Packed with vitamin B12, zinc, copper and selenium, oysters are a powerhouse of nutrition. They're low in calories and carbs, taste amazing and take minutes to cook. Their aphrodisiac qualities have been known since ancient times — that's reason enough to give them a try. Smoked oysters are healthy too, but they have some drawbacks you should be aware of.
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Smoked oysters are rich in selenium, a mineral that supports thyroid health and protects against cancer. They also contain more zinc than any other food.
Oyster Nutrition Facts
These mollusks are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world. They're often served with champagne, liquor, wine and other fine drinks, offering both flavor and nutrition. Their zinc content is higher than that of any other food, according to the National Institutes of Health. One serving provides nearly 500 percent of the daily recommended amount of zinc — that's 10 times more than the amount of zinc in beef.
Read more: Are Oysters Good for You?
Oysters are among the best dietary sources of vitamin B12, a nutrient that supports brain function and mental health. They're also rich in minerals, electrolytes and omega-3 essential fatty acids. Each serving, which is about six medium oysters, offers:
- 57.1 calories
- 5.9 grams of protein
- 3.3 grams of carbs
- 2.1 grams of fat
- 67 percent of the DV (daily value) of vitamin D
- 272 percent of the DV of vitamin B12
- 187 percent of the DV of copper
- 509 percent of the DV of zinc
- 76 percent of the DV of selenium
- 10 percent of the DV of magnesium
- 31 percent of the DV of iron
- 11 percent of the DV of phosphorus
- 565 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids
Smoked oysters are typically sold in cans. Their nutritional value depends on the ingredients used, such as olive oil and spices. In general, they're higher in sodium and more nutrient-dense. One serving of smoked oysters boasts 170 calories, 8 grams of carbs, 14 grams of protein and 10 grams of fat. Raw oysters have 117 milligrams of sodium per serving, while smoked varieties can exceed 330 milligrams.
Are Smoked Oysters Healthy?
Craving pasta with smoked oysters? What about a healthful salad with smoked oysters, cherry tomatoes, arugula and avocado? You can even enjoy some oysters between meals or before bedtime. Their flavorful meat will delight your senses and keep you full for hours.
When consumed in moderation, smoked oysters are a delicious, healthful addition to any diet. Just make sure you don't go overboard. As the American Chemical Society points out, infusing foods with smoke promotes the formation of toxic compounds that may cause cancer. Not all smoked foods pose this risk, but most of them contain low levels of carcinogens.
A 2015 research paper published in Advances in Food Technology and Nutritional Sciences states that smoked products contain harmful chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Over time, these compounds may lead to cancer, jaundice, liver damage and eye diseases, such as cataracts. They can also have short-term effects, including nausea, vomiting and digestive problems.
Fight Oxidative Stress
Oyster benefits include a stronger immune system, sexual wellness and improved cardiovascular health, among other perks. Selenium, one of the key nutrients in this mollusk, exhibits antioxidant properties. When consumed in adequate amounts, it may protect against cancer, atherosclerosis, heart disease and inflammation.
According to the National Institutes of Health, this mineral may lower the risk of cancer by up to 31 percent and cut cancer mortality risk by almost half. A 2017 review featured in the journal Metallomics indicates an inverse relationship between selenium intake and heart disease. Researchers state that selenium may help prevent atherosclerosis by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. However, more studies are needed to confirm its cardioprotective effects.
Pacific oysters contain DHMBA, a powerful antioxidant that supports liver function and protects liver cells from oxidative stress. This phenolic compound is 15 times more effective against oxidative damage than Trolox, an antioxidant derived from vitamin E, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling.
Enjoy Better Sexual Health
This delicious food has long been promoted as a natural aphrodisiac. The research is conflicting, though. According to a 2015 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, zinc — one of the most abundant minerals in oysters — supports male fertility. In clinical trials, it has been shown to increase sperm count and improve sexual dysfunction while raising testosterone levels.
