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Oyster Benefits: Upgrade Your Health, Cure World Hunger, And Save The Planet

May 09, 2019

Summary

Imagine:

Before 1900, many places on this planet contained unimaginable huge deposits of highly nutritious oysters. Those deposits had been built over hundreds of thousands if not millions of years.

Oysters were cheap and eaten by rich and poor. Around 1910, a pound of oysters would cost half of a pound of beef.

The average New Yorker ate 600 oyster per year. Today that number is 3. New York once was the oyster capital of the world, but not anymore.

Back then, everyone could take a walk to the harbor and pick a few oysters. Oyster restaurants were everywhere. Due to over exploitation, however, deposits have decreased to almost zero. 

But you know what?

From a health perspective, good reasons existed for that "oyster fever"...

Oysters are one of the perfect superfoods on this planet. These shellfish contain tons of vitamins and nutrients. If you could, you probably would eat a ton of them.

Let's consider some facts about oyster benefits. Oysters:

  • contain the full spectrum of vitamins, ranging from vitamin A, to all B vitamins, vitamin C, D, E, and K2. B vitamins are especially present in high quantities, which are key in energy and metabolism.
  • have many minerals, such as selenium, iron, copper, magnesium, iodine, and especially zinc - all at very high levels.
  • the tremendous level of nutrients per oyster translate in many health benefits. Benefits include higher energy levels, better mood, deeper sleep, increased beauty (skin, hair, and nails), enhanced fertility, improved brain capacity, and much more. 
  • there's been lots of debates around omega 3 fatty acids lately. Oysters contain omega 3 fats, but not in high amounts. Oysters are actually quite low fat - and their low omega 3 fatty acid content is a feature not a bug. 

I'll explain these topics in excruciating detail in this full blog post.

And the benefits don't stop there...

And as always, I'm not just telling you that oysters are great for your health, but I'm also trying to educate you why to take them.

The why of an action is just as important as the action itself, if not more important.

Without understanding why you take many actions in relation to your health, you're not going to successfully form habits that use the right action at the right time, to the right extent, and in the right circumstances.

Context matters, and the why educates you about that context.

The topic of blog post does not just concern nutrition though. In fact, I'll demonstrate how shellfish are an integral part of sustainable agriculture.

Let me explain:

Oysters are very sustainable, and therefore a guilt-free treat. Shellfish aquaculture can also solve many of the food problems that currently plague humanity.

Why?

Oysters:

  • can be produced en masse - in the billions or even trillions - while not only saving but also building ecosystems
  • may be integrated into aquaculture is completely sustainable, together with other shellfish such as clams and scallops. Oyster have no need for antibiotics, pesticides, or food input. Most farmed fish are the opposite. These fish need either animal or plant foods to grow, as well as antibiotics and other "tricks". Farmed fish also pollute the ocean. Oysters, on the contrary, only need plankton which' availability is limitless.
  • can be produced at the deep sea if necessary, supplying 10 billion people with food and even 50 billion if necessary.

Curious?

Keep reading... 

For a focus on oyster's health benefits, look at sections 2-4 below. For understanding oysters' role in saving this planet, spend more time reading the introduction and section 5.

TABLE OF CONTENTS: 

INTRODUCTION:

1. Introduction: The Role Of Shellfish In Nature

OYSTER BENEFITS:

2. Oyster Nutrition: Vitamins, Minerals, Fatty Acids, And More
3. Twelve Oyster Health Benefits: Brain Power, Energy, Beauty
4. How To Eat Oysters: Raw, Canned, Cooked, Or Smoked (+ Maximizing Health Benefits)

THE BIGGER PICTURE:

5. Gorging On Sustainable Shellfish To Save The World
6. Save The Planet By Saving Yourself

 

OYSTER BENEFITS: UPGRADE YOUR HEALTH, CURE WORLD HUNGER, AND SAVE THE PLANET

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cover photo for this blog post on oyster benefits



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Author: Bart Wolbers. Bart finished degrees in Physical Therapy (B), Philosophy (BA and MA), Philosophy of Science and Technology (MS - Cum Laude), and Clinical Health Science (MS).



 

1. INTRODUCTION: THE ROLE OF SHELLFISH IN NATURE

"Why eat oysters, I eat plenty of healthy food?"

"I'm already eating lots of grass fed beef"

 

"Don't you need vegetables for vitamins and minerals?"

Sorry to break your beliefs.

Oysters have some unique health benefits that I describe in this blog post. As you'll soon learn, oysters have an amazing density of vitamins, minerals, and healthy fatty acids.

Perhaps the best in the world...

And I know:

You may have come to read a blog post about oyster's health benefits. But health is not the only reason why that species is important...

These shellfish are very sustainable ecologically. Oysters are shellfish, bivalve mollusks to be exact.

To grasp why, I'll have a look at the Earth's current food system. I'm making a bit of a detour, to show that oysters are a great solution for food sustainability. As a bonus, you'll also learn why oysters are a great guilt-free treat. 

I'll start my argument by exploring the problem that ever more food needs to be grown on the same amount of space: 

World Population Growth

Right now over 7 billion people exist on this Earth. That number is poised to increase to 9-10 billion by 2050.

Almost all of that population growth occurs in developing countries--the developed world either has static or declining population levels.

If you're born into that developing world you need food. But people in that part of the world already get too little quality food. Many diets in that developing world are currently reliant on grains, rice, and tuber vegetables. Processed food also makes up a large parts of habitual intake.[1-2] 

Obesity rates are paradoxically skyrocketing in developing nations, while rates of malnutrition remain problematic as well.[3-9] 

Food quality is thus low, even though plenty of "food" is available.

If you're living in the developing world, you'll have more access to calorie-rich food than ever, even though such foods regularly contain too few vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

So if empty calories in the form of refined grains or oils (margarine) make up large parts of your diet, you will become deficient in nutrients. 

Cravings are the result of nutritional deficiencies. 

If you're deficient in magnesium, for example, you can start craving chocolate.[10] Red meat cravings may signify having low zinc or iron levels. Even salt is craved by humans, because, well, your body may be low on salt.

When most people have cravings, nonetheless, they lean towards eating pizza and Oreos to resolve their them. That strategy leaves you with lots of calories but very few nutrients. Obesity in developing nations thus partially emerges because of low food quality. 

So what's the solution?

Create more arable land? That way everyone can eat a high quality diet, right?

Not so quick:

Feeding Billions Of People - Arable Land Shortage

How to feed 10 billion people in 30 years? If the world proceeded with business as usual, up to 60-120% increases in crop yields are necessary.[11; 12] Meat production alone is poised to increase 40-80% over that time.[13; 14]

Sure, some projections assume that sufficient foods already exist to feed a 10-billion human population in 2050.[11] But that assumption entails cutting down on animal protein consumption.

Lots of evidence exists that some animal foods are necessary for optimal health. So cutting down on animal foods is not a great option either.

Meat consumption is poised to increase worldwide. But it's also impossible to create more arable land in a sustainable way. Meat, when conventionally produced, thus has negative effects upon the environment.

Many people assume that food production can keep growing exponentially. The problem, however, is that the Earth is finite. Exponential growth in economic activity or food production with a finite amount of resources is mathematically impossible.

Let me give you an analogy:

When governments project 3% economic growth per year without limit, they're lying. Sure, such growth numbers occurred from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to the late-20th century. But such growth is unsustainable forever unless you'd have access to new planets and asteroids for sourcing more materials.

The same is true for increasing the food supply without limit.

Allocating more land to meat production - at least when it's conventionally raised - is not a solution either. Conventional meat production already puts a huge strain on resources, because it relies on soy, maize, and grains.

And sure, you can create more arable land on this planet.[15; 16] Brazilian rain forests will then be replaced by soy crops. And the same fate will strike its Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts as well.

a picture of a rainforest
Cutting this forest down to create new arable farmlands? Probably not the best long-term solution...

