Oysters are one of those foods that have become woven into our cultural as well as culinary lives. From mentions in Classical Greek literature, to depictions in countless sumptuous oil paintings, the seafood enjoys a higher status than its appearance might first suggest. So just why do we celebrate this mighty mollusc?
Are oysters an aphrodisiac?
Oysters are often referred to as ‘the food of love’, and have a reputation for being able to put the passion back into your love life! How true this is seems to be a matter of some debate. What is known for sure is that they contain high levels of zinc, which is an essential nutrient for the healthy production of testosterone in men.
According to the research clinician Michael Krychman, oysters also contain amino acids and serotonin, which are important to the effective functioning of the pleasure response in the brain. The hormone also helps to stabilise your mood, and produce an overall feeling of wellbeing and happiness. Perhaps their reputation creates a placebo effect in some people?
What other health benefits do oysters have?
Besides zinc, the seafood is packed with iron, calcium, copper, selenium, and vitamin A and B12. Copper and zinc are noted for helping to maintain our eyesight and general eye health as we age. Vitamin B12 contributes to healthy cognitive functioning, and may even ward off dementia. It also promotes a strong immune system.
They are also rich in protein and low in fat, with a portion of six medium-sized delicacies containing no more than about 50 calories. Therefore they are an ideal dish if you are trying to lose weight, as long as you can resist serving them with rich creamy sauces! Oysters also contain high levels of iron, which is essential to produce red blood cells.
How are oysters eaten?
Oysters vary in flavour depending on their origin, so if you are after a particular taste and texture, check with your fishmonger, who should hold records of the date of production and place of harvest. To check that they are fresh, make sure that your oysters have tightly closed shells with no gaps. Always store them in the fridge, placed on the rounded side.
Oysters can be eaten raw, simply by opening the shell (a process known as ‘shucking’) and eating the contents, preferably with a little butter and salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. They can also be cooked in a variety of ways, most commonly poaching or grilling. This is a less daunting way to begin if you are slightly suspicious about consuming raw seafood.
There are a wide variety of sauces and dressings that make perfect accompaniments to oysters. Creamy or buttery sauces topped with breadcrumbs are often served, as are spicy oriental toppings, containing ginger, garlic, and herbs. In restaurants, they are often served with mignonette sauce; a mix of chopped shallot, dry white wine, pepper, and lime juice.
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