5 Health Benefits Of Your Favorite Seafood Staple

by Tiffany Naticchioni, RDN, LD

Last Updated: July 24, 2020

Canned tuna production began in the early 1900s as a substitute for canned sardines and quickly became quite popular. Today, over 300 million pounds of tuna are imported into the United States each year. “White meat tuna”, made from albacore, and “light tuna”, made from a mixture of skipjack and yellowfin, are the most common types of canned tuna sold in supermarkets today. Fresh or frozen tuna loins or steaks found in supermarkets and restaurants are generally yellowfin, big eye, or albacore tuna. It is recommended by the healthy US-style eating pattern to have 8 ounces of seafood per week and the Mediterranean style pattern recommends 15 ounces of seafood per week.

Tuna gained great popularity for its flavor and shelf-stable convenience, but what does it offer nutritionally?
  1. Tuna is heart healthy.
    According to the National Institute of Health, tuna is recommended that men ages 14+ intake 1.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids daily, and women ages 14+ get 1.1 grams daily, with the exception of pregnant women (who should intake 1.4 grams daily) or women who are breastfeeding (who should intake 1.3 grams daily). Albacore and bluefin tuna have the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids, followed by skipjack and yellowfin. Omega-3 fatty acids keep our hearts healthy, help maintain peak brain function, and support growth & development. Women who are pregnant can eat all types of tuna, but should limit albacore or “white tuna” to 6 ounces per week due to its mercury content. Too much mercury can be dangerous to an unborn baby and young children.
  2. Packed with protein.
    As a major structural component to muscles and other tissues in the body, protein is vital to overall health. Protein is also important for hormone regulation and other body processes, such as energy output Tuna is jam packed with an excellent source of high-quality protein, providing essential amino acids that can only be obtained from our diet.
  3. Stocked with Selenium.
    Selenium is a trace mineral which plays critical roles in reproduction, thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, newcells production, and preventing oxidative damage. By preventing oxidative damage, cells stay healthy and safe from toxins. The main source of Selenium is Brazil nuts, with meats and seafoods as the second significant source.
  4. Great for your skin and bones.
    Vitamin D can be found in milk, cheese, and yogurt within the dairy food group and is also obtained from sun exposure, tuna is also an excellent source offering over 30% of the daily value (800 IU) of vitamin D at 268 IUs.
  5. Tuna is great for your metabolism.
    Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, is important for nutrient metabolism and can even lower cholesterol. Niacin is mostly present in meats and meat products. Tuna can be a great source for someone who does not eat meat. Tuna provides an excellent source of niacin at over 60% of the daily value for both genders!

To put this into perspective, a conveniently packaged, 3oz serving of canned tuna in water contains 80 calories, 1 gm of fat*, 18 gm protein, ~300 mg sodium*, 11 grams of niacin, and 268 IUs of vitamin D. A 4-ounce tuna steak contains 124 calories, no fat, and 28 grams of protein. What a nutritional powerhouse!

Now that you know the facts, here are three ways to enjoy this yummy seafood:
  1. Simple tuna fish tacos - No cook meal! Simply place a few teaspoons of tuna from a can or packet into a tortilla and top with your favorite taco toppings and sauces, fold and enjoy.
  2. Citrusy tuna salad - Fresh ingredients! Toss tuna with lime juice and fresh chopped vegetables, then top with your favorite chip, cracker, or cucumber slice with this satisfying and refreshing seafood combination.
  3. Tuna steaks with roasted tomatoes - Fire up the grill! Marinate, grill, then bake a tuna steak until done. Taste the dynamic flavors among the citrus, spice, and summer veggies.

Be sure to check the nutrition label as this can be influenced by the amount of added oils or sodium in the product. Some products are flavored, and some are even made with vegetable oil or vegetable broth. No matter which way you enjoy tuna, know that it is full of beneficial nutrients that can help improve your health while keeping you full and satisfied.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Tiffany Naticchioni, RDN, LD

Tiffany Naticchioni, RDN, LD

Tiffany is a compassionate dietitian with experience in nutrition throughout her lifespan along with empowering those with diabetes and heart disease to use food as medicine. A believer in total body wellness, she has a decade of experience as a licensed massage therapist. With a passion for healthy living, she practices hot yoga, enjoys most any fitness activities, stays active in the community, and loves spending time with her family.