 

Current destructive land management techniques

Current land management is equally disastrous:

Soils are destroyed because of food system that combines fertilizers, plowing, and pesticides. Plowing fields increases the risk for wind and water erosion, and negatively affects soil organisms such as insects, bacteria, and fungi.

The soils on which the food for animal feedlots was grown on is also depleted. Many of the crops produced on these fields are subsequently fed to animals in feedlots.

These animals are given antibiotics while being forced to eat foods they aren't naturally compatible with. In the best case scenario cows in feedlots eat grains and soy. In the worst case, skin, hair, and feathers plus remnants of other dead animals are added. 

That feeding process creates terribly unhealthy manure which cannot be put back on the land.

Alternative?

Sure:

Place animals in their natural habitat. Let cows eat grass, and leave chickens on pasture. Not plowing and letting herbivores such as cows and omnivores such as chickens cyclically go through fields builds soil health over time instead.

Soils literally thus gain organic matter through the years, while being able to capture more water and even CO2.

Both forests and soils that have built over time are actually great options for storing carbon - or CO2.[29; 30]

an animal on pasture, symbolizing traditional herbivore food
How meat was meant to be produced.

 

Animals in a feedlot system, on the contrary, have a terrible life. Thousands if not millions of animals are kept together and fed in feedlots. Cows and chickens are prime examples. 

Feedlots are inefficient in that they require at least 3-4 pounds of soy, maize, and grains to produce 1 pound of meat. Sure, cows require more than 10 pounds of grass per day when they're on the pasture - but that food doesn't need to be shipped.

Soy, maize, and grains require fossil fuels to be mass-produced. Shipping these plant foods also necessitates fossil fuels. Managing the manure of feedlot cows also uses fossil fuels.

You get the idea...

Cows on a pasture don't require any fossil fuels nor do they produce waste - only the shipping of the end product requires fossil fuel usage.

Bottom line: the current food system is not scalable, especially not for feeding even more people on this planet. And you may also think:

So how good of a job is the current food system doing in terms of providing nutrition?

Let's find out:

Developed World Malnutrition

It's not just people living in the developing world who are malnourished.

Just pick 10 random strangers off the street, and at least 8 will have vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Really?

Yes...

Let me give some examples:

  • 98% of US adults consume too little potassium.[17] The best potassium sources are meats, sea food, beans, fruits, and vegetables (including potatoes). So many people are deficient because processed foods supply many calories without giving you much potassium.
  • 40-80% of adults of different countries are magnesium deficient.[19-22] Why? Soils are depleted due to modern farming techniques. 
  • 17% of the world's population is at risk for inadequate zinc levels.[23; 24] That number is probably lower in the developed world, but not absent. 
  • 10-20% of people living in the EU are iodine deficient.[24]
  • 35-60% of US adults ingest too little calcium, even with supplementation.[25] 
  • 6% of older US adults are vitamin B12 deficient.[26]
  • 40% of US adults have inadequate vitamin D levels.[27; 28] It's also safe to assume that a higher number has sub optimal vitamin D levels. The reasons are getting too little sunlight or eating too few animal foods to compensate for a lack of sunlight exposure.
  • 90%+ of adults are (almost certainly) vitamin K2 deficient. The reason is that only grass-fed animal foods contain this vitamin in high quantities--not the feedlot meat many people eat today. Unfortunately, that percentage is an estimate based on the best available evidence.
  • 90% of US adults don't consume enough vitamin E.[213] Another shocker...

The list goes on and on. Today's food system can thus not even feed the developed world.

And there's another secret:

Malnutrition would be far worse if food fortification programs weren't in place.

Vitamin B1 (thiamine), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate), iodine, and iron are already being added to many US foods. Wheat is an example. 

Other countries have even more extensive food fortification programs.

The only reason you can survive on such foods is because governments mandate the addition of nutrients to them. 

To me, food fortification programs are a government's admission that the food they prescribe are inherently nutritionally-deficient. In other words, if you need to add iron, iodine, B vitamins, and zinc to your food supply, then you're admitting that your citizens are eating foods that would otherwise lead to malnourishment.

But what's the solution?

No easily usable farmland is available - almost all arable land is already in use. And rain forests cannot be destroyed for more farmland either.

Transitioning 10 billion humans to a paleo or carnivore diet may thus not seem sustainable. But consider this option:

Shores and oceans as farmland - aquaculture

Aquaculture is hot today. The problem, however, is that the wrong type of aquaculture is hot.

Let me explain:

Many people consume farmed salmon, carp, trout, and catfish. Most of these fish are either predators (carnivores) or omnivores, thus requiring fish and crustaceans. For every pound of farmed salmon you produce it needs to be fed with one to several pounds of sardines or other small fish.

The more small fish input, the healthier the farmed fish will become - a big problem. Farmed fish are additionally riddled with antibiotics and parasites when you finally eat them.

Not all aquaculture is bad though: 

Shellfish such as oysters and mussels are perfect because they feed on plankton in the water. No fish feed required:

oysters during ebb, outside the water. These oysters will be flooded again later on
During flood, these oysters will have access to lots of water with plankton for nutrients. 

 

There's also plenty of room to build gigantic oyster farms. Why? 70% of the earth is made up of oceans. 

Other aquatic species can be added to such farms as well. 

Waterways and coastlines are nonetheless the easiest for oyster farming.

(I'll focus on farming close to the land in this section and get back to ocean farming in section five.)

So let's begin with the easy questions:

So why oysters?

Oysters are a "keystone species".[309; 310] Keystone species are really essential for the healthy functioning of a habitat. Bees are similar in that ecosystems have trouble surviving without them.

Why?

Oysters' functions in ecology.

Yes, oysters filter the water that's going through them 24-7. In fact, these shellfish filter up to 250 liters of water a day.

Oysters also prefer to live close to each other by growing their shell next to an existing one. That method protects oysters against predators. Eventually, these shells accumulate to millions (and even a billion) of oysters.

These millions of shells then provide a habitat for other sea creatures. Hundreds of different sea species then live oyster habitats.

Examples of creatures living there are barnacles, anchovies, herring, crab, flounder, and sea anemones:

barnacles which live in oyster reefs
Barnacles pictured above, sea anemones shown below:

annemones which live in oyster reefs

Many birds also feast on oysters - making oysters the perfect basis tot any coastal food system.

In previous centuries, millions of oysters banded together to create what are called oyster reefs:

Oyster reefs

Oyster reef were formed by nature. Such structures containing could be miles long. 

In the 19th century, millions of people worked in the oyster industry worldwide. These resources came under pressure starting in the early 20th century.

Oyster reefs were so heavily exploited that replenishment was much lower than harvest rates. By the 1940s, oyster reefs were all but gone.[37]

Fortunately, many of these oyster reefs are now regrown with human aid. In a few decades that awesome natural phenomenon should thus have returned to this planet. 

And you know what?

Oyster farming is hot. Clams and shellfish already make up two-thirds of US aquaculture production today. The future is bright for that industry:

Oysters and other shellfish emitting greenhouse gases? 

Some time ago, a scientific report claimed that shellfish were truly unsustainable because they emitted "nitrous oxide" and "methane". Both substances are famous greenhouse gases that have been tied to climate change.[32; 34]

Those "greenhouse gases" are produced in the digestive tracts of these animals. 

The problem with that assertion is that oysters also take nitrogen out of the water.[310; 311] That nitrogen they re-emit is thus already taken up from nature. The claim that oysters cause increases in temperature is implausible on yet another level:

Huge oyster reefs have been part of nature for millions of years. Such shellfish almost certainly are part of a negative feedback loop which limits their contribution to climate change.

In fact, today, oyster populations are 85% lower than 100+ years ago.[33] 99% of oyster reefs are gone now.

Even 150 years in the past, Chesapeake Bay and New York housed the biggest oyster reefs on this planet - those are Northern latitudes. And while oysters can also be found in the tropics and subtropics, Central America is the only place near the equator that housed huge reefs in the past.[38]

The Americas still have the best and most plentiful oyster reefs today, together with New Zealand.

