Don't expect to find a pearl the next time you open an oyster, since true oysters aren't the same as pearl oysters. However, you will be rewarded for eating oysters, since they are a good source of iron, calcium, zinc, selenium, niacin and vitamin B-12. They are also a good source of protein and thus contain some arginine.
Arginine is one of the amino acids that make up proteins. While it isn't an essential amino acid since your body can make some of what it needs, if you are sick or very stressed, you may need to get some arginine from your diet. Consuming extra arginine may help limit your risk for heart disease by keeping your blood vessels nice and wide so that they are less likely to get clogged, although further studies are necessary to prove this effect. It may also help you recover more quickly after having surgery.
Arginine in Oysters
Since arginine isn't considered essential, there is no recommended dietary allowance, and the Institute of Medicine hasn't set a tolerable upper intake level. For the health benefits of arginine, the therapeutic dosage ranges from 400 milligrams to 6,000 milligrams, so don't take arginine supplements containing amounts in excess of this dosage. Oysters contain 632 milligrams of arginine per 3-ounce serving.
While the amount of arginine you get from your diet isn't likely to cause any problems, check with your doctor before taking arginine supplements, since these may not be safe for everyone. Side effects can include bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood abnormalities, gout and airway inflammation. If you have herpes, a bleeding disorder, diabetes, asthma, kidney problems, breast cancer or low blood pressure, you shouldn't take arginine supplements.
Although some people consider raw oysters a delicacy, you should only eat cooked oysters. Some raw oysters are contaminated with a type of bacteria that causes food poisoning, and cooking is the only way to kill these bacteria. This type of bacteria is especially dangerous for people with diabetes, compromised immune function or liver problems.
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.