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Clam vs Oyster - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Zvart Movsisyan by Zvart Movsisyan | Last updated on November 29, 2020
Education: Medical biochemistry MD
Clam
vs
Oyster

Summary

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.

Introduction

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.

Main Differences

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.

Nutritional Content

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.

Minerals

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.

Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Clam
3
:
5
Oyster
Contains more Calcium +48.4%
Contains more Phosphorus +112.6%
Contains more Potassium +157.4%
Contains more Iron +147.3%
Contains more Magnesium +222.2%
Contains less Sodium -65.3%
Contains more Zinc +3091.6%
Contains more Copper +524.1%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 28% 106% 13% 145% 56% 157% 75% 230%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 19% 261% 42% 69% 22% 55% 2377% 1432%
Contains more Calcium +48.4%
Contains more Phosphorus +112.6%
Contains more Potassium +157.4%
Contains more Iron +147.3%
Contains more Magnesium +222.2%
Contains less Sodium -65.3%
Contains more Zinc +3091.6%
Contains more Copper +524.1%

Vitamins

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.

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Clam
7
:
1
Oyster
Contains more Vitamin A +88.7%
Contains more Vitamin C +481.6%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +110.9%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +103.3%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +151.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +71.9%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +532.7%
Equal in Vitamin B1 - 0.15
Equal in Folate - 31
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 35% 0% 0% 74% 38% 99% 63% 41% 26% 22% 12362% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 19% 0% 0% 13% 38% 47% 31% 17% 15% 24% 1954% 0%
Contains more Vitamin A +88.7%
Contains more Vitamin C +481.6%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +110.9%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +103.3%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +151.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +71.9%
Contains more Vitamin B12 +532.7%
Equal in Vitamin B1 - 0.15
Equal in Folate - 31

Macronutrients comparison

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.

Health Impact

Health benefits

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.

Risks

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.

References

  1. Travel-Related Infectious Diseases
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6315ahtm
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24295221
  4. Shellfish Handling, Storing, and Cooking
Article author photo Zvart Movsisyan
Education: Medical biochemistry MD
Last updated: November 29, 2020

Infographic

Clam vs Oyster infographic
Infographic link

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Clam Oyster
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in Cholesterol ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in vitamins ok
Lower in Sugar Equal
Rich in minerals Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Clam Oyster Opinion
Net carbs 5.13g 11.62g Oyster
Protein 25.55g 8.77g Clam
Fats 1.95g 12.58g Oyster
Carbs 5.13g 11.62g Oyster
Calories 148kcal 199kcal Oyster
Starch g g
Fructose g g
Sugar g g
Fiber 0g g Clam
Calcium 92mg 62mg Clam
Iron 2.81mg 6.95mg Oyster
Magnesium 18mg 58mg Oyster
Phosphorus 338mg 159mg Clam
Potassium 628mg 244mg Clam
Sodium 1202mg 417mg Oyster
Zinc 2.73mg 87.13mg Oyster
Copper 0.688mg 4.294mg Oyster
Vitamin A 570IU 302IU Clam
Vitamin E mg mg
Vitamin D IU IU
Vitamin D µg µg
Vitamin C 22.1mg 3.8mg Clam
Vitamin B1 0.15mg 0.15mg
Vitamin B2 0.426mg 0.202mg Clam
Vitamin B3 3.354mg 1.65mg Clam
Vitamin B5 0.68mg 0.27mg Clam
Vitamin B6 0.11mg 0.064mg Clam
Folate 29µg 31µg Oyster
Vitamin B12 98.89µg 15.63µg Clam
Vitamin K µg µg
Tryptophan 0.286mg 0.105mg Clam
Threonine 1.099mg 0.365mg Clam
Isoleucine 1.112mg 0.396mg Clam
Leucine 1.798mg 0.638mg Clam
Lysine 1.909mg 0.582mg Clam
Methionine 0.576mg 0.199mg Clam
Phenylalanine 0.915mg 0.352mg Clam
Valine 1.116mg 0.409mg Clam
Histidine 0.49mg 0.175mg Clam
Cholesterol 67mg 71mg Clam
Trans Fat g g
Saturated Fat 0.188g 3.197g Clam
Monounsaturated Fat 0.172g 4.702g Oyster
Polyunsaturated fat 0.552g 3.313g Oyster

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Clam Oyster
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low Calories diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
1063
Clam
179
Oyster
Mineral Summary Score
101
Clam
534
Oyster

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
153%
Clam
53%
Oyster
Carbohydrates
5%
Clam
12%
Oyster
Fats
9%
Clam
58%
Oyster

Comparison summary

Which food contains less Sodium?
Oyster
Oyster contains less Sodium (difference - 785mg)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Oyster
Oyster is lower in glycemic index (difference - 27)
Which food is lower in Cholesterol?
Clam
Clam is lower in Cholesterol (difference - 4mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Clam
Clam is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 3.009g)
Which food is cheaper?
Clam
Clam is cheaper (difference - $3)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
Clam
Clam is relatively richer in vitamins
Which food contains less Sugar?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Sugar ( g)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Clam - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171975/nutrients
  2. Oyster - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/171979/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.