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The Nutrition of Oysters

Chances are, while you may have seen oysters in your local grocery store, you don't know much about their nutritional status. Typically, seafood is touted as one of the best foods for good health. But, does this go for shellfish, such as oysters, as well? Before grabbing some of these tasty treats for your next meal, be sure to understand a little more about their protein, fat and cholesterol content.


One of the most important nutritional components of oysters is its protein content. Like most other types of seafood, oysters are composed almost primarily from protein. Protein is important for good health for a number of reasons. First, protein is what our hair, nails and even skin is primarily composed of. Therefore, in order to keep these parts of our bodies looking healthy, it is important that we eat adequate amounts of protein. Secondly, as most people know, protein helps to not only maintain muscle mass, but also to help in the growth of new muscle. This is important especially as you age. Without adequate protein consumption, your muscle will atrophy, resulting in decreased coordination, and an increase in falls, broken bones and fractures.


While oysters are composed almost primarily from protein, they do contain some fat. While fat has gotten a bad reputation in the past few years, it is important to understand that not all types of fats are created equal. Oysters, for example, are rich in unsaturated fats. Unlike saturated fat, which is typically found in red meat and has been linked to the development of cardiovascular disease, stroke and even some types of cancer, unsaturated fats have been found to be effective in the prevention, and in some cases even the treatment, of these chronic conditions. As more and more research is done on the benefits of unsaturated fats, nutritionists are understanding why they are essential in a healthy diet.


Finally, most types of shellfish, including oysters, are high in cholesterol. Like saturated fats, cholesterol can lead to blockages in the veins and arteries that control blood flow to and from the heart, leading to major coronary artery disease and possible heart attacks. This is the primary reason why people are sometimes cautioned against eating shellfish such as oysters.

The Verdict

So, what's your best bet when it comes to eating oysters? While this food does contain high amounts of healthy protein that contains the "right" kinds of fat, it is also rich in cholesterol, which as discussed can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease. While oysters do contain cholesterol, eating them once or twice a month is not often enough to cause a significant increase in your body's cholesterol store. And, the rich, healthy source of protein found in oysters is too good to ignore.

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