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Clams Vs Oysters Showdown: The Mollusk Difference Facts For Kids

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In general, both oysters and clams are umbrella terms used to refer to different types of bivalve mollusks but there is a notable difference in their habitats, shape, and uses.

The term 'oyster' is generally used to refer to bivalve mollusks which although can live in both freshwater and saltwater environments, are mostly found in oceans. Clams, on the other hand, are living organisms with a pair of hard shells and gills that just like oysters can live in freshwater, as well as saltwater, but are usually found in saltwater environments.

Clams and oysters are both consumed as food items all across the world but there is a considerable difference in the taste and nutritional content of both of them. In layman's terms, clams and oysters can be described as shellfish which have a pair of shells covering their inner flesh body. It is believed that both these shellfish have been present on Earth for well over 500 million years and we have been eating them for the last 164,000 years or so. Both clams and oysters are an integral part of the ocean ecosystem as they are consumed by many other marine organisms acquiring a lower level place on the food chain. As an interesting fact about these mollusks, although they can be found in oceans and coastal areas all across the world, their taste changes with a change in their habitats. For instance, an Atlantic oyster will taste different from a Pacific oyster.

How are clams and oysters different?

Clams and oysters are both known as bivalves and mollusks but at the same time oysters and clams have various differentiation as well and are distinct on several grounds. Let us take a closer look at the differences between oysters and clams on the basis of the environment they thrive in, the kind of flavor, the texture they have when eaten as food, and various other factors too.

Even though both oysters and clams are well capable of living in saltwater or freshwater environments, they prefer saltwater environments. Interestingly, oysters more than clams are inclined towards living in the saltwater environment as they require rocks for setting up oyster reef habitats which are better suited along with rocks near oceans and seas. Now even though oysters and clams both live in saltwater areas, there are considerable differences in the way they live.

Oysters are known for attaching themselves to hard materials such as rocks beneath the surface of the water. At the same time, these oysters also hold on to the shells of other oysters which helps them to build reefs. Whereas clams, on the other hand, settle themselves at the sand bed of the ocean floor. The primary purpose behind this is to not only feel comfortable but also be safe by keeping themselves hidden from potential predators. There are also significant differences between oysters and clams on the basis of their shell appearance. The shell of an oyster is rough with a bumpy surface and wavy edges, it is also known to be much more calcified than a clams' shell. On the contrary, the shell of a clam is much smoother and shiny as well. Clams have a tendency to keep going in and coming out of sand which results in clams having a smooth shell surface as the sand goes on to act as a natural exfoliator. Another easily recognizable difference between both these mollusks is that the meat of a clam usually appears in white or tan in color, while the meat of an oyster carries a grayish tone. Interestingly, the shell of clams, oysters appear only in shades of gray and tan. Oysters also carry pearls inside them which are absent in the case of a clam. Although it is not very common to find a pearl inside an oyster as they spend a significant amount of time lying below the surface of the ocean.

Oysters, clams are both consumed as food in various parts of the world. Let us now take a look at the difference in taste between both these bivalves. Interestingly, the taste of these bivalves depends largely upon the kind of water they were present in, saltwater or freshwater. Generally, a clam has a salty flavor and people believe it to give a strong sense of taste while eating. On the other hand, a larger number of people enjoy eating oysters rather than clams as the former has a sweet, buttery flavor due to which people often eat it raw and do not feel the need of cooking it or adding some additional flavors. We are all aware of the fact that the taste of food largely depends upon its texture. When you eat an oyster or a clam you can feel a difference in their texture as oysters tend to have a smooth texture and tend to have a soft, tender bite irrespective of the fact whether it is eaten in cooked form or raw. Although the taste and texture also depend on the type and quality of clams and oysters you are consuming.

Both these bivalves are significantly low in fat due to which they are one of the best seafood options but there are several differences in their nutritional value. On average, a single oyster serving contains around 0.24 oz (7 g) of protein along with nutrients such as iron, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, and vitamin 12. When it comes to clams, they contain a higher amount of protein as an average clam serving provides roughly 0.70-0.88 oz (20-25 g) of proteins making it much more protein-rich than the other seafood option, oyster. Just like the oyster, a clam is also rich in various nutrients such as selenium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B12, and niacin. As an interesting fact about these kinds of seafood, people in various parts of the world eat oysters and clams raw without cooking them but it isn't exactly a good idea to these seafood raw as the bacteria present in it can harm one's life. Cooked oysters and clams are believed to be the safest as they eliminate the risk of containing any bacteria inside.

