By Jo Schaalman and Julie Pelaez of the Conscious Cleanse
Growing up in middle America it seems as though tuna fish was often considered a health food. It was the dieter’s choice on a bed of lettuce, over the more standard club sandwich with potato chips.
Perhaps tuna fish gained this status because it’s a good source of protein. Tuna is also high in omega-3 fatty acids, good for reducing inflammation and maintaining healthy brain function.
These days, the more informed conscious eaters of us look around and realize that most of the tuna fish “salad” options you find in a restaurant or deli are not only probably not the highest quality sourced tuna, they’re also slathered in a thick coat of mayonnaise. Add to that the questionable can lining that most tuna fish is packaged in, as well as the growing concern with our populated and acidic oceans, it’s easy to be confused about tuna fish.
Is canned tuna a health food or not?
One the one hand, canned tuna seems like a good nutrient dense, convenient choice. On the other hand, canned tuna can often contain high levels of mercury and other toxins, which should give us all reason to pause and look a little closer.
Typically we recommend avoiding large fish such as tuna, sea bass, swordfish, marlin, and orange roughy – all of which have high levels of mercury. Smaller fish like sardines, shrimp, anchovies, wild salmon, mackerel, and yellowtail are safer, lower in mercury options.
But not all canned tuna is created equally.
In fact, in recent years we discovered a brand that we love and trust called Wild Planet Foods. Not only is all of their canned fish wildly caught, as their name suggests, there’s no BPA used in their can linings, and they don’t add any extra liquids or oils to their products.
“Wild Planet only sources pole and line caught tuna, which are the younger and smaller migratory tuna that are caught at the surface. These fish have accumulated lower levels of mercury as compared to older and larger tuna.” – From WildPlanetFoods.com
To sum it up, if you want to bring canned tuna fish back into your healthy meal rotation consider the following:
Look for tuna in water not oil, or better yet, no added liquid at all
Look for no BPA used in can lining
Make sure the fish is wild-caught
Remember to select light tuna, which is a smaller fish, to minimize mercury content
Other tips to consider:
Rotate canned tuna with other nutrient dense fish like sardines and wild salmon
When possible cook fresh fish from scratch versus the canned option
In place of mayonnaise-drenched tuna fish salad try something simple like canned tuna or salmon with chopped celery, a squeeze of lemon, drizzle of olive oil, and sea salt and pepper to taste. Yum!