Fresh oysters are delicious. They make amazing treats, especially if you’re a fan of seafood anyway. It’s not always easy to find fresh oysters, so are smoked oysters good for you too?
Smoked oysters are the next best thing. They generally come in a can and are already cooked. They also have a decent shelf life, often lasting for a year or even more.
The shelf life alone makes smoked oysters much more practical than fresh ones. They’re also perfect if you’re not well organized, as you can keep some oysters in your cupboard for days when you can’t find any fresh seafood.
So, are smoked oysters good for you? To answer that question, we need to look into the nutrition of smoked oysters, along with some other key features.
Are Smoked Oysters Good For You?
- Smoked Oyster Nutrition
- Benefits Of Smoked Oysters
- How Smoked Oysters Could Be Harmful
- Making Smoked Oysters At Home
- How Often Should You Eat Smoked Oysters?
- What About Their Cholesterol Content?
- Final Thoughts
Smoked Oyster Nutrition
While there is some variation between products, the basic nutritional profile for a serving of smoked oysters looks like this:
- 150 calories
- Fat: 7 grams
- Saturated fat: 1.5 grams
- Carbs: 4 grams
- Protein: 18 grams
Seriously, a 100 gram serving of smoked oysters contains more than 500% of your daily needs for copper and zinc, along with around 40% of your daily iron needs. That’s pretty impressive.
Benefits Of Smoked Oysters
Provide Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Just like the fresh ones, smoked oysters are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. You’ve heard about omega 3s, right? These polyunsaturated fats are famous for their potential benefits.
For one thing, omega 3s are very relevant for your heart, helping to decrease blood pressure and lower your triglyceride levels. Getting enough omega 3 regularly is even a critical tool in protecting you against heart disease.
Plus, oysters are naturally low in fat. This makes them powerful for your heart as well, especially if you’re using them instead of a saturated fat rich protein source (like red meat).
Omega 3s are relevant for your mental health as well. Not only can omega 3s lower the risk of depression, but they may also help people with depression to recover faster. There’s also a brain health link, where omega 3s may help protect against mental decline later in life and promote healthy brain development early on.
There are other potential benefits too, like the way that omega 3s can decrease inflammation, which could then lead to a lower risk of disease. Or how omega 3s may help with your immune system, asthma symptoms, and sleep quality.
We could go on, but the point is made – omega 3s are powerful. While researchers are still uncovering all that they do for our health, it’s already clear that most of us need to consume more omega 3s. Smoked oysters are one way to do just that.
Smoked oysters are much easier to use than fresh ones. You don’t need to worry about shucking or cooking them. They also last for ages and you can find them in local grocery stores.
This is so much easier than trying to source fresh oysters and then prepare them.
Canned oysters are surprisingly delicious too. They’re not slimy at all, nor do they have a strong briny flavor. They tend to be meaty instead and you can simply bite into them.
There are also countless ways to use canned oysters. You could chop them up and use them in a salad or pasta. You can also include them in a stew or an oyster chowder. Smoked oyster pate is delicious too and is perfect for parties and other events.
Also, because the oysters are canned, they tend to be shelf stable. This makes them excellent for picnics and camping.
Rich In High Quality Protein
Smoked oysters are also exceptional for protein, often giving you 18 grams or more per serving. We’re talking about high quality protein too, where you’re getting all the amino acids your body needs.
This is critical, as protein is essential throughout your body, promoting growth and repair, while keeping your skin, muscles, and joints healthy. Protein is even relevant in your immune system, helping your body to fight off disease.
You get plenty of protein with other types of seafood too. Still, smoked oysters are one of the easiest choices, so why not give them a try?
Could Help With Weight Loss
Smoked oysters are generally low in fat and rich in protein. That combination is always powerful for weight loss, helping you to stay full without adding too many calories.
However, the fat content can vary, partly based on whether the oysters are packed in oil or water. As such, it’s important to closely read the ingredient label. This way you know exactly what you’re getting with each serving.
They’re Generally Safe During Pregnancy
Raw oysters aren’t a good idea during pregnancy, as the risk is simply too high. Smoked oysters can be helpful, as they’re already fully cooked and have been sterilized. Those processes destroy any harmful bacteria, helping to keep you safe.
However, you do need to be careful with cold smoked oysters. Because these are kept cold when they’re being smoked, they’re not really being cooked and some harmful bacteria can remain. While such oysters are safe enough for most people, they could be too risky during pregnancy or if you have a compromised immune system.
You should also be cautious if you’re smoking oysters at home yourself. Make sure that your oysters are fully cooked and that they’re not left sitting in warm environments, where the bacteria can multiply.
It’s also important to talk to your doctor about the specifics of your pregnancy. For example, people at significant risk of pregnancy complications may need to be much more cautious about seafood consumption.
They’re Relatively Low In Mercury
Most seafood contains some mercury, which is why it’s best to stick to no more than a few servings of seafood each week. However, mercury levels vary dramatically. For example, tuna tends to be high in mercury, while salmon is a much safer choice.
Smoked oysters are on the low end of the spectrum. While there’s still some variation, the mercury levels are low enough that you don’t need to stress.
They Contain Plenty Of Nutrients
We can’t forget about the nutrient content either. Vitamins and minerals play fundamental roles throughout our bodies, helping us function well.
Oysters are excellent here, as they’re nutrient dense. This means they provide plenty of nutrients in a relatively small serving size.
The zinc, selenium, and iron are particularly important here. Selenium is linked to your immune system, cognition, and may be relevant for your thyroid too. Zinc also helps your immune system, as well as a host of other areas.
