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Is Canned Tuna Healthy?

Canned tuna is one of the most nutritious and affordable sources of protein available. Plus it features essential vitamins such as D and B-12, and minerals such as selenium, potassium, and iron. Canned tuna also includes omega-3 fatty acids which support a healthy heart.

So, no matter how you define “healthy,” that’s a pretty impressive resume. Plus, it’s relatively inexpensive and can last for years in your cupboard.

Which is better for you: Canned tuna in oil, tuna in water, or fresh tuna?

The three types of tuna–canned in oil, canned in water, and fresh– all have favorable nutritional profiles and contain similar amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals. But as you can see in the nutritional table below, based on USDA data for a 1 oz. portion, each type excels in different ways.

(1 oz Portion) Canned Tuna in Oil (Low Sodium) Canned Tuna in Water (Low Sodium) Fresh Raw Tuna (Boneless)
Protein 8 grams 6 grams 7 grams
Omega-3s DHA: 29 mg
EPA: 8 mg
DHA: 56 mg
EPA: 8 mg
DHA: 25 mg
EPA: 3 mg
Vitamin B-12 0.6 µg 0.7 µg 0.6 µg
Vitamin D 1.9 µg 0.3 µg 0.5 µg
Iron 0.4 mg 0.5 mg 0.2 mg
Selenium 21.5 µg 19 µg 26 µg
Phosphorus 88 mg 39 mg 79 mg
Potassium 59 mg 50 mg 125 mg
Total Fat 2.3 grams 0.9 grams 0.14 grams
Saturated Fat 0.4 grams 0.2 grams 0.05 grams
Cholesterol 5 mg 10 mg 11 mg
Sodium 118 mg 70 mg 13 mg
Calories 56 24 31

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/?query=tuna

As you can see, for many of these factors, the differences noted in this table are fairly small and/or the quantities are low for all three types. This is also true for salmon, if you’re wondering, is canned salmon healthy? The versatility in flavor, species, and packaging of canned tuna can help you find the right choice based on your preferences.

Here are the top 6 health benefits of canned tuna:

1. Lean protein helps support healthy muscles, skin, and bones.

A four-ounce serving of canned tuna in water contains 24 grams of complete protein. And the same amount of canned tuna in oil brings a whopping 32 grams. It’s called a complete protein, because it has amino acids that your body can’t produce itself. These amino acids help you build muscles, skin, bones, and cartilage. Plus, protein keeps you feeling full longer than carbs which can help with weight loss.

2. Omega-3 fatty acids support heart health.

Canned tuna features omega-3 essential fatty acids DHA and EPA. A diet rich in omega-3s is associated with a lot of health benefits such as lowering your risk of heart disease. For this and other reasons, the USDA recommends eating seafood at least two times a week for a total of 8-10 oz (but 90% of Americans don’t meet this guideline). Omega 3s are also a key advantage of a pescatarian diet over a vegetarian diet.

3. Vitamin D supports bone and immune health.

Tuna is one of the few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Depending on the species, a 5 oz can of tuna can contain up to 10% of the Daily Value for Vitamin D. Vitamin D is very important for bone health because it helps our bodies absorb calcium. It also plays a role in supporting immune health.

4. Vitamin B-12 supports energy metabolism and your red blood cells.

Canned tuna also features vitamin B-12. On average, a can of tuna contains 2 micrograms of vitamin B-12, which equals approximately the recommended daily amount of vitamin B-12 for adults. Your body relies on B-12 to produce DNA, red blood cells, and other core functions.

5. Essential minerals help for better overall health.

Canned tuna contains many important minerals like iron, phosphorus, selenium, and potassium to support overall health and wellness. It’s a nutrient dense food in a tiny can!

6. Low in fat

Canned tuna has less fat per ounce than other animal proteins like chicken and beef. Tuna salad calories and fat are higher, and oil-packed tuna contains more fat than water-packed, but a 1 oz serving of chunk light tuna in oil contains only 2.3 grams of total fat, while the same serving of chunk light tuna in water contains less than a gram.Higher fat levels also correlate to higher calories in a can of tuna: oil-packed tuna has 56 calories per ounce, which is more than double the calories in water-packed tuna.

Types of Fish

Most canned or pouched tuna comes from skipjack, yellowfin, or albacore tuna. Light or chunk light tuna is typically a blend of skipjack and yellowfin tuna, sometimes including tongol or bigeye tuna. Albacore, known for its light-colored flesh, firm texture, and mild flavor, falls under the category of white tuna, which includes solid white and chunk white. Some people prefer it over light tuna for dishes that require a milder flavor and a firmer, more steak-like fish. According to the National Fisheries Institute, approximately 70% of canned and pouched tuna consumed in the United States is skipjack tuna (or a small amount of yellowfin), while about 30% is albacore.

Frequently Asked Questions


How much protein is in tuna?

Tuna is an excellent source of protein. As shown above, canned tuna in oil contains 28 grams of protein per 113-gram serving. That’s approximately 50% of the daily recommended amount of protein for adults in a single serving!

Does tuna have more omega-3s than salmon?

No, tuna does not have more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon. A serving of salmon can contain as much as 1-2 grams of omega-3s, while tuna usually contains less than half a gram per serving. However, tuna still has omega-3s—you just have to eat it more frequently to meet your daily omega-3 requirements.

How often can you eat tuna?

The FDA and EPA recommend eating 2-3 servings of fish or shellfish per week. Some people may be concerned about mercury content in tuna but the FDA states that the levels of mercury in fish pose minimal risk to most Americans. The FDA recommends that children between 1-11 years old and pregnant or breastfeeding women limit their tuna intake to no more than one serving (4 ounces) per week to limit potential mercury poisoning.

Can you eat tuna on a paleo or keto diet?

Yes, tuna is both paleo- and keto-friendly. Because it contains essentially zero carbohydrates, it fits easily into any high-protein diet. However, if you’re on a keto diet, you may want to choose oil-packed tuna because it’s higher in fat.

Is tuna good for your heart?

Yes, tuna is a great choice for a heart-healthy eating plan. It contains little to no saturated fat and plenty of unsaturated fatty acids. This includes omega-3 fatty acids, which support a healthy heart and cardiovascular system.

Are chunk light tuna and albacore tuna the same?

Nope! They refer to different species of tuna. Both chunk light and albacore tuna is good for you. Albacore refers to the albacore species, which has lighter, firmer meat than other species. Chunk light tuna contains different species, specifically skipjack and yellowfin. Nutritionally, they’re all very similar, but chunk light tuna is a bit darker in color and has a slightly richer flavor than albacore, which is very mild.

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