Canned tuna is a convenient and budget-friendly pantry staple that has proven, time-and-time again to be a true MVP of the kitchen. For many, having a stash of canned tuna within your pantry can be helpful when you want something quick or forgot to meal prep. However, not all cans of tuna are created equal. Some types of canned tuna are packed in water, others in oil. Some are more sustainable. And of course, the flavor profile can vary, too. There are also warnings about Mercury and its effects on canned tuna as well! But if you’ve ever been confused by what to look for on a canned tuna label, here is everything you need to know about eating canned tuna:
There Are Actual Multiple Types of Tuna
Typically, there are two types of canned tuna - Albacore and Skipjack. Albacore, or white tuna, is low-fat and has a mild flavor. Skipjack, on the other hand, is higher in fat and has a fishier flavor. While albacore is more popular, it has nearly three times more mercury compared to skipjack, according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). This isn’t really a concern for adults who are eating canned tuna only a few times a month, but anyone who eats it regularly is better off choosing skipjack.
Wild-Caught Canned Tuna Is More Sustainable
Wild-caught tuna is caught in its natural habitat. In comparison, farm-raised tuna is raised and caught in a controlled environment, whether it would be a man-made lake or even a tank. According to research and studies by the Colorado State University, there’s not, unfortunately, a concrete answer as to which is healthier. However, with this said, farmed tuna tends to be higher in heart healthy omega-3's because it’s fed fortified food, whereas wild tuna tends to be lower in saturated fats. Even more so, wild-caught tuna is more sustainable for the planet. This is because smaller fish need to be wild-caught to feed the farmed tuna, so over-fishing still happens and is usually more damaging.
When Eating Canned Tuna, Opt For Pole-Caught Tuna
When going more in-depth with your canned tuna search, aim for pole-caught tuna. What is pole-caught tuna you ask? Well, simply, pole-catching tuna means using a single fishing pole to hook a single fish. It’s the most ocean-friendly option because it’s the least invasive. Many large fishing companies use fish aggregating devices such as nets or even chemicals (also known as FADs) to attract all kinds of fish to a boat, then use nets to pull all of these species out of the water. When these companies do this, they are actually is causing massive disruptions to the ecosystem, especially because any non-tuna caught fish generally don’t make it back into the ocean unharmed. While pole-catching takes more time and effort, it’s significantly less harmful to the environment.
Oil or Water Packed Canned Tuna Can Be Beneficial Depending On Your Health Needs
Usually, it is said that water-packed tuna is healthier for you. This is because, water-packed tuna means the tuna is stored in water, so it’s a lower fat, lower calorie option. A 1/2-cup serving of tuna in water contains 66 calories and less than 1 gram of fat. However, water-packed tuna tends to be drier if you eat it on its own, which is why it can be a good option if you’re planning to dress your tuna with heart-healthy olive oil or avocado oil or even protein-rich foods like Greek Yogurt!
On the contrary, a 1/2-cup serving of oil-packed tuna contains 145 calories and 6 grams of fat. The oil helps lock in the flavor so you get a heartier taste and more moist fish compared to water-packed tuna. When looking for these types of canned tuna, look for olive-oil packed tuna over soybean or vegetable oil. A Olive-Oil packed canned tuna it’s higher in heart healthy monounsaturated fats. These types of canned tunas are good for salads, crackers, or other snacks!
When it comes to either of these tunas, however, if you’re watching how much sodium to digest in a day, make sure to look for “no-salt added” or “low-sodium” options.
If you’re concerned about sustainability or whether your food makes an impact on the environment, search for pole-caught tuna. While albacore (white tuna) has slightly higher mercury levels than skipjack (chunk light tuna), it also has a milder, less fishy flavor many people prefer, so just be mindful about how often you consume canned tuna. Finally, when it comes to olive oil-packed or water-packed, both can be healthy choices, provided you keep sodium content in mind.