Smithsonian Magazine notes that oysters may increase sexual desire due to their high content of zinc and certain amino acids. Also, they support overall health, which, in turn, may improve sexual wellness. However, this doesn't necessarily mean they're actual aphrodisiacs.
So far, we know that zinc boosts testosterone production. Both men and women produce this hormone. Women, though, have significantly lower testosterone levels than their male counterparts. As Psychology Today points out, testosterone is important for sexuality in both genders. Therefore, oysters and other foods rich in zinc may indirectly boost your libido and sexual health.
Read more: 10 Foods to Fire Up Your Love Life
Protect Your Heart
Smoked oysters are a good source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, potassium and magnesium. These nutrients promote cardiovascular health due to their beneficial effects on blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A meta-analysis of 19 studies, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2016, indicates that seafood and plant-derived omega-3s may protect against cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and coronary heart disease.
These heart-healthy fats have been shown to lower triglyceride levels, improve endothelial function and regulate blood pressure. Potassium, another important nutrient in oysters, may lower your risk of stroke, heart disease and atherosclerosis. This mineral regulates heart rate and prevents hardening of the arteries.
Read more: The 14 Best Foods for Your Heart
Oysters provide 10 percent of the daily recommended intake of magnesium per serving. This nutrient has been linked to lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. When consumed in optimal amounts, it may improve blood lipids, protect against cardiac death and reduce atherosclerotic plaque.
Potential Risks of Smoked Oysters
Raw oysters may be contaminated with Vibrio bacteria and cause foodborne infections. Smoked and cooked varieties don't pose this risk because heating destroys most pathogens. However, they do contain high amounts of zinc, which can be detrimental to your health.
Read more: Raw Oysters and Food Poisoning
Ingesting more than 200 milligrams of zinc per day may cause anemia, irritability, nausea, vomiting and digestive distress. Even smaller doses, such as 50 to 150 milligrams a day, can affect nutrient absorption, cardiac function, blood lipids and immunity in the long run. One serving of raw oysters contains 76.3 milligrams of zinc, so it's easy to go overboard. Smoked varieties have a similar nutritional value.
Oysters are chock-full of minerals and healthy fats. However, this isn't an excuse to overindulge. Enjoy them in moderation to prevent any side effects. If you're allergic to shellfish, cut them out of your diet completely.
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: Zinc
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B12
- SELFNutritionData: Raw Oysters
- Eat This Much: Smoked Oysters
- American Chemical Society: Smoked Foods Are Tastier, Less Harmful With a Tip From the Auto Industry
- Advances in Food Technology and Nutritional Sciences: Comparison of Health Risks of Smoked Foods as Compared to Smoke Flavorings: Are Smoke Flavors “Healthier”?
- Illinois Department of Public Health: Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
- Journal of Pharmacovigilance: Selenium: The Biological Role and Antioxidant Activity
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements: Selenium
- Metallomics: Selenium in the Prevention of Atherosclerosis and Its Underlying Mechanisms
- ScienceDirect: Food Chemistry: Anti-Apoptotic Effects of Novel Phenolic Antioxidant Isolated From the Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea Gigas) on Cultured Human Hepatocytes Under Oxidative Stress
- Journal of Chemical Information and Modeling: Assessing the Protective Activity of a Recently Discovered Phenolic Compound Against Oxidative Stress Using Computational Chemistry
- International Journal of Molecular Sciences: Zinc: A Necessary Ion for Mammalian Sperm Fertilization Competency
- Smithsonian.com: Are Oysters an Aphrodisiac?
- Psychology Today: Why Testosterone Is Important for Sexuality in Both Sexes
- JAMA Internal Medicine: ω-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Biomarkers and Coronary Heart Disease
- National Institutes of Health: How Too Little Potassium May Contribute to Cardiovascular Disease
- Nutrients: Dietary Magnesium and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review With Emphasis in Epidemiological Studies
- Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Vibrio Bacteria in Raw Oysters: Managing Risks to Human Health
- Patient: Zinc Excess and Zinc Toxicity
- Food Allergy Research and Education: Shellfish Allergy