When it comes to nutrition, there’s lots to love about albacore tuna. One can of albacore tuna in water contains 29 grams of complete protein, vitamins D and B-12, heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, and minerals like iron, potassium, and selenium. And for all these benefits, there is just 1 gram of fat and 130 calories in a can of tuna.
Protein: Build healthy muscles, skin, and bones
Albacore tuna is an excellent source of protein: A four-ounce serving contains 29 grams. Plus, all that protein is complete protein, which means it contains all nine amino acids that your body can’t produce itself. This is why it’s included in Mediterranean, Weight Watchers, Keto, and Paleo diet plans and recipes such as keto tuna salad.
Protein is required for a wide range of essential bodily functions. The amino acids that make up proteins are required to build bones, cartilage, skin, and muscles. Amino acids also play an important role in the production of hormones and antibodies, and can even be used as a backup energy source if you don’t eat enough carbohydrates. Eating enough protein is therefore a crucial part of a healthy diet. On top of helping build healthy muscles, skin, and bones, lean proteins like albacore tuna keep you feeling full longer than carbs and fat.
Omega-3s: Lower your risk of heart disease
Albacore tuna has less fat than other animal proteins like chicken and beef, but it’s a good source of a particular type of fat: Omega-3 fatty acids. A diet rich in omega-3s is associated with lower inflammation levels, lower blood triglycerides, and an overall lower risk of heart disease.
Eating fish is an easy, delicious way to enjoy the health benefits of omega-3s (which is a key advantage of the pescatarian diet over a vegetarian diet). Canned albacore tuna contains around 0.2 grams of omega-3s per serving, or about 15-20% of the recommended daily intake for adults according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Vitamin D: Keep your bones and immune system strong
Like protein, Vitamin D is an incredibly important nutrient for bone health. This is because we can’t absorb calcium without Vitamin D—and we can’t build or repair bones without calcium. Vitamin D also plays an important role in a healthy immune response, and research suggests that it helps regulate mood and may even be an important factor in reducing the risk of depression.
Sun exposure is an easy way to make your own Vitamin D, but you can also get it from certain foods. Albacore tuna is one of the few foods that naturally contain Vitamin D, with around 50-100 International Units (IUs) per serving. That’s about 8-16% of the 600 IUs recommended by the NIH.
Vitamin B-12: Boost energy and brain function
Another important vitamin in albacore tuna is Vitamin B-12, which your body needs to produce red blood cells and DNA, among other core functions. Without enough B-12, you can develop anemia and fatigue as well as more serious health problems like nerve damage and muscle weakness.
There are several benefits to upping your B-12 intake, like improved brain function and increased energy levels. It may also reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a type of gradual vision loss that most commonly affects people age 50 and over. A can of albacore tuna contains just over 2 micrograms of Vitamin B-12, which happens to be the recommended daily amount for adults.
Essential minerals: Prevent deficiencies for better overall health
Albacore tuna is rich in essential minerals like selenium, potassium, and iron, which are necessary for many important physiological processes. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant and may protect against heart disease and certain types of cancer, while potassium plays an important role in regulating blood pressure—and therefore the risk of stroke. As for iron, it’s an especially important nutrient during pregnancy, when red blood cell production increases to support the growing fetus. If you’re pregnant, increasing your iron intake from dietary sources or supplements can reduce the risk of premature birth and low birth weight.
Mineral deficiencies can cause serious symptoms, like extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, and heart arrythmias. Depending on the severity, a mineral deficiency can be life-threatening—so it’s important to make sure you’re getting what you need from the foods you eat.
What about mercury?
Due to water pollution, the heavy metal mercury is often present in most fish. Therefore, the FDA recommends that children ages 1-11 and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding limit their intake of albacore tuna to no more than one serving (4 ounces) per week.
What about sodium?
Albacore naturally contains a low level of sodium (salt). However, sodium is usually added during processing of canned tuna and a 3-ounce serving can have as much as 22% of the recommended daily intake. So, if you’re wondering, is canned tuna healthy? or are watching your salt intake, be sure to check the label. You can also purchase low-sodium or sodium-free variations of canned albacore tuna.
The bottom line
Albacore tuna is incredibly nutritious. High in protein, low in fat, and rich in essential vitamins and minerals, it’s an excellent addition to any healthy diet.