Then there’s the iron. Iron is particularly relevant for your energy levels and focus, partly because it is used to make hemoglobin. It’s also surprisingly easy to be deficient in iron, particularly if you’re a woman.
How Smoked Oysters Could Be Harmful
Their Zinc Content
A serving of oysters can easily give you more than 500% of your daily zinc intake. Even a single oyster contains a decent amount of zinc.
This can be an issue in some situations, as too much zinc can lead to zinc toxicity, which can reduce the absorption of iron and copper, plus lead to side effects like diarrhea, vomiting, and even intestinal damage.
The high amount of zinc means that it’s best to have smoked oysters every so often, perhaps two times a week. Eating them every day could easily make you sick.
Can Be High In Sodium
Smoked oysters are often high in sodium, sometimes giving you more than 250 mg or even 330 mg of sodium per serving. The sodium makes the oysters taste good, but isn’t great for your health at all.
In fact, most of us need to drop down our sodium intake. After all, too much sodium can raise blood pressure, increase heart disease risk, promote fluid retention, and promote other health problems as well.
Sodium is also everywhere, particularly in processed foods. It’s already easy to go far above a healthy level of sodium intake and smoked oysters don’t help with that pattern at all.
Still, if you love smoked oysters, you could always cut down your sodium intake elsewhere. There are also some low sodium products. For example, Crown Prince Natural Smoked Oysters keep the sodium content down to 120 mg for the entire container.
Rinsing smoked oysters before you use them can also decrease the sodium level, making the oysters a healthier choice.
They Can Go Off
Smoked oysters last for a long time when they’re sealed in the can. However, they only last a few days once opened. Damage to the can is also possible, which risks introducing air and bacteria.
Regardless of whether you’re using homemade smoked oysters or ones from a can, it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs that they’ve gone off.
Things to watch out for include a bad smell, any change in color, significant damage to the can, or mold. Keep an eye on the expiry date too. If your oysters are near or past their expiry date, it’s best to avoid them.
Seriously. Food poisoning from oysters can be awful and is potentially dangerous.
They May Be Contaminated
Like other seafood, smoked oysters can be contaminated from their environment. Heavy metals are a particular problem, including both cadmium and lead.
Oysters are a particular problem here, as they’re filter feeders. This makes them more likely to be contaminated than other types of seafood, including fish.
To keep yourself safe, it’s important to look for canned oysters from reliable suppliers – companies that source their oysters from clean waters and have a strong focus on quality.
Even then, some risk still remains. In fact, there are periodic recalls of oysters due to contamination. Thankfully, such issues don’t happen too often.
The Quality Can Vary
Smoked oysters vary in quality. Some are caught from clean waters by companies that are focused on health. Other companies seem to have a great focus on their profit margins.
Similarly, some smoked oysters are packed in olive oil or water. These often use few ingredients beyond the oysters, oil, and perhaps some type of seasoning. Other products are more concerning, like oysters that are packed in cottonseed oil and those that are relatively high in net carbs.
Such patterns make it important to research your oysters first. Reading the ingredients label can help here, but it’s also worth digging into the company itself. Pay attention to their emphasis on quality and whether they have any concerning practices.
Making Smoked Oysters At Home
We’ve been talking about buying smoked oysters in a can, but this isn’t your only option. You can also smoke your own oysters at home, using either a grill or a smoker.
While doing so is more labor intensive than buying a can of smoked oysters, you’re also getting a tastier product and have full control over the flavor. It’s worth focusing on fresh high quality oysters, as these will have the best flavor when you’ve finished smoking them.
Paying attention to the wood matters too. Most of the time, you’ll want a mild smoking wood. You’ll need to avoid using too much as well. Remember, oysters have a fairly mild flavor, so it’s easy to overwhelm them with excessive smokiness.
How Often Should You Eat Smoked Oysters?
Most recommendations suggest having either two or three servings of seafood each week. Doing so gives you plenty of benefits from the protein and omega 3s, with minimal risk.
Keeping within these limits is particularly important for smoked oysters, as there’s also the sodium and high zinc content to worry about. You might even need to keep your intake lower, perhaps having just one serving per week.
What About Their Cholesterol Content?
Shellfish typically contains more cholesterol than fish. Some people use this as a reason to avoid oysters, particularly if they’re already worried about their heart health.
Thankfully, smoked oysters help your heart due to their omega 3 fatty acid content and all the nutrients that they contain. Focusing on low sodium varieties makes them even better.
The cholesterol isn’t such a big deal anyway. For one thing, oysters are lower in cholesterol than some other types of shellfish.
But more importantly, dietary cholesterol doesn’t actually have a dramatic health impact. Modern research now shows that the cholesterol in our food doesn’t change blood cholesterol levels much at all for most people.
When dietary cholesterol does impact the cholesterol in our blood, that’s normally because the food is also rich in saturated fat. Smoked oysters are fantastic in this way, as their saturated fat content is low.
Smoked oysters provide many valuable benefits, as they’re rich in protein, nutrients, and omega 3 fatty acids. While there is some potential for contamination, such risks are relatively low, especially if you purchase your oysters from a reliable company.
The biggest issue may actually be the zinc content, as you’re getting an extreme amount of zinc per serving. This is reason enough to be cautious with your intake of smoked oysters. It’s often best to have no more than a few servings of smoked oysters each week.
You might even limit yourself to just one serving of the oysters if you’re getting plenty of zinc elsewhere in your diet.