Why are clams bad for you?

A large number of people every year fall ill as they eat seafood, especially shellfish such as oysters and clams, largely due to the bacteria content in them. If the shellfish isn't cooked properly, it leaves the person at risk of various kinds of illness. The water that the shellfish is harvested from plays a key role in determining whether the shellfish is safe for consumption making it very clear that you cannot eat clams every day.

If people eat raw or undercooked oysters, clams, they might have to deal with health issues in the near future. The chances of this are higher in the case of people who suffer from health issues such as diabetes, liver infection, and several other cases as well. Eating raw seafood of this kind can lead to hepatitis A, vibrio infection, or even norovirus infection. Some of the basic symptoms which people experience include diarrhea, stomach pains, vomiting, and acute weakness. Interestingly, the severity of the symptoms and the time taken by them to appear largely depends upon the contaminant which affected the seafood.

On average, it takes around 12-72 hours for the symptoms to appear from the time of consuming the seafood. The best way of avoiding any such potential mishappenings is to eat only fresh oysters and clam. Cooking them before eating prevents any potential risks and helps one intake the rich amount of vitamin C, vitamin B 12, and zinc present in the seafood type. Now, people in different parts of the world do eat raw clams and some of the best types are the mid-sized cherrystones and the tiny littlenecks, and these clams are best enjoyed raw. On the other hand, clams such as mahogany and quahogs are not suitable for eating raw but are some of the best options when cooked with the New England clam chowder.

Both clams and oysters are pretty low in fat making them excellent seafood choices.

Are oysters alive when eaten?

Humans have been eating oysters for centuries now, and they are one of the most common seafood choices. We have heard or seen people preferring to eat only fresh oysters but did you know, in the case of oysters when we use the term 'fresh' it actually means 'alive'? Let us take a closer look at how oysters are alive when we eat them and when they aren't.

We all know that oysters are eaten raw in many parts of the world and that is how they offer most of their original flavors and textures. Now when an oyster is eaten raw, it is actually alive! Yes, when you eat raw oysters, they must be alive, else they aren't fresh. Once you shuck an oyster, it is fresh and full of flavors, you need to immediately eat it to consume most of its flavors although it might not be the safest and wisest decision you can perhaps make. Cooking oysters and then eating them are believed to be the wiser decision as these bivalves belong to water bodies that are often contaminated with various kinds of bacteria and other contaminants. If you eat oysters raw, there are chances of receiving infections and illnesses, on the other hand, if you cook and then eat an oyster, there might be a slight fall in the quality of taste and texture that you might have enjoyed while eating the oyster raw but it certainly is safer for your health. Moreover, you will be able to enjoy high iron, zinc, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 content.

What happens if you eat a lot of clams?

Clams are considered as one of the healthy seafood options owing to the iron content and high vitamin C, vitamin B12 content but eating an excess of any kind of food has its own drawbacks. Oysters and clams are no exception to this rule and consuming them in excess quantity can harm your body instead of helping it. Usually, people know and believe that eating raw forms of clam and oysters can only affect the human body in an adverse way but eating a lot of them can be harmful too.

Eating excess amounts of clams has several health risks; the first one of which is high cholesterol. Researchers say that on average, one cup of steamed clam contains 0.0031 oz (90 mg) of cholesterol, although it might not seem a lot initially, consuming it for a prolonged period of time can be harmful. It is not only the cholesterol that harms, foods with high cholesterol content also have a high amount of saturated fat. At the same time, people usually eat clam along with butter which again contains considerable amounts of fat. Any food which contains high amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol should be consumed in limit irrespective of whether it contains zinc, iron, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin A, selenium, niacin, or any other nutrient.

There are many differences between oysters and clams but both these food items can be equally harmful when consumed in high amounts or consumed raw as they usually belong to contaminated sources of water. Did you know, we refer to oysters and clams as mollusks but the likes of scallops and mussels can also be classified under the category of mollusks? In the end, you can eat both oysters and clams but only occasionally. If you like both of them a lot, you must incline towards clams as they are more nutritious than oysters and is thus better for the human body. Moreover, it isn't cruel or unethical to eat oysters or clams, in fact, it is better if you eat them raw as then it is more beneficial for your body.

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The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.

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