Yes, tuna is a complete protein. A protein is defined as being “complete” if it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids the human body cannot produce on its own. In fact, tuna is nearly a pure-protein food, with about 90% of the calories in canned tuna coming from protein. This is because tuna is very low in calories and fat. In addition to the protein benefits, tuna is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids and is rich in vitamins such as D, A, and B-12, and minerals such as iron, calcium, and potassium.
Getting enough protein in your diet is an important part of staying healthy, especially if you’re active. But it’s also crucial to make sure you’re eating the right kind of protein—specifically, complete protein. This article defines the term complete protein and explains how much of it is in tuna.
What is protein? And what’s a complete protein?
Proteins are macronutrients that are essential to many functions in your body. They are complex molecules made up of smaller molecules called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids, and the human body can make 11 of them all on its own. The remaining 9 amino acids have to come from foods we eat, which is why they’re sometimes called essential amino acids.
A protein is defined as being “complete” if it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids the human body can’t produce on its own. These are the 9 essential amino acids:
All animal products—meat, fish, and dairy—are complete proteins. Plant-based protein sources (think beans, nuts, legumes, and whole grains) are typically “incomplete.” You can make a complete protein from incomplete protein sources by combining two or more foods, for example by eating peanut butter on whole-grain toast or beans with rice.
How much protein is in tuna?
Tuna is almost pure protein. In fact, about 90% of a can of tuna calories come from protein. Here’s how: a 113-gram serving of chunk light tuna in water contains 23 grams of protein, 100 calories, and just half a gram of fat. One gram of protein contains about 4 calories, so 23 grams of protein is about 92 calories, or 92% of the total. So, if you’re wondering, is canned tuna healthy? now you know that it has a lot of protein!
So, if you’re looking to increase your intake of complete protein, it’s hard to argue with tuna. With so much pure, complete protein per serving and so little fat, tuna provides all the essential amino acids you need.
Why is protein important?
The amino acids in protein help you to build muscles, skin, bones, and cartilage, and to produce key hormones and antibodies. Plus, a high protein diet can help with weight loss because it keeps you feeling full longer than carbs and fat and your body can use protein as an energy source if need be.
How much protein do you need?
According to the National Academy of Medicine, adults need a minimum of 7 grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight each day. So, for example,
- A 120-pound person needs about 42 grams of protein per day
- A 160-pound person needs about 56 grams of protein per day
- A 200-pound person needs about 70 grams of protein per day.
But, if you’re physically active, you’ll need more than this minimum daily recommended amount.
It’s hard to argue with tuna if you’re looking to increase your intake of complete protein. With so much pure, complete protein per serving and so little fat, tuna provides all the essential amino acids you need.