Did someone say superfood? Did you know oysters are 99% fat free, packed full of iodine, anti-oxidant selenium, iron, magnesium. Best of all – 100 grams of oysters have the equivalent Omega 3 as over 3 kilograms of chicken breast! Slurp away guilt free, oyster lovers!
Oysters were even the ‘toilet paper hoarding item’ of the Spanish Influenza pandemic in 1918 according to historians! ‘Old Wives Tales’ said that oysters, and in particular the briny broth their shells contain, which could help prevent the flu. But is it fact or fiction?Turns out, it’s a little bit of both, nutrition and medical experts now agree. While no food or supplement can protect you from viruses or bacteria, certain vitamins and minerals have been proven to bolster your immune system, making it better able to combat any foreign invaders, including flus and colds. “Zinc, vitamin C and E, selenium, omega 3s and probiotics are some of the key nutrients important for immunity,” says Julie Upton, MS, RD, a registered dietitian in San Francisco, and the co-founder of the nutrition news company Appetite for Health. “They help the fighter T-cells in the immune system fend off infections.”
So the oyster rush of 1918 was in part due to their size – because back then, oysters weren’t served as a single slurp delicacy in restaurants, but as hearty, full sized (palm sized!) sources of meal protein – resulting in a strong source of protein—another immune-supporting nutrient. It was also in part because oysters are the highest-zinc food on the planet, supplying over 500% of your daily needs in an 100gram cooked portion. Oysters are also amazing sources of selenium, a trace element that plays a role in DNA synthesis, thyroid hormone production, reproduction and immune system function. It’s been shown to be a powerful antioxidant. It turns out oysters are a great way to cover your nutrient bases.
New York chef Dan Barber recently posted this image on his Instagram, showing the different in traditional sizes of oysters we consume – “During the 1918 influenza epidemic, oysters were the hoarder equivalent of today’s toilet paper—stockpiling was ubiquitous, prices skyrocketed, black markets developed. Poachers raided oyster beds—you can often still see the remnants of single-room guard houses built in the middle of the bay where guards with shotguns stood lookout.⠀⠀
Why the hysteria? Legend had it that oysters could fend off the flu, especially the rich, briny broth locked inside. As legends go, it was fairly sound science. Zinc has been proven to be an immunity booster, and oysters are zinc powerhouses—pound for pound, these bivalves might be the best possible source of zinc.⠀
Back then, oysters weren’t raised as cocktail-sized delicacies. Before steaks and chicken breasts, oysters were harvested at full size, providing a major source of protein for communities close to the shore. (Think: oyster stew for dinner.) Full-sized oysters—4 or 5 years old, like the oyster on the right (versus the typical 1 year olds on the left)—are a relic, as out of fashion as shoulder pads.”
Safe to say, a delicious way to stay healthy!