Oyster consumption dates back thousands of years, and oysters have long been an important food source for many people living in coastal areas. Oysters are natural sources of a variety of essential nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be made in the body, so consuming foods rich in these healthy fats is necessary.
Oysters provide vitamins, minerals, protein and essential fatty acids. Three ounces of Pacific oysters provide more than 1 g of omega-3 fatty acids. The Linus Pauling Institute notes that the same serving size contains 0.75 g of EPA and 0.43 g of DHA, naturally occurring fatty acids. Three ounces of oysters are similar to the size and shape of a deck of cards. The vitamins naturally present in oysters include water-soluble B-vitamins and vitamins A, D and E. Zinc, copper, magnesium, iron and iodine are the minerals found in oysters. Oysters also are a high-protein food source that is low in saturated fat.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a class of polyunsaturated fats that are necessary for many vital functions. Types of omega-3 found in many different foods include eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA, docosahexaenoic Acid or DHA, and alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. The body requires polyunsaturated fats for proper brain function, growth and development. Omega-3 fats also play roles in normal vision, nervous system and cell function. In addition to promoting good health, omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association notes that regular consumption of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with heart health.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming fish at least twice a week. Fatty fish and shellfish, like oysters, are natural sources of EPA and DHA. Other shellfish that provide omega-3 include shrimp, clams and scallops. In addition to oysters, omega-3 is found in seeds, nuts and oily fish such as sardines, salmon, trout, cod and tuna. Adult men and women may consume 1.1 to 1.6 g of omega-3 fatty acids daily, notes the Linus Pauling Institute. Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid fish and shellfish with high levels of mercury. The AHA recommends only 12 ounces or three to four servings of low-mercury fish and shellfish per week for pregnant or nursing women. Healthy individuals may consume up to 14 ounces of low-mercury fish and shellfish per week.
Fish and shellfish contain levels of mercury, PCBs and other contaminants. Most fish and shellfish, including oysters, contain low levels of contaminants and are considered safe. Large predatory fish and mammals that contain high levels of mercury include king mackerel, tile fish, swordfish and shark. Oysters should be properly stored. When preparing oysters, always keep them separate from other foods to prevent cross-contamination. Oysters can be enjoyed grilled, oven-roasted, fried or baked.