Clam vs Oyster - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
Oyster is richer in mineral content, especially in zinc and copper. In contrast, clam is the winner in terms of vitamins, particularly with B group vitamins.
Both foods are widely consumed; moreover, oysters are used in pearl production.
Choosing the right places to enjoy these foods is very important to avoid fatal results. Besides, oysters and clams can be sources of allergy and intoxication for people with a weakened immune system, especially for children and pregnant women. Enjoy them, and don’t ignore the related health hazards.
Table of contents
Are you a big fan of seafood? How about a bit of comparison between clams and oysters? Both clams and oysters are bivalves – shellfish with two-part shells and two muscles. They have been around for over 500 million years. People have been eating them for at least 165000 years. Although both belong to the Mollusk class and are similar in a variety of ways, there are plenty of differences between them as well.
Did you know that clams usually live in freshwater, are mobile, and move around on their muscle foot by burying themselves in the sand under the water? On the other hand, oysters live in saltwater. Except for the first weeks of their initial stages when oysters still have a muscle foot, they are mainly attached to the same spot, usually a hard surface such as a rock, their entire lives. They prefer to stay near the water’s surface, and we can easily notice them in the mud when it is low tide.
Clam has a shiny and smooth shell, whereas oyster shell is more calcified and rough. Both are used as a food in many countries, but clam is preferred due to its taste and tenderness.
Besides, oysters are known for producing pearls, while clams do not. A pearl is formed when an oyster produces nacre, the mix of calcium and protein, against the foreign matter trapped in the shell.
In today’s competitive food market, shellfish play an important role due to their nutritional content. Although clam and oyster are both goldmines of various essential substances, we will look at the differences in their nutritional contents.
You can easily notice from the charts below that oyster is enormously richer in copper and zinc, considerably richer in iron and magnesium, and lower in sodium. On the other hand, clam is richer in phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. Thus, oyster wins in this category.
From the viewpoint of vitamins, clam is undoubtedly the winner. It is drastically higher in vitamin B12 and vitamin C, fairly higher in vitamins B2 and B3, and somewhat higher in vitamins B5, B6, and vitamin A. However, oyster is slightly higher in folate.
The amount of vitamin B1 is equal in both foods.
In this section, clam is a medal-holder again with its higher concentration of protein, fewer calories, and lower saturated fat, cholesterol, and carbohydrate content.
High levels of zinc in oysters contribute to good eyesight by ensuring adequate pigmentation in the retina and skin, nail, and hair reparation by creating and boosting collagen. It is worth mentioning the role of zinc in the proper function of the immune system and cell growth. Zinc also prevents inflammation as an antioxidant. In addition, zinc is essential for sexual health because it plays a significant role in the correct formation and development of germ cells and the production of sexual hormones.
On the other hand, clams, high in calcium and phosphorus, protect against osteoporosis.
Clam is higher in vitamin B12, which can prevent megaloblastic anemia and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
Clam is rich in vitamin C, famous for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
In contrast, oyster is higher in folate (vitamin B9), which is important for prospective parents as it plays a great role in the proper formation of germ cells and the development of the embryo’s brain, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy. Besides, folate reduces homocysteine levels in the blood, high levels of which contribute to the formation of atherosclerotic plaques and damage of blood vessels, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
From the very start, it is necessary to point out that clams and oysters are filter-feeders, which means they use their gills to filter water and collect nutrients. So depending on where they have been harvested, there is a risk to pick up bacteria and viruses. In this connection, it should be noted that eating raw or undercooked clams and oysters can put us at risk for such serious states as paralytic, neurotoxic, diarrheic, and amnesic shellfish poisoning caused by several strains of Vibrio bacteria and Norovirus.
According to the USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, Norovirus is the leading cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks; it is estimated to cause 19–21 million illnesses a year and approximately 50% of all food-borne disease outbreaks (1).
According to the CDC report, in the United States, Vibrio parahaemolyticus is the cause of about 35000 domestically acquired food-borne infections annually, most of which are associated with consumption of raw or undercooked shellfish (2).
According to a study published in 2013, pre-birth maternal shellfish consumption at least once a month is associated with a higher risk of food allergy (3).
Cooking and Storing
It follows logically from what has been said that proper harvesting, cooking, and storing of clams and oysters are crucial; otherwise, we run the risk of serious health threats.
It must be pointed out that both clam and oyster should be harvested alive. Clams and oysters are both eaten in a variety of ways. Although clams can be eaten raw or steamed as a half shell, they are most often eaten as a component of a more complex dish. The most popular clam dishes are New England clam chowder, linguine with clam sauce, and Spanish paella. On the other hand, eating raw oysters in the shell at many fine restaurants is a great joy for gourmets. Despite this, oysters may be used in their cooked, smoked, frozen, or canned forms.
The important point in storing clams and oysters is, once again, storing them alive. The storing conditions of clam and oyster are similar. According to the Washington State Department of Health, both should be stored in the refrigerator in an open container to ensure air circulation (4). They must be covered with a damp towel to maintain humidity. In order to avoid their death or spoiling, it is not allowed to store them in water. Shells must be closed; if they are open and don’t close after tapping, the shellfish are dead and should be discarded. In this way, clams can be stored alive for up to 7 days outside of water and oysters for up to 2-3 weeks. However, it is highly recommended to eat them as fresh as possible. The cooked shellfish can be kept for two days in the refrigerator and up to 3 months in the freezer.
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Lower in Cholesterol|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in vitamins|
|Lower in Sugar||Equal|
|Rich in minerals||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|