Tuna is one of my all time favourite options for lunch, combined with a bowl of crisp salad ingredients. I also love it in a Curried Tuna Slice, Tuna Pasta (I promise that I will share these recipes on another day) or Tuna Mornay.
Thankfully, research shows us that fish, including tuna, is an excellent source of protein, minerals, Vitamin B12 and iodine, is low in saturated fat and contains omega-3 fatty acids. Winner, winner, fishy dinner.
The Many Skill’s of Omega-3 Fats
I could go on all day about these little beauties but in short, omega-3 fats are fantastic for our bodies. They are multi-skilled and some of their jobs include:
- Keeping your heart fit and healthy
- They play an important role in pregnancy and are especially important for babies rapidly growing eyes and brains.They also have an integral role in breastfeeding and childhood development.
- Keeping our blood fats (like triglycerides) at optimal levels and keeping our blood flowing freely around our circulatory system
- Regulating our blood glucose levels, blood pressure and even our heart beat
- May help recovery from coronary heart surgery
- Has a major role in boosting brain power
Fresh, Frozen or Tinned Tuna?
Fish, shellfish and fish oils are good dietary sources of omega-3 fats and ‘oily’ fish such as tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon are particularly rich sources. Unfortunately many people don’t eat enough fish, because they find it too expensive, don’t know how to prepare it or find it hard to purchase. This is where using canned or frozen fish can be convenient. In good news, canning and freezing fish does not change the content of omega-3 fats.
What About Mercury?
Despite all of these wonderful attributes, there are some concerns about the potential presence of mercury in fish. Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in air, water and food and most people are exposed to mercury via food.
Although all fish contain some mercury, most have low levels. A few species do have higher amounts, such as Orange Roughy (Deep Sea Perch), Catfish, Shark (flake) or Billfish (Swordfish/Broadbill and Marin). These varieties of fish are larger and have longer lifespans and more time to accumulate mercury. Fish take up mercury from streams and oceans as they feed and it binds to their tissue proteins (such as muscle). Food processing, preparation and cooking techniques don’t significantly reduce the amount of mercury in fish.
Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, are recommended to limit their intake of the fish above to 150 grams per week or fortnight. For specific advice around pregnancy and fish intake go to Food Standards Australia New Zealand .
So, What About Tuna?
It is likely that most regular tuna eaters, eat no more than single 100g can in one sitting. Once drained, just 70% of the can weight is actual tuna and the risks of consuming excess mercury in this way are very small. Fortunately, most caught or farmed fish in Australia have low mercury levels.
To get these great health benefits it is recommended that fish be eaten 2-3 times per week, fresh, frozen or canned.
There are so MANY different varieties available and it is interesting to see how they compare to each other depending on what the tuna is canned in and whether it is flavoured or not.
As you can see, the energy (calorie and kilojoule), total fat and sodium content do differ quite substantially between the different brands and types of tuna. Which type you choose, may depend on whether you are monitoring particular aspects of your food intake or whether your choice is based on flavour.
What is your favourite?