3 Cool Facts About Oysters

3 Surprising Facts about Oysters:

Whether you love them raw, fried, or on the half shell, oysters can provide you with a host of healthy benefits. But a new study published in the journal Oecologia finds that wild oyster populations on the California coast are under threat from invasive species, Atlantic coast crabs and snails and the European green crab. And these invasive species could threaten other wild populations, and even oyster farms, in other regions of the country, says the study's lead author David Kimbro, PhD, postdoctoral associate at Florida State University's Coastal Marine Laboratory. If you're not an oyster-eater, there are other reasons to care about saving their populations.

Oysters have been used to clean up oil spills, and as signals that once-polluted waters are now clean again.

Here are a few other things you may not know about oysters—as well as the best ways to enjoy them:

1. It's OK to eat oysters in "non-R" months.

In the book The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell (Random House, 2007), Mark Kurlansky writes that the "don't eat oysters in months without R's in them" rule was true for a while, in part because it was hard to keep them from spoiling in hot weather before modern refrigeration was invented. But, he adds, oyster-lovers also noticed that oysters tasted best in cooler months because spawning, which takes place in May, June, July, and August, makes oysters translucent, thin, and less tasty. That still holds true today, although modern oyster-farming techniques are starting to work around flavor issues.

Bottom line: Enjoy oysters whatever month you're in, but expect peak flavor outside of spring and summer.

2. Farmed oysters are a better choice than wild.

Unlike some fish-farming operations, which can allow nonnative species to escape into surrounding ecosystems and spread disease, oyster farms can actually improve the quality of oceans and bays. That's because the oysters in offshore farms will feed on particulate matter and nutrients that might otherwise pollute waterways. So favor farmed oysters when shopping; you'll also avoid depleting wild populations at risk from by those invasive crabs and snails.

3. Oysters really are an aphrodisiac.

Sometimes. Maybe. Very few scientific studies have shown that oysters can actually raise your sexual desire, but they still could help spur it on. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food; zinc is a key mineral for sexual health in men, and severe cases of zinc deficiency can lead to impotence. However, it's more likely that oysters could raise your libido by the power of suggestion, much like peaches, alcohol, chocolate, or any other food with a desire-boosting rep.