How healthy is your tinned tuna obsession, really?


Image: iStock.

Tinned tuna appears to be the perfect healthy and affordable lunch option. It’s tasty, requires zero preparation and makes its way through the checkout for around a dollar or two.

But just how healthy is tinned tuna really, and what should we look for when buying our favourite frugal snack?

What variety of tuna is healthiest?

According to Melissa Lichocik, a Nutritionist and the founder of Healthful Mums, tinned tuna is packed with goodness. It’s a fantastic source of protein, iodine and those essential Omega-3s, she says, making it an easy way to give your meals a nutritional boost.

Tins of tuna are not all created equal, however. Interestingly, while we may reach for water-based tinned tuna thinking that we’re picking the lighter, healthier alternative, Ms Lichocik says that we should reconsider our aversion to oil-based options.

“The low fat varieties of tinned tuna are a good source of lean protein but unfortunately due to the lower fat content, you miss out on those ‘good’ fats and doesn’t offer much in the way of nutrition.


“Whilst slightly higher in calories, tuna in olive oil can be a good way to ensure you are incorporating enough good fats into your diet.”

Lichocik also recommends we go for unflavoured tuna over fancier, flavoured alternatives where possible.

“Flavoured varieties are ok to have now and then, but most have added sugars, additives and sodium. Because tuna is naturally caught in the ocean, it is high in natural sodium, so we don’t need to have any more added to it. (Post continues after gallery.)

“[Some] olive oil flavoured tunas have flavour infused oil which may be a better option as it would have less of the processed additives.”

One of Melissa Lichcik’s helpful tips? Incorporate the tuna oil into your meal, it doubles as a great salad dressing if you’re on the go and gives your diet a boost of good unsaturated fats.

Can you ever have too much tinned tuna?

Despite being a dense source of important vitamins and healthy fats, there’s cause for concern that tinned tuna contains a metal contaminant, mercury.

“Okay… so what does this have to do with my tinned tuna,” you say?

Due to ocean pollution, mercury is absorbed into the flesh of tuna fish. According to an University of Michigan study published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, the presence of mercury in the human body can damage the brain, heart, kidney and lungs, and even more worryingly, it can impair the development of unborn babies.

However, according to Melissa Lichocik, opting for tuna from a tin rather than a fresh fillet of tuna is enough if you’re looking to minimise your mercury intake.

“Tinned tuna tends to have lower levels of mercury than other types of tuna… the tuna used are generally smaller species and are caught when then are less than a year old, thus reducing the mercury content.”

Despite being a dense source of important vitamins and healthy fats, there's cause for concern that tinned tuna contains mercury. (Image via iStock)

Is it true that I shouldn't eat tuna when pregnant?

The short answer? It's best to talk these decisions through with a health professional, but y ou can still eat tuna whilst pregnant.

While tinned tuna does have traces of mercury, the amounts present are very low, and are of minimal concern if you do not consume tuna excessively. Being 34 weeks pregnant herself, Lichocik says that you should still be consuming tuna over the term of your pregnancy.

"Tinned tuna is great to include as part of a well balanced diet during pregnancy and it is safe to eat two to three serves of tuna per week," according to Lichocik.

Her lasting advice? Enjoy your tuna, but enjoy it in moderation, and purchase the healthier varieties where you can.

"Tinned tuna is marketed as a healthy option, but it is important to remember that too much can still have detrimental health effects," she explained.

"Flavoured tinned tuna can also have a lot of added ingredients, which may not be so great for our health or our waist lines, but tuna varieties with less ingredients are a great source of nutrition."

For more from Melissa Lichocik, you can follow Healthful Mums on Facebook or on their website.

Do you enjoy tinned tuna? What's your favourite tuna dish?


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