I love oysters. There’s something so glamorous and grown-up about them. It doesn’t hurt that I associate them with happy memories - Christmas dinners in Sydney, road trips along the coast and of course, the odd romantic meal.
As a nutritional therapist, one of the things that I am super-keen to convey to clients is that when choosing foods, to think about their nutrient density - is what you are going to eat full of the ingredients that support a healthy body? In the case of oysters, the answer is a resounding yes, and for me, they’re one of the rare foods where as soon as the taste hits my tongue, I sense that they are doing me good. So what makes them so healthy?
Zinc. This is the nutrient that’s most associated with oysters and probably accounts for their sexy reputation because zinc helps to produce testosterone and is vital for male reproductive health. When we say oysters contain zinc, they are absolutely loaded with it with one serving containing around 1500% of the recommended daily intake! Unlike iron, zinc isn’t stored in the body so we need a constant supply and it’s much more easily absorbed from seafood or meat than plant sources. Good zinc levels are also important for immune health, wound healing, brain function and the health of the cells in our digestive system.
Vitamin B12. This is another nutrient that’s important for brain health, and nerve health in general. It also helps the body make DNA and in the process of replicating cells - a biological process that plays out constantly. In fact, the cells that line our digestive system are replaced every 3 days. Red blood cells, in contrast, last for about 3 months, and B12 is vital for their production.
Omega 3. As well as oily fish, oysters are another excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, and they’re in the perfect form to be used efficiently in the body. Omega 3 is called ‘essential’ because it’s not something that we can make internally - we must eat it (no hardship when it’s oysters...). As with zinc and B12, omega 3 plays an important role in brain health and perhaps its other most vital role is in the immune system where it has an anti-inflammatory effect.
I could go on, and talk about Vitamin D, then selenium and iodine which are both crucial for the health of our thyroid gland but I hope that the picture is clear - if anything can be classed as a superfood, oysters can.
When it comes to eating them, my favourite way is raw with a good squeeze of lemon, although this Asian-style dressing [link: https://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/seafood-recipes/oysters-with-chilli-ginger-and-rice-wine-vinegar/] is also good. I know that for some people, the texture of raw oysters isn’t their thing, so grilling them with a crumb topping could be the way to go. Recipe below!
Grilled oysters with a lemon and garlic flaxseed crumb.
- 5 tablespoons of ground flaxseed (also known as linseed).
- Zest of 1⁄2 an unwaxed lemon.
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed.
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
- A good squeeze of lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- Oysters in their shell.
Completely cover each oyster in its shell in around two teaspoons of the crumb then put the oysters under a hot (hot, hot) grill for 4 minutes. If you like chilli heat, you could add a couple of drops of Tabasco to each oyster before adding the crumb mixture.
Any leftover crumb makes a great topping for oven-roasted fish.Ellen Spinner is a registered nutritional therapist who works in East Lothian. You can find Ellen’s details and blog online at www.spinnernutrition.co.uk or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/spinnernutrition