It’s the circle of life and the Tuna of the Sea is an affordably great way to add protein to your diet!
By: Ashley Vangel
So last week we chatted about the wonderful and nutritious benefits of salmon. Let’s stick with another fish this week and talk about one of the most popular lunch sandwiches… tuna fish anyone? Canned tuna is a super convenient and affordable way to add protein and healthy fats to sandwiches and salads. However the convenience of tuna fish isn’t the only reason why you should be adding a can of it to your grocery cart!
Just as we talked about last week, fatty fish, including tuna fish, is a wonderful food to include in your diet to improve heart health. In an average 5-ounce can of tuna fish, you’re going to get a good amount of EPA and DHA, which are both important omega-3 fatty acids that help with the body’s inflammatory system and prevent too much inflammation. In general, you are likely going to get more omega-3 fatty acids from a can of albacore tuna rather than a can of “light” tuna. So try to stick to hearty stuff if you can! One study with over 15,000 men and women participating found that eating tuna fish (even canned tuna fish) along with several other types of fatty fish at least twice per week decreased the risk of a specific type of cardiovascular problem, called atrial fibrillation (AF). Who knew tuna could be so heart healthy?
Tuna fish is also an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including selenium, vitamin B3 (niacin) and vitamin B12. Selenium is a mineral that your body needs to make special proteins called antioxidant enzymes, which help to prevent cell damage. Niacin is important because one of it’s main functions is to help convert glucose (the broken down version of carbohydrates) into energy. Which we all need! Vitamin B12 is especially important for your body’s nervous system and protecting your genetic material… think DNA and RNA!
I’m sure you’ve also heard that tuna is one of the main fish culprits that are contaminated with mercury. In general, the larger the fish, the more mercury it has. Do the benefits outweigh the risks? No need to compromise one part of your health for another. Did you know that every 4-ounce serving of tuna fish contains about 2-3 milligrams of selenoneine? Selenoneine is actually an antioxidant that protects the tuna fish from free radical damage. Remember when we talked about how tuna is an excellent source of selenium just a minute ago? Well, selenoneine is a selenium-containing compound, meaning this is the form that selenium is found in within the tuna. When we eat tuna, we are likely to get some of that same antioxidant protection. Even though tuna is contaminated with mercury, it might pose less of a risk than we think due to this selenoneine presence! Further research is definitely needed on this controversial topic though, so you probably shouldn’t eat a can of tuna for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try to stick to the recommended weekly amount. Just as with salmon, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish, especially fatty fish like tuna, at least twice per week. This is mainly due to its high omega-3 fatty acid content. Each serving of fatty fish is about 3.5 ounces of cooked fish or about ¾ of a cup of flaked fish (like the kind you find in a can).
So let’s get back to the lunch menu… do you prefer your tuna in a sushi roll? From a can? Or as a tuna steak, seared to perfection on the outside?
Let us know your favorite way to eat healthy tuna fish by leaving a comment in the section below!
Ashley is a registered dietitian and a licensed dietitian in the state of Texas. She graduated from Framingham State University, majoring in nutrition and dietetics and she completed her dietetic internship at the University of Connecticut. (more)