Why French Women Eat Oysters

My love for oysters is no secret at this point, and though writing a book may be an outward sign of my affection, the sentiment is hardly unique among my compatriots. France produces 130,000 tons of oysters a year…granted a number are for export, to meet the worldwide demand for these delicacies, but we eat more than our share. Why such love for this unlikely mollusk that, at first glance, looks rather intimidating? Being France, pleasure is probably the main reason. The sensuous delight of eating a raw oyster with its cool flesh and briny juice—the very essence of the sea—is an experience second to none, especially when shared with another person. And, as an added bonus, French women know that oysters are a nutritional powerhouse, with a huge dietary payoff for a minimum of calories. It’s one of the few foods you can eat more of, not less, as you age.

Oysters are one of the most well-balanced foods out there, containing mostly lean protein, a small amount of carbohydrate in the form of glycogen, and a small amount of fat. They are rich sources of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Full of vitamins and minerals, they are an especially excellent source of vitamins A, B1, B2, B12, C and D. Four to five oysters also provide your daily recommended levels of iron, copper, zinc, iodine, magnesium, calcium, manganese, selenium and phosphorus—all for a handful of calories.

These nutrients in oysters help protect against anemia, strengthen the immune system, maintain healthy teeth and bones, and more. Not to mention the beauty benefits. Those dark under-eye circles (if we’re getting enough sleep) can come from iron or vitamin B12 deficiencies. Hair loss, which many women suffer, is most often due to insufficiencies in iron, zinc or protein. The delicious solution: oysters.

I share more in Meet Paris Oyster, but for now I will offer one final reason for their popularity: throughout history, oysters have been rumored to be aphrodisiacs. While science hasn’t delivered compelling proof of this yet, I do know that an idea is a powerful stimulant. The hedonic experience of sharing oysters with your beloved, combined with a belief in their aphrodisiac power, may well stimulate the libido.

So, ladies (and gentlemen), eat your oysters.