So if shellfish were a big problem, temperatures would be way higher in the 1700s and 1800s than this day.

But temperatures are not higher (if I may believe experts in the field). Of course, shellfish would not be the only variable contributing to climate change, but my argument at least makes the case that they never were a big influence to begin with.

Why? If shellfish were a huge contributor to temperatures, the Earth should have been warmer in the 18th and 19th centuries.

And hundreds of thousands and even millions of years ago, even bigger shellfish roamed the earth.[35; 36] Such shellfish were up to four times as big as today's variations. That's even more heating, if you buy the claim.

Focusing just on temperature increases due to nitrous oxide emissions by shellfish, moreover, is deceptive.

Why?

Oysters protect environments. Oyster reefs act as natural buffers to high tides at coastlines, saving inland areas from flooding. Water erosion is also countered because oysters break the tide. 

Oysters thus play a major role in protecting coastlines that is ignored by scientist who claim they single-handedly warm the planet.

Watch the following video on reefs below:

 

Bottom line: while cultivating oysters in the ocean is a possibility, reefs do play an essential role in nature that cannot be replaced by oysters farming at the ocean.[38} The world thus needs reefs - having reefs saves lots of money on water management.

That's all you need to know about oysters' ecological role. 

So let's explore those oysters in some more detail from another perspective. I'll start with a surprise: there's no one such thing as "an oyster". 

Many different types exist:

Different oyster species

Different oyster species have different geometrical shapes, tastes, preferred habitats, and more.

View a pacific oyster (Magallana gigas) below:

a picture of a pacific oyster[39]

Pacific oysters are one of the most commonly farmed species and have a sweeter taste.

While Pacific oysters were initially only found in Asia, they have been introduced all over the world today. Pacific oysters spread because of their ease of cultivation as well as their survival in many different temperatures.

Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) are also very frequently cultivated:

a picture of an eastern oyster

Eastern oysters are also called "Atlantic oysters", and are produced en masse in the US and Mexico. 

Next, there's the Ostrea edulis or the European flat oyster:

a pictuer of an European flat oyster
[41]

When these flat oysters are cultivated in Brittany, they're called "Belons" - one of the famous French oysters. These ones have a sharp taste...

All these different species never leave you bored. Some really weird oysters species even exist, such as the thorny oyster (Spondylus):

cat tongue oyster picture[40]

Those thorny oysters can be subdivided into several sub types again. 

The variation in oyster species is almost endless, such as the very small Kumamoto Oysters (Crassostrea sikamea) and the Olympia oyster (Ostrea lurida), which have enormous flavor for their size.

(Olympia oysters are found around the Pacific ocean, from Mexico to Alaska.)

And it's not just the species that determines how the oysters on your plate tastes and looks. The water they're reared in and growing methods also distinguishes one Pacific oyster from the next.

So now that you understand the role of oysters in nature, as well as different oyster species, let's move to the next topic of oyster health benefits:

 

Return To Table Of Contents

2. OYSTER NUTRITION: VITAMINS, MINERALS, FATTY ACIDS, AND MORE

Oysters are getting more popular in the health scene - there's good reason for that.

Two health experts who I've learned a lot from throughout the years, Jack Kruse and Ray Peat, both favor oyster consumption, even though they're diametrically opposed to each other on many health topics.

That's a very good sign in this case. 

So let's look at what makes oysters so special. The most important thing to notice is that shellfish are one of the most nutrient dense foods on this planet...

Calories, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

Let me be more precise:

The biggest advantage of oysters is that they don't provide a high number of calories while still providing tons of nutrients (vitamins and minerals).

12 medium Eastern (or Atlantic) oysters only provide 96 calories. 

Those calories are made up of 9 grams of protein, 9.4 grams of carbohydrate, and 2.6  gram of fat.

The proteins in oysters are also entirely made out of animal proteins, which is generally higher quality.

Many plant foods contain anti nutrients, moreover, such as lectins, phytic acid, and oxalates, which all can dramatically lower mineral absorption from foods - depending on the circumstance.[171-174] 

Proteins have the advantage that they reduce feeling of hunger. Following any diet with more protein consumption thus becomes easier.[312-314]

So let's at the micro nutrients contained in these beauties:

Oyster vitamins

The next subsections on vitamins and minerals consider the nutrients of oysters in relation to the RDA - the "Recommended Daily Allowance".[42; 43]

Keep in mind that the numbers according to the RDA are on the low side of the equation. For optimal physical and brain performance your probably need more nutrients.

Also remember that many people already fall short of adequate intakes of vitamins and minerals - at least if optimal health is your goal.[44; 45]

Let's consider the vitamins found in 12 medium-sized Atlantic oysters:*

  • 14% of the RDA of vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid). Vitamin C is enormously important for humans. Vital vitamin C roles include increasing immune system functioning and preventing diseases such as scurvy.[46-48]
  • 12% of the RDA of vitamin B1 (Thiamine). Thiamine is essential for energy metabolism - thus making proteins, fats, and carbohydrates usable.[56] Several organs, such as the liver, skin, and eyes are also dependent on vitamin B1.[49-52] Your nervous system also relies on thiamine. Alcohol consumption depletes thiamine, and depleted thiamine responsible for important diseases caused by alcoholism.[53; 55]
  • 6% of the RDA of vitamin B2 (Riboflavin). Riboflavin plays important roles in the digestive tract, eye, liver, and nerve health, the creation of hormones, and nervous system development of fetuses.[57-64]
  • 10% of the RDA of vitamin B3 (Niacin). Niacin's functions include facilitating energy production, and maintaining digestive skin, brain, and cardiovascular health.[65-74]
  • 2% of the RDA of vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid). Pantothenic Acid regulates mood, sleep quality, and heart function, among others.[100; 101]
  • 6% of the RDA of vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine). Vitamin B6 plays a role in your overall mood, brain, eye, joint, and heart health, the prevention of cancer, and contributes to oxygen transport in the blood.[75-83]
  • 8% of the RDA of vitamin B9 (Folate). Most people know folate, because it's a prescribed vitamin during pregnancy. Nervous system development promotion is one of the main roles of folate. Cancer risk and "homocysteine", a damaging protein that can circulate in the blood, are also lowered by folate.[84-90] 
  • 454% of the RDA of vitamin B12 (Cobalamin). Vitamin B12's many role in the body are uncountable. Roles range from promoting heart condition, skin, hair, eye and nail health, energy production, functioning of the nervous system, and the formation of red blood cells.[91-99]

Of course, any benefit attributed to the vitamin can also be attributed to oysters themselves.

It's also highly likely that oysters contain reasonable levels of vitamin D, E, and K, which were not tested in this sample:

  • You need vitamin D for strong bones, heart health, cognitive performance, mental well being, and preventing many disease such as cancer and diabetes.[199; 200]  Recall that many adults are vitamin D deficient.[198]
  • Vitamin E is needed for organ health (heart, brain, and liver), performs a role as an antioxidant (to slow down the aging process), and boosts the immune system.[201-205]
  • Vitamin K, especially the animal form called K2, is needed for cuagulation, bone, brain, heart, and blood vessel health, and hormone creation.[205-211]

*Nutritionadata was used to gather this data, under "Mollusks, oyster, eastern, farmed, raw".

Now let's look at oysters as the queen (or king) of mineral rich foods:

Oyster Minerals.

