Tuna fish sandwiches have long been a lunchtime go-to thanks to being both delicious and convenient, but now, more than ever before, people are stocking their cabinets with cans of the long-lasting protein. Which has many people asking if canned tuna is actually as healthy as they've always assumed?
According to our medical experts, the answer is yes. Not only is tuna fish good for you, but adding it to your diet (in moderation) can give you long-lasting health benefits that include mood improvement, better eyesight, and greater gut health. Read on to see what our experts have to say about tuna before you crack open your next lunchtime can.
Why Is Tuna Good for You?
Aside from being convenient, adding canned tuna to your diet can be good for your overall health. "Eating two servings of fatty fish, liked canned tuna, per week has been associated with improved heart health," says Erin Palinski-Wade, a registered dietician, certified diabetes educator, and author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies ($19.99, barnesandnoble.com). Additionally, she explains that adding omega-3 fatty acids (the "good fats" that are found in tuna) to your diet can be beneficial for stress management and can improve both cognitive function and eye health as well.
The Water Versus Oil Debate
According to Dr. Ryan M. Greene, DO, MS, and managing partner and medical director at Monarch Athletic Club in Los Angeles, in addition to being high in omega-3, canned tuna is also a source of high-quality protein and many other essential nutrients like selenium and vitamin D. However, there may be other things lurking in your can of tuna depending on what it's packed in. "The oil canned variety tends to be higher in calories and sodium when compared to its water canned counterpart," Dr. Greene says. "If caloric intake, as well as sodium intake, are a concern, the water-based variety would be the preferred choice."
Be Cautious of Mercury
Of course, you can have too much of a good thing. Registered dietician and Love Wellness advisor Kylene Bogden says that while canned tuna is packed with inflammation-fighting ingredients that help improve brain, gut, and cardiovascular health, it can also be high in something you want to avoid: mercury. She recommends choosing a brand of tuna that tests each batch for mercury.
And Dr. Greene agrees. "Tuna is a large fish living in primarily warmer waters that consumes other smaller fish," he says. "Thus, the mercury that has contaminated our ocean and fish populations can be transferred into the tissue (fat specifically as tuna is quite a fatty fish) and then passed along to the consumer." Something that is especially worrisome if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, as high levels of mercury are associated with an increased risk for birth defects.