Ten Myths and Facts about Oysters

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Ten things you probably never needed to know about oysters – but we're telling you anyway.

1. Myth

Oysters are an aphrodisiac.

The idea of eating oysters for their aphrodisiac qualities is untrue. Sorry – but you can prove science wrong! Dig in.

2. Fact

There are several species of oysters cultivated in North America. The two most common species in this area are the Pacific, from Japan and the Olympia – a small full flavored oyster native to the Northwest.

3. Myth

You can tell male oysters from females by examining their shells.

Oysters change sex one or more times during their life span, you cannot tell by their shell what phase they may be in.

4. Fact

The tiny crab we see in the oyster is a species of crab (Pinnotheres ostreum) that has evolved to live harmoniously inside an oyster’s shell. These dime-sized crabs, much sought after by gourmands, are not abundant.

5. Myth

Shellfish that die before being cooked should not be eaten. 

People have been warned not to eat clams, mussels, crabs, lobsters, and other shellfish unless they are alive when cooked. From the standpoint of flavor, this is a good suggestion, but shellfish don’t become toxic when they die. 

6. Fact

An oyster produces a pearl when foreign material becomes trapped inside the shell. The oyster responds to the irritation by producing more, a combination of calcium and protein. The nacre coats the foreign material and over time produces a pearl.

7. Myth

Seafood is brainfood.

The myth of fish as a brain food goes back to a 19th century Harvard University scientist who discovered that phosphorus is abundant in the human brain, and from this fact, wrongly concluded that a diet of fish should increase the human IQ.

8. Fact

Oysters help waterways by eating algae, filtering out particulates and excess nutrients and creating habitat for other organisms to thrive.

9. Myth

Jewelry pearls come from oysters.

Pearls used in jewelry are produced in clams and mussels, not oysters as commonly believed.

10. Fact

Oysters are rich in vitamins A, C, D and B-12. B-12 is well-known to help people lose weight and sharpen their memory. Eating four oysters a day gives you a complete daily supply of copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc.