Oysters are bivalve (having two shells) mollusks that are related to clams, mussels, and scallops. They may be served raw, usually sitting on one shell, or smoked, baked, or as the featured ingredient in oyster stew. Oysters are harvested from both Pacific and Atlantic waters.
Oysters might be a superfood that's good for your health and may even make you feel sexier (and some say it's a aphrodisiac). They're an excellent source of zinc, which your body needs for hundreds of different biochemical processes to occur.
A serving of oysters is also a good source of calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B-12.
One serving is equal to six medium raw oysters or three ounces of canned oysters:
- 43 to 58 calories
- 4.8 to 6.0 grams protein
- 1.44 to 2.10 grams fat
- 38 to 50 milligrams calcium
- 3.87 to 5.7 milligrams iron
- 15 to 46 milligrams magnesium
- 131 to 195 milligrams potassium
- 33 to 77 milligrams zinc
- 7.35 to 16.3 micrograms vitamin B12
Selecting and Serving Oysters
Choose fresh oysters that have been harvested and processed according to safety guidelines (look for a tag on containers or sacks of oysters). Throw away any oysters that have broken shells, and tap any open shells with your finger. A live oyster should close its shell when you tap it. If it doesn't close, then throw it away.
Fresh oysters should be refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower until you serve them or use them in a recipe. When you cook fresh oysters, the shells should open up. Discard any oysters that remain closed.
Healthy Recipes and Tips
- Oyster Cooking Tips
- Oyster Selection and Storage
- Fish Broth with Oysters and Saffron
- Garlic Parmesan Oyster Casserole
Generally, raw oysters are safe to eat, but just as with the consumption of any type of raw fish or seafood, there is the possibility for food-borne illness. Raw oysters may be contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus, which is a bacteria related to cholera. Oysters harvested in warm waters, like the Gulf Coast of the southern United States, are more likely to be infected with the bacteria than oysters harvested from colder water.
Eating raw oysters also puts you at risk for contracting hepatitis A.
A healthy person who ingests the bacteria may suffer from abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. The infection may be much more serious in a person who has liver disease or is immunocompromised, because the bacteria can get into the bloodstream and cause septicemia, which is fatal about 50 percent of the time.
If you've been told not the consume raw oysters, you must avoid them. The only way to kill the bacteria is through cooking. There are myths that adding lots of hot sauce or drinking alcohol while you eat raw oysters will kill the bacteria, but those rumors are not true.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Vibrio Vulnificus." Accessed February 13, 2012. http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/vibriov/.
United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24. "Nutrient data for 15170, Mollusks, oyster, eastern, canned." Accessed February 13, 2012. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/4609.
United States Department of Agriculture, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 24. "Nutrient data for 15167, Mollusks, oyster, eastern, wild, raw." Accessed February 13, 2012. http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/4606.
United States Food and Drug Administration. "Fresh and Frozen Seafood: Selecting and Serving it Safely." Accessed February 13, 2012. http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/Consumers/ucm077331.htm.
United States Food and Drug Administration. "Letter to Health Professionals Regarding the Risk of Vibrio vulnificus Septicemia Associated with the Consumption of Raw Oysters." Accessed February 13, 2012. http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/HealthCareProfessionals/ucm122277.htm.
United States Food and Drug Administration. "Raw Oyster Myths." Accessed February 13, 2012. http://www.fda.gov/Food/ResourcesForYou/HealthEducators/ucm085385.htm.