zinc content of oyster is very high, as more than 1500% of the daily requirements of this essential mineral in a single serving! Zinc has also been closely linked to sexual dysfunction in men, while impotence and erectile dysfunction are closely associated with zinc deficiency. It is also beneficial for embryonic development in women.

Weight Loss

Oysters represent one of the most nutrient-packed foods with the lowest calories as compared with the volume of serving size. This means that people trying to lose weight can keep their body packed with the nutrients it needs, without adding too much weight. Consider a food such as chicken breasts, often turned to for low-calorie, protein-rich meals; compared to an equal serving size of a chicken, oysters have nearly half the calories! Oysters are far superior in this respect, but it must be noted that they do have a high content of sodium. So for people suffering from elevated blood pressure or hypertension, oysters may exacerbate the problem.

Good Source of Protein

Proteins are an essential part of our diet, of which oysters are a very strong source. Proteins are often broken down by the body’s enzymatic activity and then reconstructed into usable human proteins. This ensures proper metabolic activity, tissue repair, cellular growth, muscle strength, and a wide variety of necessary aspects of human health. The importance of protein in the diet cannot be overstated, and a single serving of oysters provides nearly 1/3 of the daily requirement.

Protect Heart Health

Oysters can positively impact heart health in a variety of ways, but primarily with their high levels of omega-3 fatty acids versus omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids, known as “good” forms of cholesterol (HDL cholesterol), along with the high ratio of “good” to “bad” (LDL cholesterol, omega-6 fatty acids). They can reduce the content of bad cholesterol in the bloodstream and inhibit it from binding to the blood vessels and artery walls. In this way, the chances of plaque accumulation are minimized and a variety of health complications, including cardiovascular diseases.

Furthermore, the high potassium and magnesium content of oysters can help some lower blood pressure and relax the blood vessels, thereby increasing circulation and oxygenation of the blood and reducing strain on the cardiovascular system. Finally, vitamin E in oysters helps increase the strength and flexibility of cellular membranes, which is the third level of protection against dangerous heart diseases.

Speed up Healing

Oysters have unprecedented levels of zinc, as per the Journal of The American Dietetic Association. This results in a number of health benefits, including faster wound healing rates and a boosted immune system against various infections and microbes. This essential mineral is also important for 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 also an impressive source of iron, according to a study referenced in the Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada. They contribute to more than 90% of our daily requirements in each serving. 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.

Also, with a fresh supply of healthy blood cells in the circulatory system, organ systems have high levels of oxygenated blood to stimulate their activity, making them function efficiently and boosting the overall metabolic rate of the body.

Health benefits of oysters infographic

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

Promote Healthy Bones

The mineral content, as we’ve explained, is quite impressive in oysters, and is also a major contributor to the strength of your bones. The high levels of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium contribute in their own way to increase the bone mineral density and durability, thereby protecting you from developing conditions like osteoporosis. According to one study published in Elsevier’s journal: Bone and Mineral oyster shell electrolyte may improve osteoporosis by providing a readily available source of calcium.

Boost Immune Function

The vitamin C and vitamin E content, as well as various minerals that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, are able to defend the body against free radicals that are byproducts of cellular metabolism. They can attack healthy cells and mutate the DNA into cancerous cells. These dangerous free radicals cause heart diseases, premature aging, and general body disrepair wherever they lodge themselves. Antioxidants and various vitamins can eliminate these free radicals from the body, thereby boosting the immune system.

Word of Caution:

Since they absorb many of the nutrients from the areas where they grow, it is possible that some oysters may contain pollutants and toxins, so only eat the ones that are bought from a trusted source.

Furthermore, since the mineral content is so high in them, it is possible to suffer from toxicity or mineral overdose, particularly of zinc, copper, selenium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.

Iron toxicity can result in hemochromatosis, which is a very dangerous condition. All things should be consumed in moderation, even vitamins and minerals, so keep your intake of oysters at a healthy, moderate level.

Furthermore, the high sodium content can be dangerous for people already at high risk of heart disease or high blood pressure, so oysters should be used as preventive measures for heart conditions, rather than treatments.

Moreover, allergies to shellfish are not uncommon, and the reactions can be severe. Oysters are considered shellfish, so any past allergic experience should be taken into account.

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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