Additionally, several minerals can be found in oysters:*

  • 8% of the RDA of calcium. Many bodily processes depend on calcium, such as hormone and bone creation, contractions of muscles, and heart health.[102-109]
  • 54% of the RDA of iron. You need iron for brain performance, energy, a strong immune system, fertility, and organ function.[110-119]
  • 14% of the RDA of magnesium. Magnesium is necessary for energy creation in the body, brain function, proper metabolism, sleep quality, relaxation, and well-being.[120-126]
  • 16% of the RDA of phosphorus. Phosphorus is needed for bone health, high energy levels, muscle contraction, and nervous system functioning.[127-131]
  • 6% of the RDA of potassium. You need potassium for kidney and heart health, cell functioning, a healthy nervous system, and managing water status.[132-137]
  • 12% of the RDA of sodium. All your body's cells require sodium and the mineral is specifically tied to heart, brain, and kidney health.[138-141]
  • 424% of the RDA of zinc (no typo!). Zinc is needed for sleep quality, energy levels, fertility, nervous system development, and both cognitive and athletic performance.[142-150]
  • 62% of the RDA of copper. Copper plays a role in energy creation, immune function, bone health, brain performance, and vision.[151-157]
  • 34% of the RDA of manganese. Proper manganese levels prevent excessive inflammation in your body, build bones, and makes sure that carbohydrates are taken up in your cells, among others.[158-161]
  • 152% of the RDA of selenium. Selenium acts as a powerful antioxidant and supports brain and thyroid health.[162-166]
  • 192% of the RDA of iodine. Iodine is most necessary for thyroid health and development of the brain and nervous system.[167-170]

*Nutritionadata was used to gather this data, under "Mollusks, oyster, eastern, farmed, raw".

Keep in mind that the effects described effects of vitamins and minerals are simplified- reality is more complex.

Nevertheless, notice that 12 oysters (170 grams or 7 ounces) provide a huge array of vitamins and minerals.

The story gets even more exciting though...

Remember I often talk about evolution in my blog posts,? Oysters have a special relationships to our human past:

Specific Nutrients And The Ancestral Human Diet.

What makes oysters special are their high quantities of brains-specific nutrients such as iron, iodine, zinc, and copper.

As 12 oysters contain fewer than 100 calories, you could eat an almost limitless number of them and still not consume as many calories as an average pizza. 

One whole medium-sized pizza can contain 2,000+ calories. Those calories equal an incredible 240 oysters. A slice of pizza contains ~285 calories, equaling the calories of about 36 oysters.

And yet, by consuming that slice of pizza you'll end up with far fewer vitamins and minerals than if you were eating oysters.

See where modern nutrition goes wrong? Now you understand why shellfish were one of the most important foods that helped growing human brain size millions of years ago.[175-177]

Zinc, the mineral oysters are most rich in on a relative basis, is specifically linked to dopamine production in the brain.[178-180] Dopamine is required for abstract and logical thought, motivation, and assertiveness.

Before you rush to the nearest oyster restaurant though, let's talk about the possibility of contamination: 

Viruses, mircroplastics, and heavy metal contamination

Not all oysters are safe to consume for everyone. Oysters can accumulate toxins such as heavy metals when they're grown in polluted waters.[181-183]

It's thus essential to always know where the oysters you're buying are coming from. The seller should be able to give you info on where the oysters were farmed. If not, don't buy.

Another problem is that oysters sometimes contain viruses.

Both viruses and heavy metals become more dangerous the less healthy you are. In poorer health, your detoxification pathways almost always work less efficiently. Viruses are obviously also harder to deal with if you're not well.

The virus problem can easily be circumvented by cooking oysters - although they're probably best eaten raw for nutritional value. Why? Cooking destroys nutrients.

So let's dig deeper into the topic of viruses...

The Norovirus is an example of a possible pathogen found in shellfish. Pregnant women are strongly recommended not to consume raw shellfish.[184; 186] 

Hepatitis A is another example, as well as Vibrio Vulnificus and Enteroviruses.[185; 186]

Let's briefly consider the effects of such viruses:

  1. Norovirus can cause gastroenteritis, an infection in the gut. Diarrhea, digestive or abdominal pain, and nausea are symptoms of such an infection.[187] 
  2. Enterovirus are a group of viruses that can cause irritability, high body temperatures (fever), general malaise, weight loss, and skin problems. In the worst case scenario, blood poisoning, brain inflammation, and heart, lung, and liver problems result.[188; 189] Polio, a disease now uncommon in the developed world, is an example of an Enterovirus.
  3. Vibrio Vulnificus is found in coastal areas and ends up in raw oysters.[194-197] Gut problems are the most frequent issue after ingesting this virus, and blood poisoning the most dangerous one. Warm seasons increase your risk for this virus. In the US, about 80,000 people get sick and 100 die each year due to this virus.[315]
  4. Hepatitis A is yet another virus which mainly targets the liver.[190; 191; 193] Symptoms generally show up much later after you caught the virus. In the worst case scenario, Hepatitis A can potentially lead to death.

Viruses and other pathogens are not restricted to the ones listed above.[192]  

To ensure maximum safety, only consume oysters that are closed.

Oyster that are naturally open by themselves are sick and dangerous to consume. 

I hope I've informed you about the potential risks of eating raw shellfish. The choice remains yours...

oysters with lemon or lime, shown for their beauty
Eat these beauties in sunlight. The light in your environment affects gut function and your microbiome. A well functioning microbiome makes you less susceptible to gut issues.
And without good food, you're also more susceptible to get sick in general...

I'd be really surprised if you got sick from oysters if you're in great health. Although it's not scientific evidence, I know plenty of people who eat tons of raw oysters multiple times a week and never get sick.

Additionally, microplastics do accumulate in oysters. Such plastics travel through the air and up in the water, finally ending up in shellfish. Fortunately, shellfish do defend themselves against the intrusion of microplastics by removing them back into the water.[325]

The efficiency of that filtering process is not fully known yet.

Want to be most sure that your oysters are as low in microplastics as possible? There's no direct proof for this hypothesis, but buying oysters that are farmed as far away from nature as possible is probably your best bet.

So my hypothesis is that oysters grown in New York City contain more microplastics than those sourced from Alaska. Simple but effective.

Overall, I hope you're seeing that oysters have a tremendous potential for offering high quality nutrition despite some dangers.

So let's return to an earlier topic I talked about:

Food Fortification Programs

Recall that in the US, iron, iodine, vitamin B1, B3, and B9 (folate) are added to staple foods such as wheat.

And even with food fortification, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are horrible for people living in the developed world. The developing world is even worse.

I showed evidence that 98% of US adults are potassium deficient, at least 35% in calcium, 40% for magnesium, at least 10% for iodine, 40% for vitamin D, and a whopping 90% for vitamin E and K2.

Without food fortification, many more people would be deficient in iron or iodine.

The gist of my message is that you cannot build the pinnacle of billions of years of evolution, called the human brain, on sub-par food.

The more you're relying on tons of processed foods, the greater the risk for having vitamin and mineral deficiencies. 

Food fortification also demonstrates how nutrient-depleted most humanly-made foodstuffs are. Most processed foods contain a combination of refined grains, seed oils, salt, soy, and tons of other additives (natural and otherwise). 

Pizza is an example...

The goal of such foods is maximum palatability - i.e. having the best taste - not supplying you with as many nutrients as possible.

And that's a shame.

A real shame...

Why?

Well, most food companies are not supplying you with food that makes you fundamentally healthier. Your body simply doesn't get what it needs. Processed food has replaced food's fundamental role as a nutrient by that of a a tool for pleasure in the last 50 years.

Consequence?

Most people don't eat to nourish themselves anymore but use food as a drug - a means for feeling good. What's more, processed foods are literally created in such a way to make you addicted to them.

The alternative is simple...

Eat real foods. 

Fortunately, oysters are one of the original human foods and are diametrically opposed to the deprived and bare modern "nutrition".

Including oysters into your diet can move your health to the next level as well. So let's move on from nutrition to concrete health benefits.

By the way, another issue before you read the next section.

Ready to start working on your health today? Consider grabbing my 20-day e-mail mini course on how to start working on your health for massive long-term improvements. No quick fixes:

 

 

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3. TWELVE OYSTER HEALTH BENEFITS: BRAIN POWER, ENERGY, BEAUTY.

So what oyster health benefits can you expect? 

Let's look at an abbreviated list:

 

1. Enhancing dopamine levels. 

I've quickly touched upon this subject in the previous section.

Many people have low dopamine levels nowadays. Dopamine is essential for the higher brain functions that developed in humans during evolution.

