Tuna is a versatile protein source that can be in a variety of diets and dishes. Even some picky eaters prefer tuna over other fish when trying to meet the American Heart Association’s recommendation of two lean servings of fish each week. Even the gills are full of protein! The fish also contains a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which are considered important for many systems in our bodies, especially our hearts and circulatory systems. While its value as a source of protein is clear, some still wonder, is tuna healthy overall?
Most concerns stem from increasing reports of mercury levels found in farmed fish. This article will evaluate the concerns and the health benefits associated with tuna, allowing you to decide for yourself if tuna is a good addition to your diet.
What is Tuna?
Tuna is a large, fast swimming fish that can is available wild or from farms. There are many species of tuna on the market. Yet, some of the more popular of them, which you can find worldwide are albacore, blue fin, yellow fin, and skipjack. These tuna are available cut into steak-like pieces or in fillets.
Items that Contain Tuna
Tuna is also commonly found packed in water or oil in a can. Albacore is incredibly popular in its canned form. Fresh tuna is considered in season between late spring and early fall. Raw tuna steaks resemble beef steaks in appearance. When buying fresh tuna, you want a cut that smells like the ocean and has a glossy look to it. Fresh tuna should be cooked soon after being bought. It can be seared in a pan or grilled, fresh or frozen.
Dangers of Tuna
Any large, ocean fish tend to accumulate low levels of mercury. Tuna is no exception. It is a large fish exclusively caught or raised in ocean waters. The FDA has determined that most people can safely consume ocean fish without adverse effects from these trace amounts of mercury.
However, pregnant women and children should limit their consumption to one six-ounce serving per week to limit their exposure.
Are There Benefits to Eating Tuna?
Is tuna healthy to eat? Tuna is known for its high protein, low calorie, and high omega-3 fatty acid composition. These characteristics make tuna a good option for the following health benefits:
• Healthy heart function;
• Metabolism function (especially those with insulin resistance who need to limit carbs);
• Brain cell health;
• Weight loss/maintenance.
Ending the Debate: Is Tuna Healthy or Just Fishy?
Is Tuna Healthy When Canned?
- Canned tuna is a popular quick meal item around the world. Canned light tuna is generally safer for pregnant women and children than albacore tuna.
- Look for tuna canned in water.
- Tuna canned in oil has extra fats and sodium that out bodies do not need.
Is Tuna Healthy When It Is Fresh?
- Fresh tuna, in steaks or fillets or even patties, will contain slightly higher levels of mercury than its canned counterparts.
- However, even these cuts are generally safe for pregnant women and children as long as they limit themselves to a single serving each week.
- Fresh tuna also contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than canned tuna. For the best absorption, cook tuna before it freezes and within a day or two of buying it from the market.
Legal Facts on Tuna
- Tuna is mostly safe in moderation, according to the American Diabetes Association. The association agrees that tuna is a great source of protein for diabetics. This is because it contains no carbohydrates, and is also a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. They also agree that it is best to opt for tuna packed in water if you are buying canned tuna.
- Tuna is sold around the world, sometimes to the point of species endangerment. The WWF has cited Japan as the main culprit for tuna over-fishing. In 2009, over-fishing left the Atlantic bluefin on the brink of extinction. Therefore, the WWF feared it would be extinct within three years without intervention. Ocean fish farms and conservation efforts helped prevent this disaster. Yet, several species of tuna are currently under protection during breeding seasons.
- Tuna has been fished in certain parts of the world for 2,000 years or more. So, it shouldn’t die down in popularity any time soon. This sobering fact should encourage local governments to continue to be diligent in monitoring and enforcing tuna protection laws. This should keep this beautiful fish around for us to enjoy for many more years.
Wrapping Tuna Up
Tuna is a great addition for many diets if you need an option that is low carb, high protein, and includes a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. You can put it in salads, casseroles, soups, or enjoy it on its own with your favorite grilled vegetables. If you need heart-healthy tuna recipes, you can find several here.
If you love tuna, we would love to hear from you! Leave us a comment with your favorite recipes in the comment section below.