Oysters have long made up a part of the American diet -- they've been consumed in Maine for thousands of years, according to the Maine Sea Grant -- and they have a place in a balanced meal plan. They contain several nutrients, especially minerals, that your body needs for good health. However, oysters are best consumed sparingly, because they have a few major nutritional drawbacks. Avoid them entirely if you suffer from seafood allergies.
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High in Protein
Eating oysters boosts your protein intake without significantly boosting your fat consumption. A 6-ounce portion of raw Pacific oysters contains 16 grams of protein, which contributes approximately 27 percent toward the daily protein intake recommended for the average 150-pound person. Getting enough protein in your diet is important because your body needs it for tissue repair, immune function and hormone synthesis. Oysters contain just 4 grams of fat per serving, with less than a gram coming from saturated fat.
Packed with Minerals
Oysters come loaded with essential minerals. A single 6-ounce portion of oysters contains 28 milligrams of zinc, 9 milligrams of iron and 131 micrograms of selenium -- significantly more than the amount you need each day to maintain your health. All three minerals activate proteins important for healthy cell function, and zinc also fights disease by promoting immune system health. Because of their extremely high zinc content, however, consume oysters in moderation to prevent an accidental overdose.
Eating oysters benefits your health by boosting your vitamin intake. A serving of oysters provides a considerable amount of vitamin C -- 13.6 milligrams, which is 15 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 18 percent for women. This vitamin activates coenzymes your body needs to make norepinephrine -- a chemical essential for nerve function -- and fights cardiovascular disease. The vitamin B-12 abundant in oysters also supports nerve function, and it might combat cancer development. Each 6-ounce portion of oysters provides more than 10 times your daily B-12 requirement.
Potential Health Concerns
In addition to the risk of shellfish allergies or accidental zinc overdose, oysters pose a potential health risk because of their moderately high cholesterol content. A 6-ounce serving contains 85 milligrams of cholesterol. This makes up 28 percent of the daily cholesterol limit, or 43 percent of the limit for those who already have heart disease or high cholesterol. The cholesterol from your diet has a moderate effect on your blood cholesterol, and people sensitive to dietary cholesterol can experience a significant blood cholesterol increase after eating cholesterol-rich foods.
- Stanford School of Medicine: Food Allergy FAQ - Symptoms, Testing and Therapies
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Mollusks, Oyster, Pacific, Raw
- Oklahoma State University: Protein in the Body
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Copper
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Selenium
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Zinc
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin B-12
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- Colorado State University Extension: Dietary Fat and Cholesterol
- Maine Sea Grant: For Sparkle, Just Add Oysters