Are Oysters Good for You?
Many people love oysters for their pleasant texture and briny flavor but are oysters good for you? Did you know that nutritionists consider oysters one of the top superfoods? In fact, from a nutritional standpoint, it’s hard to beat oysters as they contain more of a balanced ratio in a single serving of critical vitamins and minerals than most “super foods” and even some OTC supplements.
Anthony Ricciardone, co-founder of Admiral Shellfish Company, an aquaculture farm that produces delicious, fresh raw oysters for the premium half-shell market out of Gulf Shores, Alabama pointed out that oysters are low in calories and high in protein.
“They have omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower the risk of chronic diseases. They are packed full of Vitamins D, E, B-1, B-12, and B-3, and they contain iron and niacin that we all need daily. Compare all of these benefits to a vitamin or supplement in your medicine cabinet and you’ll see that oysters are far superior than some Ricciardone said. “They are premade to deliver everything the body needs. Research has even suggested they help explain why some ancient coastal populations had healthy and vital populations,”
Ricciardone, who has a background in pharmacy, explained that oysters also include important elements, such as potassium, selenium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and manganese. They’re also a great source of trace elements that the body needs in small amounts. All of the vitamins, minerals and trace elements contained in oysters work together to provide endless benefits for the heart, brain, immunity, skin, mood and sexual health and vitality.
Breakdown of Oyster Benefits:
- The skin receives benefits from zinc, Vitamin E and omega-3s, which improve its health and complexion
- The immune system receives a boost from zinc, Vitamin E and Vitamin C.
- Mood and energy are enhanced by B-12, zinc, Vitamin D, iron and protein.
- Brain function is helped by omega-3s, zinc and selenium.
- Heart and blood vessel function are improved with the help of Vitamin D, Vitamin C and omega-3s, which are critical. Magnesium also helps relax blood vessels and potassium helps with heart rhythm and tightness.
- Sexual health and vitality are supported by zinc, which helps with testosterone production and libido and helps produce healthy sperm and eggs. Vitamin D and Vitamin B-12 help in this area as well.
- Eye health is protected with Vitamin E and zinc, Vitamin D and B12.
Ricciardone said that out of all these vitamins and nutrients, omega-3s are perhaps the most important of the oyster benefits from a clinical standpoint.
“You hear a lot of talk about the importance of omega-3s for a healthy body. Many people will purchase and consume fish oil supplements to try to get their allotment of omega-3s, but those supplements are not all what they’re cracked up to be depending on the manufacturing quality. Some could be made with low-quality fish that may contain contaminants and heavy metals. And the plant-based supplements, such as flaxseed are not as absorbable. So, why not go right to the source for a healthy dose of omega-3s? Oysters are packed with it,” Ricciardone said.
Get the Most Out of Your Oysters
The best way to get the most health benefits from an oyster is to eat it raw and consume the liqueur it’s resting in, which contains an assortment of vitamins and minerals. If you prefer to eat cooked oysters, just know you’ll lose some of the nutritional benefits when you begin to cook them, especially if you bread them and fry them in bad fats.
You also want to consume them when they are as fresh as possible. The longer an oyster sits on the shelf, the more it will start metabolizing those healthy qualities. And, no matter what, don’t consume an oyster that’s been sitting open for a long time. Oysters don’t die until they are shucked. If the oyster shell has been sitting there open for an extended amount of time, it means the oyster has been dead for a long time as well, which creates a breeding ground for bacteria.
While oysters are extremely healthy, there are some other conditions that can make them a danger to one’s health.
First, if you’re allergic to oysters, you should definitely avoid eating them. Even if your allergy has been mild in the past, you never know when you can have a severe reaction.
Avoid Poor Oyster Quality
“Oysters that come from water that doesn’t receive as much tidal flow or that grow near a lot of human development around them can contain pollutants that can hurt the consumer. And if there’s a local red tide or toxins in the water, the oysters can contain those pollutants as well,” Ricciardone said.
“We have no industrial or residential development near us, so the area where we grow and farm our oysters is very clean,” he added.
Safer Oysters Than Ever
The Admiral Shellfish farm is located on a remote stretch of beach near Fort Morgan. The farm benefits from clean, salty tides that flush in directly from the Gulf to the shallow and sandy banks. The conditions create an ideal site for healthy year-round growth and consistent salinity that nurture an impressive crop of oysters, which are easy to shuck, have a deep cup, beautiful shell, plump meat and a clean salty liquor with a savory seafood finish.
Modern-day oyster farming and strict environmental rules and enforcement have made oysters safer to consume than ever.
“Alabama’s Department of Health has as strict regulations as any state in the country. We follow a written operation plan of what we can do and when we can do it based on the water and air temperature. These rules and regulations create a situation with way less risk than there once was. There’s been a lot of academic work and research to create a timetable and restrictions for oyster farming,” Ricciardone said.
He says the farm’s staff is trained under the state regulations and strictly follow the written procedures.
“We take steps to hold ourselves accountable with checks and balances and risk mitigations. We have a certain amount of time to get them to the processor who supplies the restaurants according to state guidelines. Of course, that differs per season. During hot summer months, we have less time than we do during the colder winter months,” Ricciardone said.
Oysters are not only a vital part of the ecosystem, filtering pollutants out of the water and providing habitats for other species, but they are highly nutritious, offering a wealth of health benefits when care is taken during their harvest and preparation.