It's considered among the top ten sex-boosting foods and has a legendary reputation as an aphrodisiac across the world, but the oyster is also one of the most nutrient-packed foods.
Local lovers of the delicacy also believe it helps with sexual performance, and assists women in becoming pregnant.
Some enjoy the delicacy so much that despite the pandemic concerns, they do not mind sucking the shellfish by the roadside where oyster vendors ply their trade. The "stall" is usually a simple set-up: a small table laden with bottles of condiments, a cooler at the side of the table, a bowl filled with oysters, and yes, a small flambeau to shed some light.
Anthony "Oyster Man" Nanan, 41, contends that the shellfish helps men perform better in bed. He also has the "evidence" from the women who have benefited from the breakthrough by finally becoming pregnant after a period of barrenness.
While men and women can benefit from the numerous nutrients in oyster, the debate on whether it can assist in sexual arousal has gone on for ages.
Nanan has been selling the delicacy since he was 16 with his father, who has since died. Just about any day, you can find him on the pavement, near the vendors row, on the Eastern Main Road entrance to the Arima market.
"I out here long time and my father was here since 1980,” he said. “I sell oyster sauce with medium pepper and very hot. You can also get without pepper. I also have garlic and chadon beni sauce. Here is the bowl with salt and lime. You need plenty lime to squeeze on the oyster to kill the freshness of it.”
When asked what makes oyster so popular, he said, “It helps men in the bed. Women come back all the time and say it helped them. They couldn’t have children and when they had the oysters, it helped them get pregnant.
“I have iced oysters and sent it to people in New York already. People from all over the world have come to buy my oysters. The oysters are very high in zinc and that is what the people want from it. I also sell lobsters, crabs, mussels and octopus.”
Oyster has been listed among the top ten sex-boosting foods by CBS News and is said to play a key part in the female libido. The shellfish also has a high zinc level which is necessary for testosterone production and maintenance of healthy sperm. It is also a complete source of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids which the body needs.
Alana Walker has been a registered dietician for 16 years and gave both the pros and cons of consuming oysters.
“There is no real data to suggest that oysters have those aphrodisiac properties. In age-old times people have said that, but there is no such research. I will say that it is a good source of protein," Walker said. "The average 100 grammes of oysters would have 68 calories. Very low in terms of cholesterol but whenever you deal with shellfish it is slightly higher. Depending on where they are harvested you would find a higher cholesterol level per 100 grammes."
Walker said oysters are a rich source of vitamin D and of zinc. "I guess that's where that aphrodisiac (belief) came about because zinc is associated with sexual development. If a child is lacking zinc, it can affect maturity or sexual development. It is also rich in copper, selenium, omega fats and vitamin B12,” she said.
On the benefits of zinc, Walker said, “Zinc is essential for testosterone production and maintenance of healthy sperm, and even though women have much less testosterone than men, it also plays a key part in the female libido. Oysters also boost dopamine, a hormone that increases libido in both men and women."
According to organicfact.net, zinc is also associated with sexual dysfunction in men, with impotence and erectile dysfunction believed to be caused due to zinc deficiency.
Walker said there are some challenges when eating oysters. "One is food safety. Traditionally, in Trini oysters are eaten raw. People feel lime and pepper sauce would prevent any potential illness that could be found in food-borne pathogen, and there is no truth to that. Hot sauce and lemon juice would not significantly affect that," she said.
"The issue with oysters is their bivalve. They are filter feeders, and because of that heavy metals and harmful substances will remain and contaminate them. They are a keystone species and provide habitat for marine life."
Webmd.com notes that one type of bacteria found in oysters – v
ibrio vulnificus – is linked to a serious illness – even fatalities. It said, "Those most at risk for serious complications from bacterial contamination are people with cancer, diabetes, and liver disease. Those with alcoholic liver disease may be at particular risk. Anyone, including those without these diseases, should seek medical attention immediately if they develop symptoms of food poisoning after eating raw oysters."
Asked if she would ever recommend oysters, Walker said, "As a dietician we have to deal with personal preferences. If someone has to use it, they should cook it at the right temperature and if it is stored, it (should be) done adequately. Normally when making a recommendation for shellfish, you recommend to individuals that they source oysters from reputable organisations. Where the fish is harvested from clean waters – and I am not sure if our local oysters are harvested from waters that aren’t contaminated. Particularly so for vulnerable populations who are immune-compromised, example pregnant women, young children and cancer patients."
Serious contamination symptoms can appear within 24 to 48 hours after consumption and may include fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea. Eating cooked oyster is recommended as the safest way as cooking kills the bacteria.
Rich in minerals, oyster is beneficial to overall health in many ways, including the strengthening of bones. The high levels of calcium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, and selenium contribute in their own way to increase bone mineral density and durability, protecting from developing conditions like osteoporosis. A 2019 animal study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology found that food products fortified with oyster shells could prevent and treat osteoporosis. This also holds for products with the fermented oyster extract. Other benefits include weight loss, heart health, speeds up healing, boosts immune functions and helps blood circulation.(organicfacts.net)