Abstract thought for example - in which your brain can make simulations independent of space and time - is a typical human capacity. Complex planning, language use, and mathematics are other examples.

In today's world, high level thinking skills pay off more than ever. All the life pursuits that make you rich, from being a surgeon to stock broker to entrepreneur all depend on abstract thought.

Due to the high levels of zinc, magnesium, selenium, iron, and B-vitamins, oysters contain many precursors for building higher dopamine levels. If you can enhance your brain's dopamine levels, you can thus do much better financially and in terms of success. 

(If you're interested, I've explained other methods by which you can increase your dopamine levels in great detail in my blog post about dopamine.)

a statue of the thinker
Ready to boost your dopamine levels and become the Thinker?

 

2. Boosting testosterone

Yes, oysters are the perfect testosterone booster. Why? Simple: many minerals such as zinc, magnesium, and selenium are prerequisites for building testosterone.

If you're deficient in these minerals, your testosterone levels wont'be as high as they'd otherwise be. 

Shocking fact:

Both men and women need optimal testosterone levels for their overall health and well-being. Yes, women need that hormone tool.[217; 218]

The problem? Testosterone levels have been declining for decades.[214-216] That's very bad news, as you need testosterone for heart health, well being, strong bones, sexual performance, brain health, and much more.[219-228]

Fortunately, moreover, vitamin A, D, E, and K2 found in oysters may also boost testosterone.[211; 229-232]

Keep in mind that excessive testosterone levels are not conductive to overall health either. Lowered empathy and a higher propensity for aggression are possible side effects. You cannot accomplish such high testosterone levels with natural means though...

Now a topic related to sufficient (but not excessive) testosterone:

 

3. Increasing fertility with oysters as an aphrodisiac

Oysters have been considered aphrodisiacs for millennia. The most probable reason for that finding is, again, the higher zinc content in shellfish.

Zinc stimulates fertility, as you already know. The earlier mechanisms of increasing testosterone also improves fertility - up to a certain point. 

The overall fertility boosting effects can simply be explained through a greater availability of high-quality nutrients. With nutritional deficiencies, you body is less likely to be ready for procreation.

In fact, a strong link has been found between diet and fertility.[233-235] Oysters are of course the pinnacle of healthy foods.

a man and a woman who are kissing, exemplifying oysters' role as an aphrodisiac
End result? 

 

4. Quick and easy weight loss tool

I've written a couple of blog posts on weight loss before. 

One blog concerns the topics of how metabolic rate is the holy grail to long-term weight loss. Another blog argues that fast and junk food are addictive in the same way drugs are.

(Metabolic rate denotes the number of calories you're burning at rest. A low metabolic rate is what many people understand as having a "slow metabolism". Children, on the contrary, almost always have a high metabolic rate, meaning that they can eat anything they want without gaining fat).

How do oysters tie into that narrative?

Well, first of all, oysters contain lots of vitamins and minerals. These nutrients are highly absorbable compared to what you'd get from most plant foods. Vitamins and minerals are important for maintaining a high metabolic rate in turn.

In fact, zinc, iron, and magnesium are necessary for having a high metabolic rate.[248-254] Recall that most people are deficient in magnesium and zinc, and thus have lower metabolic rates than they'd otherwise have.

The result is that you'll gain body fat more easily.

The combination of both protein and carbohydrates in oysters is also very filling. Many proteins you buy in the supermarket, such as beef or chicken, don't contain any carbohydrates. 

Additionally, the low number of calories of oysters allows you to consume tons of them without overeating. I don't think overeating on oysters is dangerous in the first place, because appetite is more prone to regulate itself naturally if you're eating natural foods.

 

 

5. Greater skin, hair, and joint health

The zinc found in oysters additionally increases wound healing potential.[258; 259] Without getting sufficient zinc in your diet, wound healing can be delayed.

What many people don't know is that zinc is also necessary for overall skin health. Skin cells, hair, nails, and joints all depend on zinc for their overall condition. The reason is that zinc is necessary for the formation of collagen. 

That collagen is found in your skin and joints, for instance. Collagen is responsible for the elasticity in your skin.

The problem? Collagen production goes down with age, and is partially responsible for the appearance of wrinkles.

Zinc is not the only mechanism by which collagen synthesis is increased though. The proteins in oysters also contribute to skin condition.[256; 257]

an elephant with wrinkly skin
Give me some oysters to counter my wrinkles, human!

 

6. Better oxygenation

Oysters contain high levels of iron. You need iron to build a compound called "hemoglobin" in the blood.

Without sufficient iron, hemoglobin cannot be formed in adequate numbers, or is formed incorrectly.[259; 260] That hemoglobin is found in red blood cells.

Carrying oxygen is one of hemoglobin's main roles. If you have insufficient hemoglobin then your body cannot carry sufficient oxygen.

You probably don't need convincing that oxygen is important for your health. But just in case: oxygen is necessary for your mitochondria to work properly. Mitochondria are the "energy producing factories" of the cell. 

Food, light from your environment, and oxygen are the inputs of that mitochondria. If one of these three inputs is lacking, the end result is dramatic.

In fact, you can go without food or light for some time and your mitochondria will still function well. Why? Body fat can be broken down, and food can replace the input of light. But without oxygen your mitochondria stop functioning within minutes. The end result is death.

Better oxygenation moves you further away from death - towards better health and more energy.

Younger menstruating women and people who are really active are more at risk for low hemoglobin levels - or iron deficiency anemia. Read my blog post on iron to understand why.

 

7. Stronger bones

Many minerals and trace minerals are actually necessary to build strong bones.

You probably know that calcium is a prerequisite, for example. But you may not know that minerals such as phosphorus and magnesium are also required for building strong bones.[261-263] 

Even zinc, copper and manganese are necessary for bone health.[155; 264-268] Remember that many people are not ingesting the daily required minerals through a Standard American Diet.

Foods high in nutrients such as oysters can thus help out in that regard.

raw oysters with lemon
Bone builders? Sure! Any high quality food with lots of nutrients is a bone builder.

 

8. Immune system booster

Anddd... we're back to the topic of minerals once again.

Copper, zinc, and iron all play a role in building a strong immune system.[269-274] 

Vitamins are similar to minerals in that regard. B vitamins strengthen the immune system, for example.[275] These vitamins are necessary to produce antibodies, which protect your body against invaders.

Anecdotally, many people that I know of who become sick several times a year are also usually not maximizing their vitamin and mineral intake through food. I know doing so is often expensive, you cannot go through life with mineral deficiencies and hope to do well.

 

9. Optimal brain and cognitive development

"DHA", or "docosahexanoic acid" is a compound that's found in high qualities in fatty fish. That DHA Is necessary for optimal brain development.

While I don't believe that you need limitless quantities of DHA, many people do seem to be deficient in this fatty acid nowadays.[276; 277] The problem was worse 5 years ago.

The minerals iodine, zinc, copper, and iron are other brain specific nutrients. B vitamins are similar in their importance for cognition, as well as vitamin D and K2.

In fact, it's the combination of the vitamins, minerals, and DHA that is responsible for the spectacular human brain development in the last few millions years.[278]

What development?

Humans (Homo sapiens) have denser brains that are more developed towards the prefrontal cortex than primates. That prefrontal cortex helps with impulse control, abstract thought, and planning. Humans also have a higher brain to lean muscle mass ratio than the primates we evolved from.

A higher quality diet is partially responsible for your ancestors transition from primates to humans. Shellfish are one of the keys in that transition.

As a side note, I do not adhere to the thesis that all polyunsaturated fatty acids are bad for your health. If such fats were toxic, studies would have found increases instead of decreases in all cause mortality.[321-324] 

All cause mortality is your general risk of dying, independent of circumstance, and aggregates all possible variables affecting that risk. 

Of course, the fact that these fatty acids have benefits doesn't mean you'd have to binge on these foods either. There's no need to eat oysters every single day of the week.

