Newsletter Signup | Subscribe to Magazine

The wonderful health benefits of oysters

By Dr. Kristie Thompson

Most people either love them or hate them. There’s little in between when it comes to a taste for oysters.

While the pearl oyster is renowned for producing beautiful natural and cultured pearls, other oysters are notable for their distinctive taste and texture when boiled, steamed, fried, or enjoyed on the half shell. Some people avoid eating oysters because of their high cholesterol content. Despite this, these sea creatures do have some positive nutritional properties. What are the health benefits of oysters?

THEY’RE LOW IN FAT & CALORIES

Despite the perception that oysters are high in cholesterol, they actually contain only around 50 mg of cholesterol per serving, which is well within the recommendation of less than 300 mg per day. Plus, six medium oysters have only one gram of saturated fat and 57 calories. With this type of profile, oysters can be enjoyed in moderation by almost everyone.

THEY’RE HIGH IN PROTEIN

Oysters are a decent source of low fat protein with six medium oysters containing about six grams of protein. The protein found in oysters is high in quality and is usually easier to digest than land-based forms of protein such as chicken and beef.

THEY’RE HIGH IN ZINC

Oysters are the richest source of zinc of any food around. Zinc plays an important role in wound healing and in maintaining a healthy immune system. It also may help to prevent night blindness. Zinc deficiencies are common in alcoholics and people with kidney disease. Oysters are also a good source of other minerals including calcium, magnesium, and iron.

A GOOD SOURCE OF VITAMINS

Oysters are a good source of vitamins including vitamins A, B, C, and D. Seafood is one of the few natural dietary sources of vitamin D, a vitamin that’s showing new promise for disease prevention.

WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD ABOUT OYSTERS

Oysters are relatively high in sodium making them a poor choice for people with heart disease or hypertension. They also may contain a bacteria called Vibrio that can cause illness when oysters are eaten raw, particularly in those with a weakened immune system. The best way to reduce this risk is to broil or grill them until well-done. They’re also not a good source of omega-3’s as are some seafoods.

The bottom line? Well-cooked oysters are a healthy source of protein for those who don’t have to watch their salt intake. Plus, they may have the added benefit of spicing up your sex life!