Five Reasons to Eat Oysters and One Reason Not To

Oysters are one of the world’s most triumphant delicacies.  Enjoy them for any reason, especially because…

…they filled the emptiness of our beloved Hem.

“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.” —Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast

Emergence of advertising in America"Oysters and How to Cook Them: 100 Delicious Meals at One Half the Cost of Meat." (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Emergence of advertising in America
“Oysters and How to Cook Them: 100 Delicious Meals at One Half the Cost of Meat.” (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

…of their historical significance.

Archaeologist’s discoveries show that oysters were eaten on the Swedish west coast during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. They were beloved by Vikings, a favorite of Medieval kings and queens, and of Napoleon. Oyster cultivation was a favorite pastime of the Romans who sent thousands of slaves to the English Channel to harvest them. They then realized that oyster beds were far closer to home – at the mouth of the Adriatic Sea and coasts in the Mediterranean.

…of their undeniable sex appeal.

Oysters are one of the world’s most famous aphrodisiacs and have long been linked with love. The myth of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, has her springing forth from the sea perched on the open edge of an oyster shell. She then gave birth to Eros who would become the god of love. Casanova – one of history’s greatest memoirists and famed 18th century lover, was fabled to have eaten 50 oysters every day for breakfast. American and Italian scientists proved in 2005 that oysters trigger increased levels of sex hormones. But, if oysters really had the ability to accelerate sex appeal, they would have been extinct a long time ago, don’t you think?  Anyway, they are still delicious.

Aphrodite Coming Out of an Oyster Shell

The Goddess Aphrodite, coming out of an oyster shell

…of their healthy virtues and nutritional value.

Raw oysters are one of the best examples of completely balanced nutrition that is found in one place – 23 percent carbohydrates, 33 percent fat and 44 percent protein. Oysters are like a multi-vitamin from the sea – rich with Omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, iodine, selenium, vitamin D, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.

Zinc heals wounds and increase sperm production in men. Selenium strengthens the immune system and fights free radicals, slowing the aging process. Vitamin D helps with bone strength, boosts the body’s ability to absorb minerals, and acts as a messenger bringing calcium and phosphorus into the intestine. It also prevents the flu and depression.  Phosphorus metabolizes fat and processes carbohydrates into energy.

A plate of freshly shucked oysters and lemon wedges.

Freshly shucked oysters from Croatia’s Peljesac Peninsula, famous for its wine and oyster harvesting culture

…they might bring you luck. 

It is said that eating oysters will bring luck if eaten as the first meal of the Chinese or Lunar New Year.  Oysters bring good, tofu brings happiness, and sausage brings a long life and the three should be eaten together. Kind of a strange combination – you might consider coursing it out. 
"Always Fresh, Received Daily!" Oyster illustration. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

“Always Fresh, Received Daily!” Oyster illustration. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

And the one reason perhaps to not eat an oyster 
is that there are s
ignificant risks when eating any raw creature and raw oysters are no different. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) report that seafood cause somewhere between 18 percent and 20 percent of known foodborne illnesses cases each year (but such risks also come with  meat, vegetables, and dairy.)  So, just like you take precautions with other foods, know to look for:
  • Oysters with a mild ocean-like odor and a clear or slightly milky or gray liquid surrounding them when freshly shucked.
  • Oysters that were never frozen – but fry to your heart’s content.
  • Oysters harvested during the ‘R’ months.  Oysters that are harvested during months that have an ‘r’ in them (September, October, etc.; not May or June,) are generally considered safe from red tide. Simply, (an oversimplification actually,) “red tide” occurs when warmer weather reduces water levels and increases bacteria levels affecting shellfish beds.  
  • Oysters served in coastal cities. The less that they have to travel to find your table, the more likely they are to be freshly harvested.


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Categories: Food + Drink, History + Legends

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One Comment on “Five Reasons to Eat Oysters and One Reason Not To”

  1. Jonathan
    January 22, 2013 at 8:43 AM #

    Oysters?? You mean sea snot?

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