And it's not just cognitive potential that's affected by these nutrients - well being is as well. Zinc, for example, protects against anxiety and depression.[279; 280] Magnesium accomplishes the same thing.

Many people are anxious nowadays because they've got excessive copper levels in comparison to zinc. Oysters have the perfect balance in that regard.

an oyster catcher bird
Oyster catcher birds: not quite as smart as humans yet, despite eating tons of oysters.

 

10. May promote heart health

Vitamin K2 aids heart health, although evidence runs thin as of right now.[281-284]

The mechanism for vitamin K2 accomplishing that effect is reducing calcium stores in improper places of the body.

Calcium needs to be stored in your bones--not your arteries. That reduction in improper calcium stores reduces the risk of atherosclerosis - a condition in which your blood vessels constrict due to calcium deposits.

Remember that I estimated that 90%+ of people get too little vitamin K2 in their diets. Eating oysters a couple of times a week will be a major contribution to your vitamin K2 intake.

 

11. Increased energy levels

Want increased energy levels?

I'll sign you up.

A combination of vitamin B12, iron, and magnesium can all increase your energy levels.

Magnesium, for example, is essential for properly functioning of the mitochondria.[285-287] Iron and vitamin B12 are necessary for creation of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying compound in red blood cells which I've mentioned before.

A higher oxygen carrying capacity in your body leads to improved energy levels across the board.

 

12. Higher sleep quality and lower stress

Many animal foods, including oysters, contain phosphatidylserine. That compound lowers levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, with almost 40%.[288; 289]

Higher nighttime cortisol levels are associated with lower sleep quality.[290; 291] 

Zinc and magnesium, secondly, also help improve sleep quality and lower stress at the same time. Of course, you only get that benefit when you solve a deficiency in these minerals.

 

 BONUS: boost eye health

The vitamin A, C, zinc, and DHA found in oysters are all responsible for keeping your eyes healthy.[292]

DHA is recycled quickly in the eye, and may deplete quicker when exposed to lots of blue light.[293; 294] Screens contribute to that process. 

The more you're looking at screens, the more problematic for your health and the more nutrients you need to offset the problem.

So that's it, 12 different oyster health benefits. Let's move on to actually eating oysters:

 

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4. HOW TO EAT OYSTERS: RAW, CANNED, COOKED, SMOKED (+ MAXIMIZING NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS)

Everyone knows how to eat an oyster, right?

Well, not so fast...

Let's begin with a problem many people face before they can eat oysters:

How to open an oyster

Oysters are impossible to open up without specialized tools. You cannot open such shellfish with your bare hands, for example. And a kitchen knife will likely break in the process.

Solution?

Get an oyster shucking set:

an oyter shucking set

These gloves protect you against cuts. Opening an oyster requires some force and dexterity, and you don't want to end up with a knife you your hand or wrist.

The knife is specialized towards cutting the adductor muscle contained in any oyster. That adductor muscle keeps the two halves of the oyster shell stuck together.

The adductor muscle is like a tight elastic band inside the two shells. Cut the adductor knife and the shells of the oyster open.

The process takes some practice, but in time you'll easily find the "hinge" at which the knife should be applied.

The easiest way to open an oyster is by laying the oyster flat on a kitchen table or another stable surface, and then fixating the oyster with one hand. With the other hand, insert the knife and find the hinge muscle that keeps the oyster together.

A twisting motion helps you separate the two parts of the shell. The two parts then come loose.

Ready to eat?

Not yet...

The next step is to move the pinpointed part of the knife along the bottom of the shell from all sides, so that the meat separates from the shell.  Most civilized people (which I am not) then turn around the oyster, which improves presentation.

After that you can eat a raw oyster! Don't throw away the juices though, as these add to the taste and nutrient profile.

Prefer a video of that description? 

Watch below:

 

Now you can enjoy the world class nutrition.

Raw oysters

raw oysters picture
(Almost) nothing as beautiful as raw oysters.

 

Raw oysters should be your preferred choice, if and only if you know you can trust the source you're buying them from and if you're in good health.

Remember that raw oysters can contain bacteria and viruses, and thus carry an inherent risk for some people.

Why eat raw oysters?

Simple:

Nutrient content typically goes down when cooking animal foods.

While I couldn't find specific studies on oysters, cooking of fish reduces their vitamin content.[295] Cooking also reduces the creatine content of meat - creatine is a well-known athletic and cognitive performance enhancer.[296]

It can thus reasonably be expected that nutritional value in oysters also goes down with cooking. 

As an upside, in many developed countries water quality is also tested before oysters are shipped. The FDA in the US mandates water testing, for example. The EU has similar legislation.

If you're eating oysters in a US restaurant, ask for the oyster tag. That tag shows when the oysters were pulled out of the water and is thus an indication of freshness. The fresher the oyster, the better.

Not all oysters are good to eat. 

In New York City, where a billion oysters are planted as part of a restoration project, oysters live in polluted waters. Unless New York harbor becomes very clean again, don't think about consuming. 

(The upside? 30 million oysters are currently restored in New York. In time that number will increase to 1 billion.)

Bottom line: as I had already said, ask any seller in a shop where the oysters are sourced from. Ask for a tag if necessary to gauge freshness.

And for the best health benefits, eat these beauties raw. Add some lemon for additional flavor...

It's best to buy raw oysters locally. 

Cooked oysters

Only opt for very light cooking when using oysters. Steaming is probably best.

Heating oysters are the best option if you're less healthy. Many recipes can be found online to make oysters delicious, such as:

  • An oyster stew with onion, garlic, coconut milk, and parsley.
  • Sauteed oysters in coconut oil, with paprika (and other hot spices)
  • Wrap bacon around the oysters, and grill or bake the combination.

Or better yet: visit another websites for tons of additional oyster recipes.

Don't ask me about recipes though: I'm the worst cook on this planet...

Keep in mind that lower temperatures are generally best as an animal protein preparation method.

Both very long cooking and very high temperatures are often sub optimal because of nutrient depletion.

Canned oysters


Canned oystersoyster can

Canned oysters are almost always cooked, which is a downside. The upside is that they're really easy to use...

Canned oysters can be eaten at work, if you're in a traffic jam, on an airplane, and whenever you need a quick meal.

Literally everywhere.

You get the idea. 

Hoard canned oysters and pull a can out whenever you need one. The oysters are grown in South Korea and the cans are BPA-free.

Are canned oysters perfect? No, but they're a great tool in the toolbox.

Do Canned Oysters Lose Nutrients?

Not necessarily, depending on when oysters were canned.

In fact, if they were canned almost immediately after harvesting, nutrient levels may be even higher than some fresh oysters.

The only reason canned oysters have lower levels of nutrients is the cooking process.

Many people still have a bias against frozen or canned foods. An yet, it has been demonstrated time and time again that frozen vegetables are sometimes even superior to their fresh counterparts.[299-302]

If prepared properly, canned oysters can thus be more nutrients than fresh ones (assuming the fresh oysters don't come directly out of the water, but have been laying around for a while).

Smoked oysters

Smoking is a disaster. 

Smoking food also adds carcinogenic "polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons".[298; 299] Avoid for obvious reasons - go for regular recipes or raw oysters.

Do smoked oysters taste good? Sure. But the same is true for meat that's barbecued under high heat - the smoke simply adds amazing flavor.

Is that strategy optimal?

No...

Most of the time, very bad sauces such as "hot sauce" or other artificial ingredients are used in the smoking process as well. Such substances lead to sub-optimal health consequences. 

Inexpensive oyster alternatives.

Don't want to pay tons of money for oyster?

Try their little brother: mussels. Mussels are often far cheaper than oysters. In fact, here in the Netherlands I sometimes pay $4 - $5 for more than 4 pounds of these shellfish (if they're in season).

Crazy cheap...

I also pay about $7 for a kilogram of mussel meat. 

I'm sure you can get mussels at many places on this planet right now...

Mussels contain somewhat more protein than oysters in general, and fewer carbohydrates and fats. Vitamin and mineral content is somewhat lower for mussels overall.

Eating too many oysters - zinc overdose

Can you eat too many oysters?

Probably.

If you're just relying on oysters you can end up with very high zinc levels, because oysters are the best zinc food in nature. For that reason I recommend not consuming high quantities of oysters more than 2-3 times a week.

But let's now talk about an elephant in the room. Whenever shellfish are discussed, the topic becomes:

Shellfish allergy

First of all: is there such a thing as "shellfish allergy"? 

Yes...

The medical literature does accept that shellfish allergies exist. However, crustaceans are more likely to be allergenic than mollusks.[316; 317] Oysters are bivalve mollusks, and therefore less prone cause allergic reactions.

I also suspect that many false positives occur in relation to "shellfish allergies".

Example?

Sure:

Many people also think they cannot digest red meat, even though insufficient stomach acid is responsible for that inability. Such people are not allergic to red meat but have a digestion problem.

So what if you do not tolerate oysters?

Becoming healthier overall and getting your immune system in sync can help then. So initially, you may need to avoid consuming oysters, start healing yourself, and then try re-introducing shellfish into your diet later on.

Disruptions to the 24-hour clock in your body - the "circadian rhythm" - can additionally increase the intensity of allergies.[318-320] Many people thus seem allergic to substances, while in reality they may not be.

Test before you give up oysters forever...

Lastly, let's move to a topic that keeps a few people up at night:

The ethics of eating shellfish

Should you eat shellfish?

Well, for most people the answer to that question depends on whether shellfish can feel pain.

Many vegetarians and vegans don't eat animal foods precisely because they don't want to hurt animals. Whether you think that reason is logically valid or not, let's assume for the sake of argument that eating animals that feel pain is unethical.

The latest studies show that shellfish, at a very basic level, do seem to adjust their behavior to certain stimuli that humans would find painful.[303; 304] 

On the other hand, the argument is sometimes made that even fish don't have the neural structure developments to feel what humans would call "pain".[305] Such pain responses are then often considered mere "reflexes".

That conclusion is almost certainly incorrect though, as there's a large learning component in that different marine animals try to avoid the painful stimulus next time.[306; 307]

But shellfish are not fish. And oysters are one very specific shellfish species, ones without a brain. The problem is that most shellfish research on pain is carried out with shrimp, lobsters, and crabs. Shrimp, crabs, and lobsters have brains, and probably feel pain--oysters probably do not.

From a philosophical perspective, moreover, it's really hard if not impossible to know for certain whether that certain expressed behavior can be linked to mental states that humans describe as "pain". 

In fact, absolute certainty is impossible in that regard.

If you're completely skeptical, you can even hold the philosophical view that fellow humans than you don't even experience pain. Of course, you're playing the devil's advocate with that argument, but it cannot be logically debunked.

The way I read the research on shellfish and pain is that they're probably a safe alternative for vegetarians and vegans. The fact that oyster don't have a brain like other marine species do is crucial. My argument is largely based on intuition, however, in the absence of a possibility to establish certainty.

So is it possible to feel pain without a brain? Maybe. But in that case you could even claim that bacteria and viruses may feel pain, and that brushing them off your skin is equal to "killing animals". From a logic standpoint, the line needs to be drawn somewhere.

And if it helps you make a choice:

Oysters kill "others" as well sometimes. An oyster catcher bird bills can be trapped between the two shells of an oyster, for example. The oyster then hold that bird in place until the tide rises by which the bird then drowns.

Sure it's still self-defense, but oysters do kill. You need to (indirectly) kill animals too to survive. Nature is cruel, unfortunately. 

And from an environmental perspective eating oysters is the best thing you can do: almost no oysters are sourced from wild deposits today. The more farmed oysters you eat, the more new ones that are produced. You're thus helping nature by eating them.

Capitalism at work...

Let's move on to a related topic:

 

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5. GORGING ON SUSTAINABLE SHELLFISH TO SAVE THE WORLD

Lots of people carry guilt around eating meat specifically and animal foods in general.

That sentiment runs a lot deeper than you'd think.

Meat-free days and cutting down on animal protein are popular trends. The environment and animal well being are the most frequent reasons people have for cutting down on animal meats.

And no matter how many times carnivore diet proponents tell you that you don't have to feel guilt around eating meat, it's easier said than done for some.

But what if there's a "magic" solution to problem? What if you could enjoy animal foods while saving the planet at the same time?

In the introduction of this blog post I talked about oyster reefs. Oyster reefs are part of the solution, however, as ocean farming is the other part.

I also stated that new arable land is limited on this planet, and that most of that land is currently terribly managed. Combining pesticides, plowing, and animal feedlots, for example, mostly results in short-term higher levels of food production, at the cost of longer-term sustainability.

So the natural solution is to look at the seas and oceans. I'll thus treat the full topic of ocean aquaculture here.

But let's begin with some bad news:

The over-fishing problem

87% of the world's fisheries are over exploited - at least in 2012.[236] The problem is probably worse now.

Over exploitation means that fish extracted from the water exceed replacement rates. And fewer available wild fish also means that fewer of these animals procreate. The end result is a vicious cycle of fish depletion and extinction that looms.

And that's exactly what is happening.

Let's look at some global trends:

In the year 2000, about 135 million tons of seafood was produced. In 2010, that number increased to 165 million metric tons. By 2015, it's 200 million tons. And with a continuing trend, that number will be 235 million tons in 2020.[237]

Not all that fish is wild though: wild production has leveled off around 80 million metric tons since 1990. If more is caught, oceans get depleted.

Two-thirds of world fish and shellfish production is thus already farmed - and that trend continues because oceans can only provide so much food.

Recall that some farmed fish species are devastating to ocean health: farmed salmon requires 1-5 pounds of fish meal (smaller fish such as anchovies) to create 1 pound of finished product.

And the less smaller fish fed to farmed salmon, the poorer the nutrient profile generally becomes. Salmon were not meant to eat genetically modified corn, poultry litter, and antioxidant dyes (astaxanthin) for a better skin color. 

Insane fact:

Without the dye farmed salmon would be grey. But you wouldn't eat grey "stuff" so fish farms add colors. Now that toxic salmon looks healthy. 

Many other problems exist with this aquaculture method, such as excessive waste in the form of excrements, lice of farmed fish that spread to their wild counterparts, and antibiotic use.

Now, the smaller fish used as feed on fish farms can be caught in a relatively non-destructive fashion, but it's still a shame.[238] Small fish are also increasingly under pressure, and for sustainability purposes they are best consumed by humans, not fish.

Smaller fish play an essential role in any ocean ecosystem, and cannot be used in an unlimited fashion without ecological consequences.

And the biggest problem?

Increased seafood consumption

Just like meat which I mentioned in the introduction, fish consumption is also poised to increase massively in the coming decades.

Developing countries will experience huge population growths--developed world populations will flatline or slightly decline. The increase in fish consumption thus mostly stems from developing nations.

Developing countries will also be able to afford more fish. African and Asian countries are getting richer on a relative basis in the coming decades. The result of that development is that demand for marine foods grows ever more.

Remember that the over fishing trend was already problematic in the 1990s. All increases in fish consumption have since originated from aquaculture.

Catching more wild fish is thus simply unsustainable and impossible. A different solution is desperately needed...

fish swimming in the ocean
Say goodbye to this view in 30 years?

 

Sustainable aquaculture

I've said this in the introduction as well: oysters can be created very efficiently in different types of waters, without needing access to any external produce.

Why?

Well, recall that shellfish feed on phytoplankton. 

Phytoplankton function on photosynthesis just like plants on the land do. Photosynthesis turns the sun's energy into chemical energy. Chlorophyll is found in both land plants and phytoplankton, and allows for that photosynthesis.

In a sense, oysters are the "cows of the ocean". Oysters harvest plant material, and turn it into animal protein. And oysters, just like cows, aren't located at the top of the food chain. 

Why does that foodchain matter?

Let me explain:

Salmon or swordfish are examples of marine life higher on the foodchain. These fish are predators that feed on smaller marine animals. Lions are land predators that feed (mostly) on herbivores. 

The point?

Modern aquaculture that uses salmon to produce food is similar to a hypothetical process of feeding cows to lions, in order to then use lions as human food. Deadly inefficient...

Producing oysters is very efficient, on the contrary. 

So let's look at why oysters are so promising as a solution:

Oysters in a healthy ecosystem

Cows only need grass and water to grow. The only thing oysters need is clean seawater with phytoplankton.

See the similarity?

And contrary to my earlier consideration of oyster reefs, oysters can also be produced further into the water. 

Another analogy:

The traditional role of herbivores such as cows is to "mow" long grass. By cutting down grass that is too long and fertilizing that same area, the grass increases its speed of growth and the soil gains health. 

The traditional role of shellfish is to filter some of the phytoplankton out of the water. As a result, ocean water becomes clearer and sunlight penetrates deeper into the ocean. Plants living in the ocean consequently grow faster.

Oysters additionally increase the biodiversity of nature.

Oyster reefs are basically "skyscrapers" built into the ocean that house many species. Oyster reefs expand both horizontally as vertically, adding more and more surface area over time.

Phytoplankton enters that "skyscraper" and then feeds these oysters:

Phytoplankton as a limitless sustainable resource

Phytoplankton can grow exponentially under the right circumstances.[240; 241] In fact, with the right temperatures and light levels, phytoplankton "blooms" and can overtake large parts of lakes, seas, and oceans.

Curbing excess plankton is thus highly warranted and even beneficial to nature. Oysters are the perfect tool for that process.

Phytoplankton has other benefits though: many marine species graze on phytoplankton by converting them into energy. Excretions of such species then feed other species deeper in the ocean.

Phytoplankton also consumes CO2 from the atmosphere and transfer it to the water.[242-244] 

Seeing another similarity?

Land based soils such as grasses store CO2, just like plankton transfer CO2 from the air into the ocean. Both plankton and grass thus sequester carbon into the earth. 

The exponential growth of plankton also ensure that you'll never be without the stuff. No matter how much plankton shellfish such as oysters consume, now plankton can very easily be recreated.

(Keep in mind that several types of plankton exist, such as zooplankton (which are carnivores and don't photosynthesize, and macroplanton, which are bigger.[245-247] About 5,000 phytoplankton species have been identified.)

So all in all, many shorelines can be splattered with oyster reefs. That strategy massively increases food production and acts as a natural barrier against floods and erosion as well.

Want even more marine food production?

Then there's a simple solution for those people in Africa and Asia who want fish:

Deep sea aquaculture

Shellfish don't have to be farmed very close to the shore. Shellfish can also be farmed at some distance form the shore and deeper into the ocean. For example:

 

Also watch the following video:

 

With more deep sea aquaculture, the planet could easily be fed, possibly a whopping 10 times over. There's thus no overpopulation problem - from a food perspective at least.

Another upside about deep sea aquaculture?

No pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, or fertilizer needed. You only create foods that are low on the food chain, living off plankton.

Ocean farming is incredibly efficient because you can farm as deep as you'd like. On average, anywhere on this planet, the ocean is about 5 kilometers deep. All those kilometers can potentially be used for food production, if necessary.

Just one big farm of the size of an average US state, when depth is maximized, is sufficient to feed the world.

Keep in mind that the world is made up 70% of oceans. So when used effectively, the Earth could potentially feed 100 billion people. Of course, many other resources would become too scarce for proper survival.

What exists is a creativity and entrepreneurial shortage in the food domain. The next "Bill Gates" who thus applies these principles to ocean farming will be filthy rich.

Keeping deep sea aquaculture sustainable

Of course, the danger of allowing ocean farming to roam free is that people start taking shortcuts.

Currently ocean farms can already be and are pollution free. A strong case can be made that for legislation so that the ocean farm system does not end up like the the terrible state of land-based farming.

Local pollution has global consequences today. Some parts of the land-based food system can only exist because the costs of pollution can be externalized upon other people.

Examples:

GMOs can end up on another person's land. Land erosion due to excessive plowing can cause problems to your neighbor. Manure from feedlots is toxic waste and cannot go back on the land.

Without legislation for ocean farming, I fear that such practices will also occur there. Pesticides and antibiotics will then be used very quickly in deep sea aquaculture. How? I don't know.

Nonetheless, such strategies always increase profit of producers, at cost of the society at large. Such strategies will be used if possible, that's how the current system works.

Fortunately, the potential of sustainable deep sea aquaculture for food production is limitless. There's thus no fundamental need to take ecological shortcuts.

Even sea vegetables such as seaweed can be easily produced on oceans. Sea vegetables have an extraordinarily high mineral density compared to most land vegetables, and can be a very healthy choice (depending on your health context).

Sea vegetables also take more CO2 out of the air than land plants do. Additionally, a seaweed such as kelp even acts as the perfect fertilizer for land foods:

 

Whether you're a proponent of climate change theories or not, you'll definitely be able to appreciate the theory behind using oceans for food supplies.

And even if you don't believe in climate change, you'll like the possibility of these foods feeding the world.

So that's it. Let's finally conclude...

Oh, by the way...

Ready to start working on your health today? Grab my 20-day mini course via e-mail on how to start working on your health for massive long-term improvements. No quick fixes given:

 

 

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6. CONCLUSION: SAVE THE PLANET BY SAVING YOURSELF

So oysters don't just have tremendous health benefits, bringing up the best in humanity, but are also great for saving the world.

Are you a 25 year old? My advice:

  • Don't become a banker - cryptocurrencies will wipe that job out in the future.
  • Don't enter data at an accountancy office - that sector will be hit hard by artificial intelligence.
  • Don't work in construction - robots will take over routine jobs.
  • Don't study law - many routine law procedures become obsolete by both distributed ledger technology and artificial intelligence...

So what should you become?

Become an ocean farmer.

Start your own mussel and oyster farm at deep sea. Grow your own superfood and become rich in the process.

One of my favorite economic commentators, Jim Rogers, has said that people working at Goldman Sachs should start learning to drive tractors instead of Ferrari's. 

And he's right. Farmers are getting older by the day so there's a huge opportunity there. But if you're really ballsy you don't become a farmer on land but on sea.

Deep sea farming. 

Feed the world.

No: save the world.

Give your fellow humans their (over)load of vitamins and minerals. Supply everyone with such high-quality food that fortification of wheat is no longer necessary. 

Give everyone those higher energy levels, better fertility, improved cognition, well being, and beauty. The oyster health benefits are endless...

And for God sake:

You'll be living on the ocean, in the sun, 300 days a year. You'll be living in paradise. And you're getting paid to do so.

Why aren't I doing that?

I've got my own mission.

But please grow some oysters for me - I'll never tire of their taste. I need that improved energy, dopamine, and sleep quality. The same is true for all older folks. I'm turning 33 next week, so I belong to those older folks as well...

You probably do too.

But we do celebrate the youth and energy that oysters bring...

For further reading, consider:

  1. Smithsonian: The evolution of shellfish over millions of years
  2. How shellfish may contribute to climate change (even though I don't buy the argument).
  3. Scientific American: shellfish' role in the ecosystem and why reintroducing shellfish is viable again; Scientific American on why seaweed farming matters ecologically
  4. How global meat consumption is poised to increase by more than 70% in the coming decades
  5. The great oyster craze: why Americans loved oysters in the 19th Century
  6. Modern oyster reef restoration: the Chesepeake Bay program
  7. History of oyster in New York City.
  8. Shellfish allergy prevalence
  9. Why zinc is important for human health; magnesium and overall health; iron and human health
  10. The viability of deep sea farming with aquapods; TED about deep sea aquaculture
  11. Yale environment: why deep sea aquaculture is promising compared to coastal alternatives
  12. The Green Wave model for ocean and shore acquaculture farming that combines oysters, seaweed, scallops, and mussels

For other blog posts, see:

 

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